Catholic Dating Site Develops Guide To Meeting Spouses Online

By: Emily Stimpson


online dating

Not long ago, Cardinal Timothy Dolan spoke of what he called “the real vocations crisis” – the vocation to marriage.

“Only 50 percent of our Catholic young people are getting married,” he said in a 2009 interview with the Catholic News Agency. “We have a vocation crisis to lifelong, life-giving, loving, faithful marriages.”

Over a decade  ago, Brian Barcaro, along with his partners Jason LaFosse and Michael Lloyd, wanted to help address this crisis. So, the three founded  CatholicMatch, an online service to help Catholics find their spouse. Now, CatholicMatch is stepping up its game, looking for ways to better prepare Catholics for marriage.

One of those ways is their new online dating guide, “Catholics Are Meeting Their Spouses Online: What About You?,” compiled to help searching Catholics better navigate the online dating world.

Recently, Our Sunday Visitor spoke with Barcaro about the guide, as well as the ins and outs of looking for a spouse online.

Our Sunday Visitor:  What fears hold people back from online dating services?

Brian Barcaro:  Some make the mistake of thinking that you only resort to online dating when every traditional avenue for meeting a spouse has failed. Almost like it’s a last, desperate attempt. It’s not, but when people think of it that way, they hold back from using it. There’s a fear that going online means they’re down to their last option. Maybe the most common fear is of finding themselves in a long-distance relationship. If they can’t find someone within five minutes of their house, they’re not interested. But if you want your search to be successful, you have to be open to that.

OSV:  Do you find that there are a lot of myths circulating about online dating?

Barcaro:  Most myths about online dating are not myths in themselves. They’re exaggerations of things that are true. One myth is that everyone using an online dating site is desperate. Well, yeah, some people online are desperate. But is everyone? Not even close. It’s just like real life. I can walk into any bar in America and find some people who are desperate and some people who are anything but. Another myth is that everyone lies about themselves. Does it happen? Yes. Does everybody lie and when they do, is it always egregious? No. Again, when this happens, it’s not unlike the real world. On the first few dates, people tend to talk about themselves in the most positive light. As you get to know a person, that comes out. Most of the time, if people aren’t being completely honest online, they’re doing something similar.

OSV:  Over the past 14 years, how has online dating changed?

online dating
Catholic Match’s new online dating guide.Catholic Match

Barcaro:  First, there’s much more acceptance in the culture. When we started, a lot of people saw it as the online equivalent of weird, seedy personal ads. The integration of social media into everyday life, however, has changed that. Meeting people online – through Facebook for example – has become normal for most of us. I think that’s why you’re also seeing more older people try online dating. In the beginning, it was mostly young people in their 20s and 30s. But as the 50-plus crowd moved on to Facebook, online dating was the natural progression.

There’s also more acceptance from priests and the Catholic community. You still find pockets of resistance though, much of it fueled by an overly romantic attitude, that this isn’t the way God intended for people to meet. But, as I point out, there never would have been a Pope Benedict XVI if his parents hadn’t used the “online dating” of their day ( a personal ad in a Catholic paper).

OSV:  Why do you think online dating has become so popular? It’s more than just social media making it more acceptable, right?

Barcaro:  A lot of it has to do with the voids created by cultural shifts. Community and parish life are no longer intertwined like they used to be, and there’s a greater diversity of values in the culture. More often than not, the people who surround you at work or in your neighborhood don’t share your values. As a result, the pool of potential spouses is smaller. Online dating gives people a way around those problems.

OSV:  It’s not a panacea though. Problems can arise.

Barcaro:  Of course. Online dating is a tool, and like other tools – cell phones, cars, computers – it can be abused. For example, too much choice can be a bad thing. We’re all good when we have two or three things to choose between. But the more choices we’re given, the harder making a decision becomes. So, online, if you’re not careful, you can fall into the trap of always feeling like there’s someone better out there.

It’s also easy to dehumanize people online because you have such a limited view of them. You’re looking at photos and descriptions, not the wholeness of a person. That means people quickly make judgments based on a flat and incomplete view of the person. Online profiles are a great pre-screening tool, but they can never take the place of getting to know the whole person. God gave us this tool, and it’s doing a lot of good. But, if you’re being overly picky or refusing to make choices, it’s not going to do you any good.

OSV:  For someone preparing to try online dating for the first time, what’s the best attitude to take?

Barcaro:  Moderation and patience. In the beginning, people can spend so much time online – reading profiles and running searches – that they quickly get sick of it. Or, if they don’t immediately get the instant gratification of responses from the right people, they get discouraged.

OSV:  What other tips would you offer for someone either getting started or who has been online for a while but with no success?

Barcaro:  The most important thing is to invest time and effort in your profile. When people go on first dates, they put their best foot forward. Putting together a good online profile is the virtual equivalent of that. You don’t have to complete it overnight, but you  should thoroughly answer the questions and post photos. You also don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking of your profile as a static thing. It’s something that should grow with you. As significant changes happen in your life, you should incorporate those. Photos should be updated to reflect changes in age, weight or hairstyle. It also helps to have realistic expectations. Ask yourself, if I met this person at a party, would I go up and talk to them? If the answer is yes, you’re probably contacting them for the right reasons. If not, there’s a chance you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

OSV:  What’s next for Catholic Match?

