Where are all the good men?

As somebody who has written a lot about dating, I have gotten a lot of feedback from single young adults—ladies and gentlemen who haven’t tied the knot and want to, who routinely ask an honest question.

“Where are all the good men?” or, “Where are all the good women?” The question is probably rooted in each person’s not so satisfactory experiences—the guys she meets aren’t into her, the girls he’s into aren’t into him. Some can’t get dates and others don’t enjoy the dates they get.

They are single and don’t want to be, and in many cases, rightly have flexible preferences (e.g., “I like beards, but I don’t require a dude to have one.”) and stable standards: They want a Catholic spouse, somebody committed to their sainthood, who seeks Christ first, who practice virtues—people who, in our culture, are few and far between.

So they ask me where the good men are, or where the good women are, which inspires my own question: What exactly have you done in effort to find them?

And that’s a sincere question, not an accusatory one—I don’t ask because I don’t think you’ve made an effort. I probably don’t even know you, so I have no idea. I ask as an invitation to think critically about whatever effort you have made.

Because women who haven’t found a good man and men who haven’t found a good woman know as well as I do that it isn’t because good men and women who meet your standards don’t exist. They do. I meet some every time I speak at a Theology on Tap, at a conference, or at a church.

But you also know perfectly well that if you have not found one yet, it is not because you don’t have access to any.

That ceases to be an excuse if you have, say, a driver’s license, or the Internet, or friends who have friends who are single. Stop looking at your small town or at your parish’s demographics like they are insurmountable obstacles—they are hurdles, and it is your job to jump over them.

Is it inconvenient to travel farther for Mass or young adult events because you’re in your thirties but live in the old person capital of your state? You bet. Is it inconvenient to make time for this when you think you have none to spare? Heck yes it is.

But inconvenience is not a reason a person can’t access a new pool of people to meet. His or her unwillingness to tolerate inconvenience is the reason. A person who won’t endure inconvenience is a person who isn’t committed to finding a spouse.

And do you know what else I think you probably already know?

That sometimes, the steps we take to meet good men or women do not work—which inspires another question: If you believe your vocation is marriage and the steps you have taken so far to meet somebody haven’t worked, why do you keep taking them?

Maybe it’s time to do something different: To admit some responsibility. To stop asking where the good men and women are and to acknowledge that good, Catholic men and women almost always will be hard to find. To stop using that as an excuse to claim defeat, and to use it instead as what it’s supposed to be: a reason to do work.

A reason to more-than-just show up.

A reason to try new ways or places when the old ones haven’t worked.

This is an invitation to consider what choices a person actually makes if he or she is truly committed to finding a spouse (and to consider whether you have made them). It’s an opportunity to prove that you are committed, or—as may be the case—to prove that you aren’t.

It is also permission to accept that a person’s commitment to finding a spouse doesn’t guarantee that he or she will find one, and to care less about that than about abandoning ourselves to whatever God’s will turns out to be.

_____________________

arArleen Spenceley is author of the book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin. She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com. Connect with her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

16 Comments

  1. This is so relevant. Thank you for calling us out of being comfortable and taking the easy road. Seriously, this is great.

    By becca | 1 year ago Reply
  2. I needed this reminder, thank you so much for sharing!! Started recently a Virtuous Single Ladies support group with friends (whether “still” single, dating, in a relationship/not married yet), consisting of monthly meetings & activities (day trips, retreats, sleepovers) to stay connected thru multiple discussions, learn the life of inspirational female saints, & find more chaste ways to better ourselves for Jesus above all, such as striving to live out The Pyramid of Union with Jesus: Friendship, Get to know Him, Get to know His family, Serious relationship, Vocation->Marriage, Heaven. So far so good 🙂

    By Lauren | 1 year ago Reply
    • Lauren, that sounds AWESOME! I totally want to start a group like that. I might have to steal your idea for my parish. 🙂

      By Michelle | 1 year ago Reply
      • Great! The more awareness, the better the outcome. 🙂

        By Lauren | 1 year ago Reply
  3. YES–among the steps I recommen in wife/husband-hunting: (1) go where the getting is good, and (2) open your eyes.

    By David Upham | 1 year ago Reply
  4. The struggle is even greater for women (like me) in their 40s, working full-time and with children at home. Unfortunately, outside of the ministry world, there are very few people my age who have been lucky enough to learn about Theology of the Body and God’s plan for relationships. If they are my age and DO know about TOB, they usually have been blessed with a strong marriage. Catholic Match is a decent resource, but online dating is an awkward endeavor, regardless. I just keep praying and focusing on becoming the woman God created me to be, and know that if I am meant to be married again, it will happen.

    By Amy | 1 year ago Reply
  5. Didn’t read the whole article. But grom my

    By Dave | 1 year ago Reply
  6. Arleen- you’ve made some very valid points highlighting the individual’s responsibility to pursue their (hopeful) calling towards a spouse. The unfortunate reality today is that far too often personal responsibility takes a back seat to the desires of the flesh, and the influence of the world.

    The last paragraph really captures the essence of the issue at hand here; that is, that God’s desire for our lives needs to be the driving motivator behind all of our actions, including how we seek our future wives or husbands. If we are sincere in that effort, we do not find ourselves worrying-let alone complaining-about not being able to find a decent significant other. Such a concern only comes from a place in our heart of hearts that’s putting our own desires above God’s. This is the fundamental definition of idolatry.

