Christmas Presents, Catholic Presence, and Dating
Mr. Chemistry Lips
Choo-choo, Cha-cha, and Childish: Part Two
Choo-choo, Cha-cha, and Childish: Part One
Okay, I Admit It. I'm Desperate! Part Two
Okay, I Admit It. I'm Desperate! Part One
Why Am I Still Single? Part Two
Why Am I Still Single? Part One
Survive or Thrive?
How Open Is Your Marriage Window?
Angels, Demons, and Dating
|Why Am I Still Single?
Part Two: "Dumping" Your Boyfriend/Girlfriend
Written by Thomas P. Schmierer
May 26, 2007
|Are you still single because you stay in bad relationships too long? Are you in a questionable dating relationship now? Do you spend much of the day asking yourself if it is time to "dump" him/her? If you are on the dating scene, how can you improve your selection process?
An investigation of the Christian definition of friendship and the "morphing of relationships" can help you to make better dating decisions. First, we must address those who would like to get out of an unpromising relationship and into a thriving one.
Is It Time to "Dump" Him?
As Christians, we are often uncertain whether or not it is okay to "dump" someone. Sometimes we are reluctant because of unwarranted guilt. When we finally get around to discussing our desire to "terminate" the courtship, we sometimes say "Can we just be friends?" While the sentiment to be friends is good, the choice of words may reveal a fundamental reason for the "failed" relationship.
Most of us understand that Christian courtship is supposed to be chaste, but sometimes we forget that we are supposed to be friends. Paragraph 2347 of the Catechism notes the relationship between chaste courtship and friendship, by stating:
Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one's neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion.
At its core, the chaste relationship you have with your boyfriend/girlfriend is a friendship. If I was to ask my girlfriend if we can just be friends, I would also be stating that we are currently more than just friends. While, this is true, perhaps if we had higher standards for our friends in the first place, we would not feel that it is so much of a "reduction" to be "just friends" as compared to a boyfriend or girlfriend. Being a friend is lofty. It is akin to being a "soul mate." Per the Catechism, it leads to spiritual communion!
The real question is "Is it Christian to break off a friendship?" The problem in answering this question can be found by viewing the muddled secular definition of friend through a Christian filter. This will help us transition through the various types of relationships we have, including courtship.
What Is a Friend?
The way some Christians throw around the word "friend" seems a wanton abuse of it. Perhaps this happens because many people do not have a clear Christian definition of the word "friend." This lack of understanding might explain some dating problems.
From the Catholic Christian perspective, a friend is ultimately "a supportive companion on the journey to Heaven." Thus your true friends should minimally: believe in and practice the teachings of the Catholic Church, think of their bodies as temples, use clean language, have pure relationships, possess humility, and speak positively about others. (1)
A supportive companion is able to gently reprove or encourage you and because you are striving for holiness, you are grateful for his/her honesty. When you return the favor, your friend expresses gratitude and obedience to God's will. He/she keeps you in touch with reality: the real you, the real world, the real grace-filled, hopeful future. Truth can only be found in reality. Since Jesus Christ is Truth (John 14:6), a friend who gently grounds you brings you closer to Him.
As we decide which qualities to seek in a friend, we may have to overcome the false notion that it is judgmental to have standards. The Father of Lies uses many means to communicate to us that being prudently judicious is the same as being judgmental. He does not want us to know that although both involve judgment, only one is judgmental.
He would like us to believe that we are always exhibiting blaming behavior when we seek greater objectivity about another's character. This is because he cannot stand the search for truth and reality. There is nothing Satan despises more than a critical thinker, especially one who can apply Christian principles to the real world. He devalues reason in hopes of keeping distance between holy people.
The truth is that when we set higher standards for ourselves, we are more likely to make it to Heaven. Likewise, when we set higher standards for our friends, we will have many more supportive companions on the journey to Heaven.
It is Biblical that enduring friendship is virtuous, but there is more to the message. We must also choose our friends wisely, lest we get caught up in their sins. Proverbs 22:24-25 says:
Make no friendship with a man given to anger,
Christians who are called to marriage need to align themselves with friends who would be good influences not only on them and their marriage, but also on any future children they may have. Forming holy friendships is a necessary part of vocation preparation.
nor go with a wrathful man,
lest you learn his ways
and entangle yourself in a snare.
Engaging the Intellect in Friendship and Courtship
The wise choice of a spouse begins with the wise choice of a friend. If we have a pattern of choosing friends with low moral standards, it is unlikely that we will choose a spouse with high moral standards. If one of the spouses in a marriage has low moral standards, it is nearly impossible for both spouses to glorify God and lead one another to Heaven.
A marriage in which one or both spouses have not answered the call to holiness is unfortunate, since reciprocally leading one another to Heaven is also the Catholic Christian purpose of marriage as can be seen in paragraphs 1534 and 1641 of the Catechism:
Two other sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so.
What the Catechism says about marriage is extremely similar to what has been said about friendship in this article. This leads us back to the importance of friend selection.