Barcaro:  One of the areas we want to get more involved with is marriage preparation. In this culture, pre-Cana classes aren’t enough to prepare couples adequately for marriage. The Church has to reach people at an earlier point to help them date in a marriage-minded way. Pre-Cana classes should be a reinforcement or a refresher of what they already know, not the first time they’re hearing about the Church’s teachings or what makes for a healthy marriage. So, we’re looking at ways to use our website to help people start thinking about these issues from the start.

Basically, we want to offer a service that’s about more than bringing people together. That is one of the reasons this guide is so important. Although it is written for a single person, it can be helpful to those who work in marriage and family life by making them aware of the issues singles face. It also provides an inexpensive resource.

Credit to Emily Stimpson of  Our Sunday Visitor.

How Online Dating Makes Commitment Harder


dating online

The Atlantic  magazine has  an article  arguing that  online dating is undermining monogamy. Further undermining it, we should say, because the sexual mores that have devastated marriage go back four or five decades. But the writer makes a good case that the online relationship “market” is speeding up the decline of commitment. The question of why commitment is declining in the first place is not addressed.

The article is framed by a case study of “Jacob” who comes back to Portland, Oregon, from the East Coast in his mid-twenties and spends two years finding a woman to date. She soon moves in with him and doesn’t seem to mind his “lifestyle” though past girlfriends have called him “lazy, aimless, and irresponsible with money”. She seems to him “independent and low-maintenance” (!) It’s not a great relationship but he tells himself it is better than being single. After five years she leaves.

Jacob, by now 31 or so, still addicted to sport, has no idea how to “make a relationship work”. But he signs up on two dating sites and suddenly he has all the dates he could want. After six weeks he teams up with good-looking Rachel. She moves in, and after two years moves out. The day she leeaves he logs onto and finds his old profile still up. Breaking up is easier this time:

“I’m about 95 percent certain,” he says, “that if I’d met Rachel offline, and if I’d never done online dating, I would’ve married her. At that point in my life, I would’ve overlooked everything else and done whatever it took to make things work. Did online dating change my perception of permanence? No doubt. When I sensed the breakup coming, I was okay with it. It didn’t seem like there was going to be much of a mourning period, where you stare at your wall thinking you’re destined to be alone and all that. I was eager to see what else was out there.”

Jacob has one thing right: he wants to get married.  But an online dating site executive blithely consigns marriage to the dustbin:

“The future will see better relationships but more divorce,” predicts Dan Winchester, the founder of a free dating site based in the U.K. “The older you get as a man, the more experienced you get. You know what to do with women, how to treat them and talk to them. Add to that the effect of online dating.” He continued, “I often wonder whether matching you up with great people is getting so efficient, and the process so enjoyable, that marriage will become obsolete.”

Others in the trade say:

“Internet dating has made people more disposable.”

“Internet dating may be partly responsible for a rise in the divorce rates.”

“Low quality, unhappy and unsatisfying marriages are being destroyed as people drift to Internet dating sites.”

“The market is hugely more efficient  … People expect to–and this will be increasingly the case over time–access people anywhere, anytime, based on complex search requests  … Such a feeling of access affects our pursuit of love  … the whole world (versus, say, the city we live in) will, increasingly, feel like the market for our partner(s). Our pickiness will probably increase.”

“Above all, Internet dating has helped people of all ages realize that there’s no need to settle for a mediocre relationship.”

Well, if it’s only a “relationship” then to heck with it.  But if it’s marriage, “settling” or walking off are obviously not the only options. What about trying to renew it? What might motivate people to do so? The real problem here is not dating sites but what people think a committed sexual relationship might be  for.

I read on and am nearly two-thirds of the way through the article and still no mention of the central issue, of what might help Jacob get some focus and the wife his parents have wanted him to find for the last 10 years, and keep her. But then comes this comment from a professor:

“You can say three things,” says Eli Finkel, a professor of social psychology at Northwestern University who studies how online dating affects relationships. “First, the best marriages are probably unaffected. Happy couples won’t be hanging out on dating sites. Second, people who are in marriages that are either bad or average might be at increased risk of divorce, because of increased access to new partners. Third, it’s unknown whether that’s good or bad for society. On one hand, it’s good if fewer people feel like they’re stuck in relationships. On the other, evidence is pretty solid that having a stable romantic partner means all kinds of health and wellness benefits.” And that’s even before one takes into account the ancillary effects of such a decrease in commitment–on children, for example, or even society more broadly.

Oh,  children. Of course. Why didn’t they mention that sooner? Children are not only affected by marriage and non-marriage, they also affect marriage. They give it meaning, purpose. They are, or used to be, the main point of a man and a woman committing themselves to a life together. If you take them out of the picture it makes it so much harder to find Mr or Mrs Right, doesn’t it?