    Once we begin to recognize this, we can start seeking God’s face, and strengthening our relationship with Him, and letting Him play match-maker, if He so deems it appropriate in our lives. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d much rather let God pick my future wife for than I pick one for myself. I know my idea of an ideal spouse is likely not the ones that’s best for me, an only God knows what that is. After all, He made Eve from and for Adam 🙂

    By Chris | 1 year ago Reply
  7. I also loved this article and wanted to say that I heard Fr. Larry Richards once say that he told his male students: “Boys, make sure you find a girl who loves God more than you.” And I think the opposite could be said for girls/women – Find a man who loves God more than you. They are out there, I assure you.

    By Michelle | 1 year ago Reply
  8. I have to say that for me it was a struggle to find a good guy. It seemed that everywhere I looked, all I saw were immature, selfish boys who couldn’t care less about the real me or about Catholic values. I decided to give myself over to God and just try to focus on becoming a better-version-of-myself everyday and doing His will. Now, out of the blue and amazing guy has come into my life. I really don’t think I could’ve asked for anyone better. He’s strong in his faith and continues to grow in it. He is smart, funny, and gentle. He loves me as a whole person and is perfectly happy with my boundaries. I think God wants us to give fully ourselves to Him first before He gives us that special person.

    By Liv | 1 year ago Reply
  9. I have a friend who is struggling with this, and I know plenty of friends who struggle. I would say that declining attendance among twenty-somethings is one problem, since I’m in my twenties, as is my friend- and he’s tried so many things to get a girlfriend, despite being so talented (singing, writing, very intelligent AND he’s pretty good looking), girls get hung up on saving sex til marriage. I’ve had breakups that were nasty, and some that were “meh”, but that was never explicitly a reason anyone gave me (or I gave them) for breaking up. It wasn’t the problem. The problem was a lack of willingness to grow together, be better for each other, and stick together.

    What I did want to highlight with my response is this: I’m with someone from my church, and we’ve both had our own problems in the past. I was groped and violated but thankfully never raped by my first boyfriend, and I have anxiety problems; my current boyfriend struggled with masturbating in the past. I feel too many articles like this assume perfection of everyone and nobody takes the time to realize that there are many, many great guys and gals out there who do care and go to church but struggle with human flaws. I know how hard it is to stay pure in a relationship because that’s something we struggle with; do not ever discount someone just because they made a few mistakes. (Mistakes= ok; huge life-changing irresponsible decisions or major personal problems= make a good decision for yourself, they made their choices). What I’m also saying is that good future husbands and brides try to help each other and to better themselves for their “other.” It isn’t just that you find someone who’s “made no mistakes”- you need someone who can be strong for you and you can be strong for when you do make mistakes. Someone to be on your team and face problems together.

    Finally, this is my third point: we, as christians and also as decent people, need to be more supportive of our friends who struggle to meet someone. My friend, I mentioned, is in this category- he’s stubborn, and he is a bit negative about his chances now that he’s struggled with meeting people for five years, could use a nice date with a nice person who would just be willing to go for coffee and be a nice coffee companion, even once. So many are unwilling to go just once to give courage and some human acceptance to others. Granted, he did a lot of his searching on a liberal college campus with few catholics, but that failed him. So, as christians in general, we should reach out to those who need a friend. It’s not just for him. It’s to preserve the hope in our community that you can live a life on this earth and be happy without selling your soul and sleeping with others on the first date to “fit in”. There is value to our christian brothers and sisters intrinsically that should never be quantified by their dating history or social status.

    *I love the suggestion to try visiting different churches every so often to get out there. That is a great way to expand your horizon!

    By K. | 1 year ago Reply
  10. The most important thing is to seek God’s will for one’s life. I don’t think all these people are necessarily called to marriage just because they have a desire for it. The desire for marriage and companionship is common to just about everyone, even those who gave up marriage for the religious life.

    The focus these days with a lot of good/orthodox Catholics is looking for a spouse, when the focus should really be doing God’s will. Maybe He’ll have you marry later in life. Maybe you won’t marry at all. Maybe you’ll be at the right place at the right time and meet your future spouse two weeks from now. Work on becoming the person God wants you to be, a saint and the best version of yourself. If marriage is God’s will for you, he will send you the right spouse. Learn to trust Him.

    I think part of the reason chastity is so difficult is because we so often dwell on romantic thoughts, what it would be like to be married someday. And then relationships get messed up because we want so badly for this to be “the one” that we get ahead of ourselves and sometimes fall into sin.

    By Stephanie | 1 year ago Reply
    • Great advice.. very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

      By Lauren | 1 year ago Reply
  11. Great advice.. very helpful. Thanks for sharing

    By Monica | 1 year ago Reply
  12. I’ve always balked at the idea of having to travel to meet new people; one because I’m cheap, and two because I’m an urbanist at heart and just think I should be able to meet new people by mingling downtown. Well, gas is much cheaper lately, and I’m coming to terms that most Americans don’t do the whole urban core thing, so maybe this article is God trying to tell me to get out there a little bit.

    By Chase | 1 year ago Reply
  13. I am going to suggest to my Grand-Son that he proffer his name to your website. I was raised a Catholic and know the value of a “well raised” Woman as I’ve been married to on for 32 years. My Grandson is a “good Man” of 29 years, and I’ll not say much more except that he has been busy educating himself, and,at the same time is gainfully employed at an educational Institution in the San Diego area.. I shall give him your e-address because he has told me that he has tried on line dating unsuccessfully. Thank you for this web-site. Joseph

    By Joe Young | 1 year ago Reply

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