This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple's love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they "help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children."148
The caution to choose our friends wisely is found in Sacred Scripture. Assuming that your life is aligned with the gospel message and you fear the Lord, (2) the Bible instructs you to choose a friend who will help you get to Heaven. Sirach 6:17 says:
Whoever fears the Lord directs his friendship aright,
Remember that the word "friend" is embedded in the words "boyfriend" and "girlfriend." If your boyfriend/girlfriend does not fear the Lord, it is questionable as to whether he/she should be categorized as your friend, much less anything beyond a friend.
for as he is, so is his neighbor also.
Morphing of Love
But what happened to enduring love? How can it be Christian to just "dump" a friend? True love, though never disappearing, has the ability to convert into a different "shape" or "size." I call this process the "morphing of love."
Let's look at the potential effects of the morphing process on three types of relationships: associate, pen pal, and best friend. A work associate who moves away could morph into a pen pal. A pen pal who moves closer could morph into a best friend. With a few exceptions, the morphing of love is not a sin.
1 Corinthians 13:7, reminds us of the correlation between endurance and love: "Love [┘] endures all things." In most cases, it is best not to lose all contact with someone we love, but we may legitimately decide to contact certain individuals less frequently to better aid in our own seeking of a virtuous life. The morphing of love is good because it allows our love to endure, albeit in a different capacity.
It is a good exercise to accurately describe our relationships, at least for ourselves. This way, we can guard our souls and let only those who motivate us to strive for holiness into our inner circle of emotional intimacy. Since we would not want to abuse the Biblical concept of a friend, it is fortunate that there are many other words that can be used to describe a relationship. Just for fun, think of someone with whom you have contact and try to find a word from the following list that properly identifies him/her with relation to you:
|Different Ways of Loving
Half of the decision of how to define a relationship is yours. You can try to redefine a friendship with someone who has not answered the call to holiness as an acquaintanceship and if he/she gets upset at you, you could end up being labeled as an enemy. Since Jesus calls us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), your love endures in spite of the change in relationship title.
On the other hand, you may ask a congenial stranger to a cup of coffee, but if you forget to take a shower that day, he/she may decline. As a Christian you would not be bitter and the stranger would stay a stranger, rather than become an enemy. In this case, the relationship does not morph and there is likely nothing you can do about it. The important thing in this scenario is that the love endures, even among strangers who choose to stay strangers.
We must remember that the real commitment comes at Holy Matrimony and not before. It is not a mandate that we keep someone as our boyfriend/girlfriend. By definition, a courtship does not command a lifelong commitment. Formal courtship is only a temporary commitment to investigate the serious possibility of someday entering a lifelong covenant. By definition, it is inherently always a feasible option to "terminate" a courtship. Unfortunately, some stay in courtship too long out of fear of not finding another or out of a false sense of obligation.
Morphing a relationship allows our love to endure, even if it turns out that the loving thing to do is to never see the other person again. A perceptive person once said, "To stay in a dating relationship out of pity is pitiful." (3)
If you still feel it is never a Christian decision to "cast out" a boyfriend/girlfriend, I recommend referring to the words of 1 Corinthians 5:11:
But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber -- not even to eat with such a one.
Yes, there is a Biblical case for tough love. This includes, but is not limited to, friends and boyfriends/girlfriends.
How Do I Morph Courtship into Acquaintanceship?
When we go to Mass on Sundays and hear that we are not to judge, we are to forgive, and our love is to endure, sometimes we get confused and think that we need to keep our dating relationships exclusive. If our love is not being properly reciprocated in an exclusive relationship, the first step towards loving in a different capacity is to redefine the relationship as a non-exclusive one.
Doing so is very simple and takes only three steps:
- Say "I think we should see other people."
- Spend more time with same-sex friends doing socially pure activities
- Spend more time with opposite-sex friends doing socially pure activities
By learning how to take an active part in the morphing of our relationships, we will allow ourselves to stay free of vice, grow in our spirituality at a fast rate, and form many healthy relationships in various forms. Since a boyfriend/girlfriend is inherently a friend, true love begins with holy friendship.
Holy friendship is only possible between two people who have answered the call to holiness. By identifying those who are currently incapable or unwilling to answer the call to holiness, we increase our own ability to be safe, sane, and chastely intimate. By prudently selecting our friends, we increase our chances of marrying for the sake of the kingdom and fostering an enduring love!
(1) Many with non-Catholic "friends" may defensively object to the statement that a real friend believes in all of the teachings of the Church. My case is not that you should end relationships with those who do not believe the assertions of the Church, but that you may wish to find a word that is more fitting for the relationship. The Catholic Church refers to certain non-Catholic Christians as "our separated brethren." This is not to say that you need to announce to your non-Catholic associate that he/she is not your friend, but that you must be truthful to yourself and know in your heart that there is a difference that cannot be completely ignored. I gently suggest that two people are not "soul mates" if one does not believe in all of the teachings of the Church and the other is a faithful Catholic, since their souls have important, possibly irreconcilable differences. Additionally, if someone thinks that people with the minimal qualities suggested in the article do not exist, please email me at email@example.com to find out how to find them.
(2) Part One of this article focused on "the interior search." Hopefully, the interior search has led you to improve yourself by seeking grace through frequent recourse to the sacraments.
Thomas Schmierer is a Catholic counselor, writer, and evangelizer for V2C®. Visit www.vaticanvalues.com to learn more about Mr. Schmierer's work.