But we are at the end of the story and still poor old Jacob doesn’t get it. He is worried that he might be becoming unable to love:

“Each relationship is its own little education,” Jacob says. “You learn more about what works and what doesn’t, what you really need and what you can go without. That feels like a useful process. I’m not jumping into something with the wrong person, or committing to something too early, as I’ve done in the past.” But he does wonder: When does it end? At what point does this learning curve become an excuse for not putting in the effort to make a relationship last? “Maybe I have the confidence now to go after the person I really want,” he says. “But I’m worried that I’m making it so I can’t fall in love.”

Credit to  CAROLYN MOYNIHAN of CatholicExchange.


A Singular Vocation

By: Emma Smith

married couple hugging

When my fiancé and I were still just dating we approached our priest and spiritual director and asked him how we might discern if we were called to marriage together. He leaned back in his chair and said  “you have to know how to pray, and what to ask when you pray.”

Father went on to explain that marriage is always described as a gift; that the individuals give themselves to each other on the altar. “But really,” he clarified, “you’re not giving yourself. You’re receiving the other person. Look at the vows, you say ‘I  take  you,’ not ‘I  givemyself.’” He suggested that in our prayer, we ask God “is this the person you want me to receive?”

This got me thinking. Before my then boyfriend and I started discerning together, I had been pretty sure that I was called to marriage in a general sense. All I had to do was find somebody that filled the need. However, now I was approaching marriage in a very specific way. Suddenly, my vocation was not dependent on some abstract idea of a vocation, but rather on a specific event; it was dependent on the outcome of a particular relationship.

Then I realized: I wasn’t called to marriage.

This may strike you all as odd, given that I’m now engaged to the man. But, I’m  notcalled to marriage. I am called to marry my fiancé. That is an important difference. As I waded through my prayers of discernment, I realized, that if marriage is a  receptionrather than a  gift, then maybe that means that you can only truly  discern it if there is another person for you to potentially receive. Otherwise, how can you ask God if He wants you to receive the other in the sacrament of marriage?

Moreover, I began to see that my call to marriage is intimately linked to the one who fulfills it, such that if I’m not called to marry  this  person, then I’m not called to marriage  at all.  In other words — I am not called to some general vocation that I then find someone to insert to make it work. Rather, I am called to marriage  because  I’m called to marry my fiancé; the specific calling to be with my fiancé is what makes the general call “vocation of marriage” true in my life. Not the other way round. If I weren’t called to marry my fiancé, then I wouldn’t be called to marriage. I am only called to marriage because he  exists.

As I began to take this new approach to discernment, I began to wonder if it worked with religious vocations. I mean…don’t people discern their call to the religious life and then find an order to join? As I began talking to friends who were discerning the religious life, those in seminary, those becoming postulants, I began to realize that the same rang true for many of them. Many of my friends stated “If I wasn’t joining X order, I don’t know if I would become a religious at all.” That is, that just as I was only called to marriage because  I was called to marry  this  person, so too, those joining religious orders are only called to the religious life because they are called to be Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Salesians, pick your favorite order.

I see so many people struggling with their discernment and I wonder if they’re not approaching it a bit backwards. We stress over and over again “discern, discern, discern!” with this odd idea that if you discern the general idea, you can then figure out the specificity of that call. We seem to miss that, perhaps, the  general  vocations exist on account of the  specific  calls to either  a  person or  an  order. People want to argue that the specifics of vocations — person, order, diocese, etc. — come from the generalities of vocations: “Oh, once you’ve discerned that you’re called to the religious life, then you choose an order.” But, it may be the other way. That is, general callings only exist on account of the individual callings; we can only speak of the “vocation of marriage” because there are millions of people who are called to a specific vocation with a specific person.  So, when someone says “the vocation of marriage,” it is just a way of referencing millions of specific couples in specific vocations. Thus, to discern vocations generally may be impossible for some. I mean, you can’t know if you’re called to marriage if you have no one to potentially marry. You’re only called to marriage if you are called to marry  someone.

So I wonder if our answer to the vocational crisis we face isn’t to just calm down a bit. Don’t stress the vague notion of “discern! Discern! Discern!” when the youth have no one with whom to discern. Rather, perhaps to answer this vocational crisis, we need to focus on building stronger relationships with God, stronger relationships with the Eucharist, and holier interactions with other people such that those specific relationships can be potential opportunities for clarity. We need to give our young people specific relationships to delve into, as delving into a vague idea of a vocation is often much more difficult than it may seem.

Credit to Emma Smith of CatholicExchange.


Get Married, Young Man

By: Sam Guzman

married couple kissing

For years now, I’ve been interested in World War II.  I especially love reading first hand accounts of battle from the heroic and courageous men who fought in this war, such as those contained  in books by Marcus Brotherton and Stephen Ambrose.

But stories of valor aside,  I’m always  entertained by how simply these war veterans  viewed dating and marriage. The story of how they met their wives, contained in their biographical sketches,  usually goes something like this:


“When I got home from my tour of  duty, I was at an officers dance and saw Betty. She was the prettiest gal in the room. I told my buddy,  ’I’m going to marry that girl,’ and I asked her to dance. We’ve been married 55 years this  year.”


