This next installment of my “Catholic Dating Problems” series is a response to Melinda Selmys’s blog post.
Everyone has probably heard the term “flirt and convert” or “missionary dating,” in which a person of faith dates someone outside of his or her denomination (or an atheist/agnostic) in the hopes of both winning their love and saving their souls. I mean, if it worked for J.R.R. Tolkien, it could work for the modern young adult, right?
I asked my fellow Catholic young adults about how they saw the whole concept of flirt and convert and this is what they have to say.
On the Pros side:
Sarah R.: I think it really depends where your heart is at and your true intention. For me personally, before my boyfriend and I started dating we would talk about the differences of non-dom and Catholic. It was really obvious he was searching because he had a desire for God that I hadn’t found previously in a man and I knew his desire would be fulfilled in the Eucharist and I knew he’d love Mary. Realizing these qualities made me fall for him. We started officially dating and these debates continued. He did research of his own, found Scott Hahn and Bishop Robert Barron and well…obviously he didn’t stand a chance. In the time he was asking me questions about the Church it caused me to grow in my faith a way I probably never would’ve.
Long story short, it’s become extremely obvious that this was God’s plan. Too many LITTLE weird things happened in our life that if those small things hadn’t have happened we wouldn’t have met. He said growing up non-denominational left him so many unanswered questions that gave him a serious depression because he thought “There should be more. But there’s not so how can this be real?” It honestly left him in a really bad place and he said Catholicism put together all those missing pieces together and it lifted him from that dark time he’d been feeling his whole life.
Of course I was skeptical as to if he was doing this for me. But his family was extremely angry and it caused a lot of problems. He’s extremely non-confrontational and would’ve avoided that if he didn’t care but he would passionately argue them during their family bible study. He also cries almost every time he receives the Eucharist (which is adorable but whatever) and it’s very raw and real and it’s obvious. So I would 10/10 recommend. Even if unfortunately there is a breakup.
As long as you were in it for the right reasons you will receive so many graces and they will as well and that helps them get to Heaven which is what the goal is anyways.
Ana P.: I can say that sometimes “flirt to convert” works, in a convoluted way sometimes. In my situation, though, the guy saw (and he told me this) how in love with my faith I was, and how much joy it brings me. We broke up. This easter vigil, he’s entering the Church.
On the Cons side:
Illyana M.: Honestly for me even though people joke about it and make it seem harmless I feel like it’s very dishonest and makes the person appear untrusting. A person shouldn’t necessarily convert because of another person but because they found God. A person could have led them to God. Someone they fell in love with could have led them to God. It amazes me seeing people convert because they want to marry the person they love. There’s the other side I see though where a person is brought to God from another but their relationship if it was friendship or significant other ended and the person becomes lost afterward. I don’t know where flirt and convert started but people I know who aren’t catholic find it rude and intimidating like Catholics or other religious people can’t be trusted with their hearts, their choices, or best interests. Another thing is I’ve found some people to be prideful over situations where they dated a non christian, brought them to the faith, but broke up over time. I find it disrespectful towards a person’s feelings and wrong to take credit for something I think God helped with.
- If it doesn’t work, your heart gets put through a meat grinder
- You can potentially objectify the person because you love them for who they could be and fail to see who they actually are – people aren’t projects.
- It takes a vast deal of maturity to truly love someone in a way that will lead them to conversion, and this also requires acceptance that they may in fact never convert- so you can’t go in with the intention of making it happen, that’s totally counterproductive and unrealistic.
- It can give you a false sense of intimacy, as well as cause you to feel as though you are solely responsible for “saving” this person which can cause resentment and frustration on both sides
- As one who tried it in both romance and with a friendship and got seriously screwed over as a result, 0/10 do not recommend. This doesn’t mean don’t be a witness, but don’t ever make it your “goal” to convert someone. Just take them as they are, be an example, answer questions, and yes, pray for them. But realize that’s all you can do and they have free will and you shouldn’t try to manipulate that with emotional connection, because if they potentially do begin the conversion process and you break up/things go sour, it’s going to potentially undo everything anyway.
Siobhan F.: I know a girl who dated a guy and converted because of him. When they broke up, her entire spiritual life was dependent on him and she fell away from the church. She didn’t know how to be Catholic on her own. One of my friend’s had a boyfriend whose spiritual life was dependent on her and when her faith was shaken, so was his. He had no faith life of his own.
Are you going to be okay if this person never converts? Is it going to become an issue in your relationship later on? Are they going to drag you away from the Church? Are you going to turn into someone who just badgers them?
If they don’t convert, you have to consider your future kids. If you’re a woman, your child’s future faith is mainly dependent on the faith or lack thereof of their father. Are you willing to risk your children’s faith? Going to Mass without Daddy? Would your husband support them in the faith? Go to Mass with you even as a non-Catholic? Say prayers with you? Encourage family prayer time? Will your husband be okay with NFP? Will this be a point of tension in your marriage? So. Flirt to convert = bad.
Kathryn O.: My mother points out that it’s kind of silly to go out with someone, or flirt with someone, who’s so weak in their faith that you readily believe you can convert them.
While all things are possible with God, I would advise to Catholic young adults to make sure that if they are gonna date outside of the Church, proceed with extreme caution and do not make this relationship into a conversion project.