(Spoiler Alert: He Doesn’t)
I’ve been in two relationships that mirrored each other, and I played the opposite role each time.
To put it bluntly, the first time I was the dumper and the second time the dumpee. Both are pretty rotten, but I’d argue being the dumper is worse because of the mental torment which befalls some Catholic dumpers.
“Is this God’s will for me? Is this person my vocation? Is God leading me to marry this person or break up with them?”
I’ve noticed from my own experiences as well as my friend’s that Catholics have a tendency to overthink the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of dating. Why? Well, mostly because we’re actually serious about pursuing our vocation and date with marriage in mind. We often put an immense pressure on the very early stages of relationships because we’re constantly thinking, “Is this the father of my children? Has God sent him?!” every time we go out for coffee.
Enter the Catholic dating checklist: Is he practicing? Check. Does he let me out of the pew first for communion? Check. Does he love JPII? Check. Can he parallel park a 15 passenger van?…just kidding.
Of course, it’s very important to date someone of shared moral values, but sometimes we let those shared values cloud whether we’re actually compatible in other important ways. Mixing this subconscious checklist with our assumption of God’s will can be a little dicey.
Let me explain.
My first real relationship was in college. I dated a guy on and off for about six months. I remember sending an email to my mom, “He’s so loving, he’s very Catholic, he’d do anything for me. I’ll be darned if I don’t marry him.” In a strange way, I actually believed that jokey last sentence; that if I didn’t marry him, I’d be going against God’s will. I was convinced God wanted me to be with this guy—even though I didn’t really want to.
He checked off all the boxes. He looked great on paper and he was placed in my life, so God must’ve be willed us to be together, right? I couldn’t escape the sick feeling in my gut every time I imagined marrying him, but I told myself it was my dysfunctional brain ruining God’s divine plan for my happiness.
After months of mental turmoil (all of which I dragged this poor guy through) I eventually broke up with him. I had taken my confusion to a therapist who spoke the clarifying words that finally put an end to my mental ping-pong, “I just don’t think you’re a good match.”
Recently, I dated someone who exhibited some hot n’ cold traits that were all too familiar.
Within the first couple of weeks of dating, he brought up the fact that he felt confused because he didn’t know for certain that we were going to get married. My reaction was, “Woah slow down, skipper” and he admitted to overthinking the whole thing. My spidey senses were tingling and to be honest, my first thought was “this is gonna be payback for dragging my ex on an emotional roller coaster, isn’t it?”
Lo and behold, after a few more weeks of mixed signals, I sent the obligatory “What’s going on?” text after being left of read for two days and he replied with, “We need to talk.” Which we all know is the end.
When we sat down and talked about it he expressed feeling like we just didn’t click but that he was confused, saying something along the lines of “I wonder if being together is God’s will and I’m just wrong.” Deja vu, much? So as I basically faced a version of myself circa five years ago, I told him what I learned, “God wants you to be happy.”
I’ve had so many conversations with friends, room mates, and even Instagram followers who share the same fear: that God’s will is contrary to our happiness.
I was recently chatting with a friend of mine who went to talk to her priest because she was horrified God was going to call her to the religious, and not marriage which she’s always desired. The priest responded to her, “Why would you think God wants you to be unhappy?”
God places desires in our hearts for a reason, folks. We have passions, talents, and gifts and He wants us to use them and to be joyful living out the unique way He made us. He doesn’t call us to date or marry anyone while gritting our teeth, even if they check off every box on the list. God doesn’t plan against our ultimate happiness, He’s on our team!
Yes, sometimes God’s will for us can feel scary at first and might even be contrary to what society equates to happiness. But following God’s will, even if it’s hard, will always have the strong undercurrent of joy that outweighs everything else.
Dating someone should never mean ignoring your gut intuition when it’s not working. God rejoices in your happiness and feels your pain. Know that He’s with you every step in your relationships and that sometimes listening to God also means listening to your gut.
Originally published on Catholic Match.