In short, these young men came home from the war ready to get married and start a family. There wasn’t any thought of hooking up, or of dating on and off till their mid thirties, or of living in their parents basement until they landed a cushy job. No, they were more than  ready for the responsibility of marriage and family. And they went looking for a wife, not a girlfriend.

Dating  Intentionally

We could all learn a thing or two from the men of the “greatest generation,” especially the importance of dating intentionally.

If there’s one thing we modern men seem to struggle with, it’s indecisiveness. We just can’t seem to figure out what we want. So  rather than setting a goal, like marriage, and pursuing it with gusto, we meander around, taking our time, waiting for  some undetermined sign to reveal to us how we should proceed.

We find a girl we like  and date her indefinitely. We might even get serious and talk about marriage, but  we are afraid to commit. We’d rather play it safe and enjoy the benefits of emotional intimacy without any of the risk of a formal engagement.

But I can’t encourage you strongly enough–if you’ve discerned that your vocation is marriage, date to marry. Don’t look for a girlfriend, look for a wife.

Why do I say so? Well, there are several problems with dating without a clear goal of marriage. The first is that its unfair to your girlfriend. Women are much more likely to want clear commitment. While this isn’t always the case, it’s a pretty safe bet. If you’ve been dating for a while, your shared  emotions are growing  intense, you’re talking about children,  and yet you show no sign of a proposal, your  girlfriend is  going to get  impatient.  And I would  say rightly so. If you have no intention of marrying  her, you have no business leading her on. But if you do plan to marry her, well, have a clear plan and make it official.

Second, the longer you date someone, and the more emotionally heated your relationship grows, the more  opportunity you create for  temptation to sexual sin. Now, the world has no problem with this, and the vast majority of couples engage in sexual activity before marriage. But as Catholics, we know better. It is  not  worth endangering your immortal soul, as well as that of your  girlfriend, just because you don’t feel ready for marriage. Get engaged and have a short engagement if you must, but whatever you do, realize that the longer you wait, the harder it will be to stay chaste.

Finally, there is the issue of emotional intimacy. It is  irresponsible, and I would say borderline sinful,  to  become intensely  emotionally  involved with a  number of women you have no intention of marrying.  Serial breakups, similar to serial hookups,  can leave lasting emotional wounds for both parties, whether or not your realize it immediately.


While I believe it is important to date intentionally, I fully realize that you may not marry the first woman  you date. That’s fine, but you should at least enter relationships with the thought of marriage in the  back of your mind and proceed accordingly. If you don’t think the woman you are dating is marriage material, you need to end the relationship,  no matter how much fun you have together. That’s the only fair and gentlemanly thing to do.

The point is, marriage is a sacrament and dating is not. Dating is simply  a discernment process. You should always be prayerfully asking if this is the woman God wants you to marry. If you already know she’s the one, so much the better. Once it has become clear that this is the companion you are meant to be with, don’t waste time. Pursue marriage. Make it happen. Yes, it might be scary, yes it might be a leap of faith, but be decisive and take action.


Credit to Sam Guzman of CatholicExchange.

Paying Attention to Single Catholics

By: Mary Beth Bonacci

single in church

Can I tell you how excited I am about this? As many of you know, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life talking to teenagers (and their parents) about love, relationships and chastity. I began that work because I thought it was important, and (back in those days) nobody else was doing it. I get excited about doing things that need to be done in the Church, but nobody else is doing.  Well, these days you can’t open a church door without hitting an aspiring young chastity speaker. This is fabulous news for me, as I am more than happy to pass on the mantle to the next generation. I’m working to shift the focus of my teen work away from full-time speaking and toward resource development to support all of these young aspiring chastity speakers.

And that will leave me plenty of time to focus on what needs to be done in the Church now, but nobody else is doing: Paying attention to single adult Catholics.  I’ll admit, I have a personal stake in this. I  am  a single adult Catholic. And the more years I live as a single adult Catholic, the more I realize that there is a problem here.  The problem is that no one seems to know we exist. Parishes are built around families. Classes, activities and programs are generally aimed at kids and/or couples. Women’s groups assume all of the women are wives and mothers, as men’s groups do for husbands and fathers. (Have you ever gone to one of these and wondered “Is it even okay that I’m here?”) Even the population of a parish is determined by the number of families, which is why, I suspect, that so few single adults register in a parish.

God bless families. They certainly need all the help they can get these days, and I would never want to take away a single program that is designed to support them. But when parishes focus exclusively on families, they risk alienating a growing demographic within their ranks – the unmarried.  Polling data I’ve found indicates that single adults make up anywhere from 25 to 50% of the US population. Look around your parish. Are 25 to 50% of the people you see unmarried? Probably not.  It’s not all the parishes’ fault. They can’t be expected to acknowledge what they don’t see. And, as a rule, they don’t see us. I can always recognize the single people at Mass. They’re the ones who sit in the back and cut out immediately afterward. They don’t get involved. They haven’t found their “place” in parish life.

