Pros and Cons of Flirt and Convert: Catholic Relationship Problems Part 2

pathway

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.

 

Emily A.

  1. If it doesn’t work, your heart gets put through a meat grinder
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.

 

In Conclusion:

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.

10 Tips on Learning How To Date Like An Adult

dating

There’s this funny commercial from Match.com that kind of sums up the three paths people tend to go when it comes to dating.

The first extreme, as you can see in the commercial, is that people want sex and they want it now. Think Sex and the City or Girls (which is really a poor man’s Sex and the City, in my honest opinion). Teenagers especially are filled with lust. I still remember listening to Leah Darrow’s testimony about how her friends were pressuring her to have sex after Homecoming back when she was just fifteen years old. Many Catholic chastity speakers like Jason and Crystalina Evert preach about the importance of being chaste. Arleen Spenceley said that chastity isn’t abstinence but “a virtue that aims to integrate sexuality with the rest of the stuff that makes us human.” The thing is, though, learning how to be chaste is only the beginning.

The other extreme people go, and this applies to people who misunderstand chastity, is an overemphasis on marriage. Marriage is beautiful, marriage is important, and yes, young adults should date with the intention of eventually getting married. But marriage shouldn’t be a be-all, end-all when it comes to starting out. The way people meet will always be different and I can’t speak for everyone on how one should start out a relationship aside from the fact that you need to treat the other person with respect because they are your brother/sister in Christ, not the fulfillment of your fantasies or someone you’re entitled to have.

Dating as a young adult is vastly different from dating in high school or even dating in college. In this new stage in life, some young adults are already getting married and having babies while other young adults are searching for full-time work and binge-watching shows on Netflix and aren’t ready to settle down but are still going out on dates. I’m gonna be addressing the latter group here. This list is for those who are just starting out in the weird world we call “dating.”

1) Don’t stay stuck in the past. The first thing people need to learn when it comes to dating as an adult is that this will be an entirely new experience so don’t compare the person you’re dating to past relationships. You don’t want to compete with the ghosts of your significant other’s past so don’t put them through the same comparison process. Also don’t compare yourself to how you were in past relationships, either. Learn from the past, but move on from it.

2) Don’t be pressured to go the whole nine yards. If you’re just starting out, it’s good to go out on group dates where there’s less pressure or meet the person at events where there will be lots of people. You don’t have to start out with the whole flowers and dinner kind of date. Go bowling or play laser tag or volunteer together. If it doesn’t end up working out with them, at least you had a good time.

3) Don’t let your relationship define and consume you. Love as adults isn’t obsessing over the other person the way you would over your favorite TV show or sports team. Adult love means that we come into the relationship as ourselves and the best kind of love is one where we maintain our authenticity and integrity. You shouldn’t bend over backwards to try and please the person you’re with. Real love is the kind where the one we love stands beside us instead of making our choices for us or trying to take the parts of us that they like and putting the rest of us in a box. If the person you’re dating seems to be a control freak, get out of that relationship ASAP!

4) You are not entitled to have a relationship just because you want one. Let’s say that you have a crush on somebody and you’ve had feelings for them for a long time. Then you ask them out only for them to turn you down. As someone who’s been “friendzoned,” here’s some advice. When the person you want rejects you, you have to accept it and move on. Don’t beg or lash out at them or take your anger out on someone you see as “competition.” Your heart is going to break, but you can’t hate a person for not wanting you.

5) It’s okay to avoid exes. If you had a particularly awkward rejection or particularly sucky breakup, you do not have to talk to your ex if you run into them somewhere. On a related note, don’t stalk them on social media either. Defriend and unfollow ASAP from every social media you have connected with them. Delete their number. You can’t heal from the hurt if you keep thinking about the person who caused it.

6) Don’t put so much importance on being “official” right now. Give the relationship time to grow before anything becomes “Facebook official.” Chances are that you’re still getting to know the person you date. Take it easy on yourself and start out as friends. Life isn’t like a Nicholas Sparks or a Hallmark movie where you meet the right person right off the bat. Some relationships take time to grow.

7) Don’t be a perfectionist. Girls especially have a tendency to read into every minute detail and action that goes on during dates. I implore you to put aside the worry. There’s also a tendency for people to hold the one they’re dating to impossibly high standards. Don’t write off a person just because he showed up five minutes late or you don’t agree on everything. Focus on what’s important. It’s more important that the date showed up at all rather than promising something and not showing up without a very good reason for standing you up. It’s more important that you agree on, say, what beliefs you share and how much you actually value those beliefs than whether or not DC is better than Marvel.

8) Chastity is still important. You don’t have to hold hands or be touchy-feely with the person you’re dating if you are uncomfortable with that kind of affection. There are many ways that people can express their love for someone else. That being said, physical and emotional chastity are always going to be important when it comes to dating, even when you’re starting out. This is why you need to take things easy because putting your whole heart into something that’s just starting out will have major consequences later on.

9) If you’re dating someone who doesn’t share your beliefs, proceed with caution. While flirt and convert is a very popular catchphrase amongst Catholics, you don’t want to date someone with the sole mission of trying to change them. You can’t force someone to change unless they themselves want to change. The person your dating is still a person, not a project. It’s good to hope that the life you lead will inspire the person you’re dating and if you’re like me, your faith is probably part of everything that you do. But when you just start out with a person, it’s better to keep evangelizing off the table for the time being.

10) Pray through everything. When you first meet someone, pray. When you’re just starting out as friends, pray. And regardless of whether things progress into something more than friendship or if things stay platonic, you need to pray. God is the one who created your heart and He will get you through whatever happens. Offer your heart to Him so that if it breaks, He will fix it. Pray for the person you’re dating so that they will be led to whatever God wants from them.

The point I’m making from this list is that real, authentic, grown-up love isn’t about getting what we want all the time. It’s not about the emotional highs or kissing or being “Facebook official.” It’s about wanting the good for the other as other. It’s about learning more about who we are when we’re around other people.  And when we start out in this weird world we call “dating,” we still have marriage in mind, but it’s not an urgent matter. The more important thing is to treat the person we’re dating as just that, a person, an equal.