Social Media is full of the hashtag: #RelationshipGoals. You’ll find it under photos of couples exercising together, walking the dog together, cooking together, being lazy on the couch together, and so forth. But dating today is not what it was just a decade ago. How does one “date” nowadays? What is considered a “date” or “dating”? Most of all, how does one meet someone these days? I’m no expert on relationships, but I was once a single and ready-to-mingle kind of girl. As a married woman now, I’d like to share some tips and tricks for healthy dating today, especially for millennials (22yrs+).
- Know thyself; love thyself. One of the biggest mistakes people make is they bring someone else into their lives when they haven’t even figured out who they are themselves. It’s the blind leading the blind. Enjoy your own company before trying to bring someone else into it. Get to know yourself really well – what are your likes and dislikes, your strengths and weaknesses, your beauty and flaws, etc. Do things like travel, exercise, take up some dance, art, or cooking classes, do community service, get involved in your parish (hey, you never know who you might meet at these places!).
- Get it together- sort of. Okay, so no one actually has it “all together,” that’s life – an endless cycle of maturity, growth, change, and sometimes unforeseen challenges and tragedies. But what we could do is have our lives somewhat organized in the sense that we know what we want and we enjoy what we do because it is meaningful; we have a steady income, a decent roof over our head, and hobbies we are committed to (yes that even includes binge watching your favorite show). If you’re a mess, clean up before bringing someone else into that mess. Doing otherwise will only bring disaster.
- Be yourself. Impressing others is part of human nature – but don’t overdo it. Impressing others is basically lying or putting up a front. Be yourself 100% of the time. Don’t think too much about what others will say or think. You are who you are! Okay, let me just clarify one thing: if your close friends and family all agree on some negative aspects of your personality/lifestyle (lazy, obnoxious, smelly, etc.) then work on that. Be the best version of yourself, not for others, but for yourself and for the Lord (I can just hear my mother’s voice: remember, the Lord sees everything!).
- Stop profiling. There are some couples who have been fortunate enough to find exactly what they were looking for in a significant other. And to those couples I say – good for you! But this isn’t realistic and can be harmful when dating. Definitely pray that the Lord bring you the “right” one and that the Lord’s will be done. You should have an idea of what you would definitely want/not want in that person: a non-smoker, faithful and devout, family-person, sense of humor, etc. But don’t let that list end up too long! Try to keep it at “3 musts”. And don’t judge a book by its cover. You’d be surprised that the most unlikely person could be your future spouse!
- R.E.S.P.E.C.T (in my Aretha Franklin voice). Respect should never go out of style. Simply put, when someone asks you for something or to do something or go somewhere and it makes you feel uneasy, unsure, uncomfortable, that is a clear sign of disrespect. Sexting and vulgar talk, just do not belong in dating. We all know that once we put something on social media or send it through our cell phones that there’s no going back. Possessiveness, stalking, jealousy, and belittling are all forms of disrespect and abuse. Don’t tolerate it for a second and leave at its first sign. Forceful grabbing or hitting is a HUGE no-no and usually comes next if you accepted the first signs. Arguments or disagreements are normal when you are dating; but if you end up feeling scared or disrespected, use it as a sign that this is just not working out, end it or get help. Period.
- And out of nowhere came this person. Where does one go to “meet” someone? I’ll tell you where: nowhere! The beauty of dating is that it should be natural and not forceful. Stop “looking” and let it be. I’m not dissing online dating sites, have you heard of CatholicMatch.com? There are other legit dating sites as well – just be smart and safe about it (meaning keep away from dangerous situations). Night clubs, bars, parties, and other similar scenes are usually just for hook-ups, so don’t go looking for love in these places. In the rare occasion that some married couple found love on the dancefloor I say to them – good for you! But it’s not realistic for the majority. (Refer to #1 of this list for some suggestions laces you can find yourself – these are places you can also meet someone). One more thing: remember, if there’s someone who interests you, don’t hesitate to strike up a friendly conversation. There’s no harm in conversing.
- Healthy dating. Overall, dating should be an awesome experience. It should be a fun stage in our lives where we learn so much about ourselves, others, and the world. But this all depends on how you date. Dates to dinner, movies, bowling, etc. should never go out of style. Group dates are the safest and allow for complete comfort. Someone once said that dating is like interviewing your potential spouse—without actually interviewing them (you’ll scare them away). So date a lot. Yes, it’s okay. But also give yourself the time to heal and grow when it doesn’t work out. That’s why it’s crucial to get to know them well and make some #RelationshipGoals; laugh together, take classes together, hang out with friends, go to family gatherings together, etc. Our faith teaches us that sexual union is the “nuptial mystery” in the Sacrament of Marriage, in which the couple gives themselves completely to one another. So in the meantime, while dating, get to really know each other in order to be sure that marriage is the next step.
I want to end by throwing just one last important thing out there: dating and marriage isn’t for everyone. It is a vocation (a calling) for some, but not for all. Believe it or not, some of us are called to religious life – priesthood or consecrated life (yes – a nun). If you are single, don’t throw those possibilities out the window. Also don’t panic if you are single – instead, live it to the fullest. It is O.K. to be single! Single life is also recognized as a vocation. In the end, we will only find true happiness in living out our vocation to the fullest. If there’s one thing I know for sure about everyone I meet, it is that we all just want to be “happy.” But happiness is not a feeling; happiness comes when we know, love, and follow Christ and help others to do the same. Some may battle me on this statement, but those who are truly happy would agree with me.