Oh, sure, they throw us the occasional “young adult group.” These groups are notoriously difficult to launch and hold together, for a couple of reasons. First of all, the mentality seems to be, “Okay, all of you singles. Why don’t you all go hang out in that room over there, and then maybe you’ll pair off and come out married, and then we’ll know what to do with you.”  Not particularly helpful.  There is also the “young adult” problem. The idea of these groups seems to have been to provide a “bridge” for the years between the youth group and the marriage prep class. They’re based on the assumption that there will be an upper age limit beyond which everyone will be married and will no longer need such a group. Initially that was 30. Then 35. Now I’m seeing more and more groups classify themselves as “18 to 40.”

What? Forty year olds  have  18 year olds. They’re their parents, not their buddies.  Regardless of the upper age limit, the “young adult” model leaves something to be desired. It basically says that during the years between 35 and the senior casino bus, you’re on your own.  So, dear reader, at this point I’m guessing you fall into one of two camps. You’re either saying “Yes, this is my experience. Thank God someone is acknowledging it.” Or you’re saying “Oh, no. Please tell me this column isn’t going to turn into a monthly complaint session about being single.”  Okay, this isn’t going to be a monthly complaint session about being single. Not by a really, really long shot.

I debated about this. I really did. (Ask Brian Barcaro, who has been waiting for this column for far too long!) Part of me wanted to start out on a very happy, positive note. Because I’m a very happy, positive person with a lot of happy, positive things to say about single life. And I will say them all. But I’ve learned that if we jump right into happy and positive without acknowledging the reality and the areas where we struggle, we wind up with that shallow, platitudinous “happy” that so many of us have grown to detest. (“Your life hasn’t gone the way you planned. So just shut up and be happy about it already.”)

Single can be good. It can be very, very good. Not in a “we can afford a nicer car because we don’t have to spend money on kids” kind of way. More of a “This isn’t the way I had planned things, and I need to turn to You, O Lord, in a very profound and personal way in order to deal with it” kind of a way.  The Church on the parish level, so far, hasn’t done a lot to help us do that. Not because they don’t care, but because they don’t know we’re here.  But I’m about to change that.  We’re  about to change that.  Because we get really excited about doing things that nobody else is doing in the Church.

Credit to Mary Beth Bonacci of CatholicExchange.

Does Money Matter?

By: Mary Beth Bonacci



So, if a woman is looking for a man with money, is she a practical minded mother-to-be or a gold digging shrew?  First of all, I always hesitate to speak for “women.” I can speak from my own experience, and from the experience of women I’ve known. I can speak from what I know about feminine nature. But in the end, my perspective is hardly universal. Nevertheless, I have a perspective. And here it is.  It is undeniably true that a woman who plans to stay at home with her children has a serious stake in her intended’s earning capacity. Once she has those children, her children will be very, very dependent on him. Which in turn makes her very, very dependent on him, and thus very, very vulnerable. She relies on him to take care of her material needs so that she in turn can focus all of her energy on nurturing the new lives that have been entrusted to her. If she can’t rely on that — if she has to worry about losing the roof over their heads or the food on their plates — her ability to focus on her children is going to be compromised.

In previous generations, this was a given. If a man wanted a family, he planned his life accordingly. He learned a trade, or got an education, or bought a farm, or did whatever needed to be done so that he would be prepared when Miss Right came along. (Or when he turned 25 and needed to marry Miss Almost-Right so that people wouldn’t start to question his sexual orientation. Things were a lot different in previous generations.)  I’ve got to tell you, there’s something very attractive about that. And it’s not about the money. When a man can say “Before I even knew you, I was preparing for you and working to build the life we’ll have together,” it helps a woman to feels protected and treasured before the marriage even begins.  Contrast that to the current generation, where so many men seem to approach marriage with an attitude that says “You’d better get a job and contribute your fair share to the upkeep of this family.” As if giving birth to the children, nurturing them and keeping a busy household running wasn’t a sufficient “contribution.” Let me tell you, that kind of attitude does not make a woman feel loved or protected.

Okay, so now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s be honest. Providing for a family, as important as that may be, is not the only reason women look for men of “means.” And those other reasons, surprisingly enough, don’t all boil down to simple “gold-digging” (although I’m sure there’s plenty of that to go around, too).  Most women want a man who is, for lack of a better term, somehow “bigger” than she is. We naturally gravitate to men who are at least as physically large as we are. The very tall Nicole Kidman, after her divorce from the very short Tom Cruise, said that it would be good to go back to wearing high heels. When seen in public with him, she had to appear as short as possible because it just doesn’t look “right” somehow when a wife towers over her husband. I know it’s not logical — size says nothing about character or virtue or anything else. But it’s instinctive and it’s fairly strong. Women typically don’t want to be much taller or much heavier than their partners.  But it goes beyond the physical. We gravitate to men who are at least as “big” as we are in terms of life, goals, accomplishments. Again, it’s difficult to explain because it isn’t necessarily logical. But it’s there and it’s relatively powerful. Maybe it’s about that instinctive desire to be protected, whether or not we have children. But for some reason, we want men whose lives are “bigger” than ours. We don’t want to be significantly smarter or more successful than the men we choose as partners. Not that we don’t want to be smart or successful. Just that we gravitate toward men who in some way seem to match or exceed our accomplishments.

