Tuesday, 10 June 2014
Catholic Dating Guidance
I very occasionally get asked, “How far can we go?” which indicates a couple have already set their minds on a trajectory toward acts the Church teaches are gravely wrong. The guidance I give is not geared towards limiting freedom, but to providing safety boundaries for the soul (and for life in this world too -sexually active folk are at risk of STD’s, and of feeling invaluable as a persons since they are easily abandoned when something more attractive comes along).
Dating for Catholics is difficult today because what were once seen as good boundaries by everyone 50 years ago are now seen as oppressive. This is a result of the the sexual revolution, which threw all boundaries out of the window and portrayed sexual freedom in movies, on TV and in books as freedom from oppression and a facilitating of the fullness of humanity. It is under these pretexts that it is now invading the classrooms even of primary school children. Catholic Schools should remain true to the Church’s teaching on sexuality and certainly keep it out of their classrooms so that children are allowed to be children and not sexualised before their time -this can only lead to active sexual dating contrary to the Gospel.
When Catholics do begin dating, what are some of the things they can do to ensure their dating goes well in the sight of God and which keeps them safe in this world too?
Visit one another’s family homes so you discover family situations and build family connections. Go out as a family group too, since this provides the in-built protection of having people around you. Time alone in bedrooms (or in the living room when the family are out) opens the door to unhelpful talk and embraces that may be too intense. (Dating is for the seeking out a life-time’s spouse, not a sexually compatible ‘partner’).
Pray together. Attend Mass together and go regularly to Confession. Join in one another’s family prayer time and thus build up good habits for the future. All this will help retain the Christian focus of the relationship.
Date those who share your views on morality, since a clash on values on as central as marriage, sexuality and child-rearing will only provide for conflict in the relationship and may well diminish the capacity of the devout Catholic to ‘hold back’.
Don’t dress in such a way as to make yourself look sexually attractive but in order to look personally attractive. Clothes that express femininity or masculinity without exposing the flesh inappropriately; clothes that do not ‘cling’ in such a way that they focus the eye on physical contours, are best. Clothes which expose the flesh or cling to bodily contours put the stress on the body, the physical, rather than the personality.
Go to places that you both enjoy so you can build up a life of shared activity, and be supportive of your friend in his/her individual hobbies (if the hobby is morally good, of course...)
Date in places that are public so that you don’t compromise your self-control.
Be careful about sitting talking in cars after a night out; inevitably the lighting and mood are subdued and passions run high, making such situations something that are best avoided.
Avoid that which procures arousal, such as ‘adult’ bars, movie theatres. Similarly, avoid arousing materials on TV, in books etc.
Kisses should be tender and devoid of passion-arousing elements such as ‘French kissing’.
Be careful of erogenous zones: women need to remember that men get aroused very quickly; what seems harmless to the lady may be very arousing to the male. Repeated, gentle stroking of the hair, the arms, the abdomen or upper thigh can be very arousing for either sex. If you wonder how far you can go in subtle touching you are already contemplating steps that diminish purity: heavy-petting is definitely out since its purpose is to procure full sexual acts.
I know it is difficult these days to see rules and guidelines such as these as useful or healthy, since society is awash with sexuality and actively promotes sexual freedom. But rules are not mere limitations; they are boundaries for safety. This being so, it is important that when dating you are sure in your own mind of the value of the celibate relationship outside of marriage, and of chastity within marriage.
In a word then, pray together; build family ties; dress smart; date in public and avoid that which arouses. Additionally, be on time, be respectful, and be true to yourself and your Faith. God bless all those who are attempting to date in an integrated Catholic way.