And often money can serve as shorthand for that. A man who has more money than we do seems somehow bigger than we are. He’s accomplished more. Or at least it seems that way. Maybe he hasn’t at all. Maybe it’s a trust fund. Maybe it’s inherited and he hasn’t done anything but play polo and ride around in his yacht. Like I said, it isn’t logical. I think men, to a certain extent, feel this way as well. As much as they may talk about wanting a “sugar mama,” most men want to know they can provide for the woman they love. I once, back in high school, dated a man who told me that if we were ever to marry, he would divorce me the day I earned more money than he did. It struck me as a ludicrous statement at the time, and indeed it was. But it was the immature expression of a powerful human instinct — the need for a man to take care of a woman.  Notice that I never said that it’s a right or good thing for a woman to include “wealthy” in her short list of spousal criterion. A lazy woman who sees a man as simply means to her materialistic ends has no excuse in simply saying “It’s my nature to want to be taken care of.” All of these instincts need to be guided by reason.

A woman needs to ask herself some serious questions when she’s faced with financial concerns about a prospective spouse. First of all, is this about the ability to support a family, or the ability to support the daydream you’ve always had about how your family life would look? Sitcom characters usually live in upscale neighborhoods. “The Beautiful People” drive late model luxury cars and carry designer handbags. Spend enough time in this society and it’s easy to believe that we need all of that stuff. We don’t. It doesn’t lead to happiness, and it doesn’t lead to happy families. In fact, the pursuit of materialism can often derail a family’s happiness.  Second, is money really the best measure of whether a man’s life is “bigger” than yours? Often the men who accomplish the most are paid the least. Look at teachers. There’s a reason so few men choose to teach. It doesn’t pay. But it can represent a serious, amazing accomplishment. A man who is following God’s will with courage and faith is a much bigger man than a trust fund baby with a Porsche. So women, try to broaden your idea of what makes a man a man. Don’t view money as shorthand for accomplishment. And please, please purge any inclination you may have to see a man as simply a means to get the “stuff” that you want and haven’t been willing or able to earn for yourself. That’s using, and it’s very, very unattractive.

And guys, make the effort. Don’t be the guy who lives just for himself until the very moment that Ms. Right slips the ring on his finger. Be the guy who, within the context of God’s will for his life, is working to take care of the woman he loves, even if she hasn’t arrived yet. A good woman will recognize and appreciate that. And it won’t be about the money.

Credit to Mary Beth Bonacci of Catholic Exchange.


To Date or Not to Date

By: Mary Beth Bonacci


So apparently you all like talking about annulment.  No big surprise, really. Most single Catholics – at least those of us “of a certain age” – deal with the subject either directly or indirectly in our dating lives.  I have received more mail on this topic than I have any other subject since I started writing for  Catholic Match. And, as fascinated as you may be with questions surrounding who gets an annulment and why, there is one big question most of you want to hear more about: dating and annulments. When is it okay to date? Is it okay to date someone who doesn’t have an annulment? Someone who has applied for an annulment? Do you have to wait until the annulment is granted?  So let’s take that question on today – Is it okay to date someone who is divorced but doesn’t have an annulment?  The way I see it, half of the answer is crystal clear, and the other half is kind of murky.  Here’s the crystal clear part: If someone is divorced and doesn’t yet have an annulment, they are presumed in the eyes of the Church to still be married. I say “presumed” because, until the investigation is over and the tribunal has ruled, no one can say that for sure. The tribunal may find that no sacramental marriage ever existed. But they may not. And, unfortunately, you and I are not tribunals. (I don’t know – maybe that’s fortunate. I really wouldn’t want that responsibility on my head.) We can’t say “Well, look at the situation. Clearly there was no marriage.” Maybe there wasn’t, but that’s not our call to make. We haven’t seen all the evidence. We haven’t interviewed the witnesses. That process is in place for a reason.

So, bottom line. This person is presumed to be married. Respecting the Church and respecting the process means respecting that fact.That’s the clear part. The murky part comes in when we start to talk about “dating.”  Several of you wrote to ask me if it’s a sin to “date” someone who doesn’t have an annulment. It’s a hard question to answer, because the concept of “dating” isn’t particularly clear. The Church has never proclaimed on the question of dating someone with no annulment, because the concept of “dating” doesn’t exist in the Church’s realm. It’s a fairly recent cultural construct, and exists mostly in the Western world. It’s defined differently among different people at different times. And it’s difficult for the Church to be clear about something that isn’t clearly defined.  Some things are obviously clear. To engage in sexually intimate behavior with someone who is presumed to be married would be presumed to be adultery. But then again, to engage in sexually intimate behavior with someone who isn’t presumed to be married would be fornication. It’s a sin either way.

But does “dating” someone who is presumed to be married constitute adultery? That’s a trickier question. What is dating? Is going out to lunch with someone adulterous behavior? Is it adulterous if it’s dinner? Obviously it’s not the meal, or the act of sharing that meal, that’s adulterous. It’s the circumstances and the intentionality. If these two people are sneaking around behind a spouse’s back, if they’re being deceptive, if they’re violating the intimacy that spouse has the right to expect, then they are behaving in an adulterous way. It’s a sin against the spouse who is being deceived.  The situation changes slightly when a couple is publicly separated and legally divorced. Yes, there may still be a sacramental marriage present, and that’s a big deal. But I think that a certain level of friendship with the opposite sex that would be highly inappropriate for someone with a spouse waiting at home becomes more appropriate when that couple has formally separated.  Notice I said “friendship.” I think this is the key. It can be a very good friendship. It can be a close friendship. Share lunch. Share dinner. Have fun. Be friends.

I think planning or moving toward marriage while one partner remains “unannulled” is unwise. I don’t know if it’s technically sinful, but I do know that it’s disrespectful of the process, and it could be setting two people up for enormous disappointment if the tribunal doesn’t grant the annulment.  I think engaging in dating-type romantic affection – kissing, “making out”, whatever you want to call it – is probably inappropriate for the unannulled as well. If it goes far enough, that kind of behavior can cross the line into being sinful even for those who are free to marry. But even before that point, there is sort of an understanding or an expectation that this is a prelude (or at least a possible prelude) to marital-type behavior if the relationship progresses toward a marital-type (i.e. married) relationship. While someone is still presumed to be validly married, I would advise them to steer clear of that.  People sometimes say to me “Well yeah, we’re keeping it at a level of friendship. But our feelings are more than friendship. Is that a sin?” Look, you can’t control your feelings. They just are. You can control your thoughts, so just as you shouldn’t be fantasizing sexually (about anybody you aren’t married to, really), you probably shouldn’t be fantasizing about the big wonderful wedding you’re going to have once that pesky annulment is out of the way. Again, it may or may not be sinful, but it is definitely setting you up for a possible disappointment.

I know that each individual situation is unique. Some annulments are more clear-cut than others. Some applicants, over the course of the process, can see that in their individual case the annulment is extremely likely to be granted. That’s why individual judgment and prayerful discernment become so important in these situations.  I also know that a vast majority of Catholics who apply for annulments, get them. And I know that can easily lead to a mentality of “of course he’ll get his annulment, so what’s the big deal?”

Credit to  Mary Beth Bonacci of Catholic Exchange.


Choosing 'The One'

By: Francine and Byron Pirola


couple dating

One young woman liked to tell us she had three simple criteria for a boyfriend: good massages, could fix her car and curly hair! We’re sure she was joking but at least she was thinking about it.  Dr John Van Epp is a specialist in helping singles make good choices in their partner selection. In his “How to avoid marrying a jerk (or jerkette)” program he puts forward a powerful model for discerning a good partner choice.

It goes like this:  Make a list of all the qualities that makes a good marriage partner. We came up with things like honest, kind, self-disciplined, generous, hard-working, selfless, faithful, committed etc. Truly, the absence of these things can make a marriage very hard going, even untenable. Yet the truth is that not a single one of us can say that we have all these qualities and perfectly practice them. Who among us is not at times a little bit selfish, a tad unkind, a little lazy or a fraction dishonest? Being imperfect doesn’t make us unmarriagable, it makes us normal. And it highlights one of the essential purposes of marriage: to help us grow and mature spiritually.

Marriage helps us become better people, to develop virtues and qualities that make us increasingly better spouses.

Therefore, the most important quality for a prospective mate to have is a willingness to grow. Or as John Van Epp says: the one deal-breaker for a future marriage partner is a ‘persistent resistance to change’. A spouse with a bad habit is a problem. A spouse with a bad habit who refuses to change is a  problem.  While it’s important to be tolerant and accepting of each other, genuine love calls us to want to be more for each other. And in serious cases, refusing to change can undo a marriage.

But how do you know if a prospective mate has a ‘persistent resistance to change’? Well, you won’t know it from the first date. A persistent resistance to change can only be observed over months of relating; healthy relating that encourages both dating partners to grow and become better people.

Credit to Francine and Byron Pirola of SmartLoving.

Being Single in the Universal Church: The Pros, Cons and Outreach Challenges Surrounding the Number of Unmarried Catholics Today

By: Emily Stimpson


There’s both good news and bad news about today’s Catholic singles.  The good news?  They’re not living the single life alone. Today, more unconsecrated single Catholics live in America than at any other point in history.  And the bad news?  They’re not living the single life alone. Today, more unconsecrated single Catholics live in America than at any other point in history.  Nope, that’s not a typo. The good news and the bad news are the same.  Although it may be reassuring, in some ways, that today’s unmarried Catholics have lots of company in the single life, it’s also a problem. Never before have quite so many adults, Catholics or otherwise, delayed marriage quite so late in life. Some delay by choice. Others by chance. But marriage is delayed regardless. And the results are often less than rosy.

As statistics collected by the  National Marriage Project  show, the single life is rife with risk factors. For example, single people in general are two to three times more likely to be depressed than their married peers and far more likely to commit suicide. Singles, particularly men, tend to suffer from more health problems than married individuals, as well as die younger. They are also less financially stable, suffer from higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases and are more apt to be the perpetrators (men) or victims (women) of violent crimes.  Cheery, no?  Despite that grim statistical picture, however, the single life is not necessarily all gnashing of teeth and weeping.  There are, as even the most discontented of singles will grudgingly admit, some definite perks to the single life. Most have a type of freedom and time that their married peers don’t, freedom and time that allows them to pursue professional, intellectual, spiritual and recreational opportunities of all sorts.

There also are plenty of Catholic singles managing to live happy and virtuous lives because of, not in spite of, their singleness. They’re serving God, building up his Kingdom in the world and loving those who cross their path. These singles are going to church, going to confession and not going home from bars with strangers. They’re actually not going home with anyone. They’re both professing and living the Church’s teachings on human sexuality.

Single struggles

Unfortunately, those singles are the minority, even within the Catholic Church. And for as happy and virtuous as that minority might be, most still have their fair share of struggles with their singleness.  At the top of most faithful Catholic singles’ list of complaints is their single status itself. Most don’t want to remain unmarried. They want to say “I do.” But finding a spouse who shares their faith and who won’t pressure them to abide by the culture’s sexual norms is something of a trick these days, particularly for women.  “The men aren’t there,” said Dave Sloan, who helps run the Atlanta-based national singles outreach Singles Serving Orphans, part of  Serving God’s Kids, which sponsors missions trips to a Mexican orphanage multiple times each year. “Go to the parish events. There are loads of attractive, appealing, virtuous women and just a handful of guys. It’s a tough situation.”

Even if a nice Catholic girl or boy is found, however, other problems often get in the way of marriage. Many nice Catholics girls and boys haven’t always been nice Catholic girls and boys. Some have made mistakes in the past that haunt them still.  Others bear the wounds of past breakups, divorce or misguided notions about career, family, personal responsibility, the meaning of happiness and the ends of marriage.  “So, many single Catholics today simply have no idea what a healthy, committed Catholic marriage looks like,” said Anastasia Northrop, the founder of the  National Catholic Singles Conference. “If you don’t have an example of that, how do you know it’s possible to live it?”  Whether the wounds and inability to commit are their own or another’s, those problems leave many unmarried Catholics struggling, to varying degrees, with profound loneliness.

“That loneliness is the key issue for most singles,” Sloan said. “The human person was made to be in a family, a community. We image God, who is a family, and we were made to share our life with others.”  They also leave many singles asking some big questions about God.  “Their life isn’t turning out as they expected, so they want to know where God is in their singleness. Did he forget them? Why are they still single? And what do they do about it?” said Catholic Match columnist and  “Real Love”  (Ignatius Press, $14.95) author Mary Beth Bonacci.

Not fitting the mold

For all those reasons and more, the Church sympathizes with singles, both the faithful variety and the less-than-faithful variety. It understands the path they’re on isn’t an easy one. It wants to help.  It just isn’t sure how.  That uncertainty is evident in the state of Catholic singles ministry nationwide.  In a few choice locales, it’s thriving.  Where singles in general and Catholic singles in particular are in great supply – cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. – events for unmarried Catholics can be found most any night of the week. Happy hours, Theology on Tap, service projects, Bible studies and book clubs are all there for those willing to take advantage of them. Those events provide opportunities for spiritual formation, opportunities for singles to help the less fortunate, and opportunities for meeting potential mates.  There also are events on the national level, like Northrop’s National Catholic Singles Conference, now in its seventh year, and Sloan’s Singles Serving Orphans mission trips, as well as online communities such asCatholic Match  and  Ave Maria Singles.

Once you get outside the major cities and away from the national scene, however, you have to start looking harder for thriving singles ministries. A lot harder.  According to Sloan, in recent years most Catholic dioceses have scaled back their outreach to singles and young adults, eliminating young adult ministers or reducing their positions to part time. Tough financial times account for some of those decisions, but Sloan believes something else is at work.  “The challenges singles face are grave and overwhelming,” he told OSV. “They’re also entirely new. The Church hasn’t figured out how to respond to them, and so the challenge is easier not to face.”  It’s not just dioceses struggling to confront that challenge, however. Parishes struggle, too.  “When people find themselves single later than they thought they would be, their instinct often is to go to God,” Bonacci said. “But when they do, what they find are parish structures built around families, and they don’t know how to break in.

“It’s not a bad thing for parishes to be concerned about families,” she added. “Families need all the help they can get. But parishes need to find ways to incorporate those who don’t fit into the family programming mold – sacramental prep, Catholic schools and catechetical programs.”

Hard to pin down

No one (or almost no one) questions that. But the dilemma remains: How?  “It’s a hard demographic to pin down,” said Christopher Chapman, associate director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. “You’ve got Catholic singles who are 25, and you’ve got Catholic singles who are 55. The 25-year-olds don’t want to socialize with the 55-year-olds, and the 55-year-olds don’t want to socialize with the 25-year-olds.”  There’s also widely varying levels of formation and perceived needs among Catholic singles, he said.  “You’ve got Catholics who went to devout Catholic schools, and you’ve got Catholics who weren’t taught  their faith and left the Church. You’ve got Catholics who hear about a Bible study and think, ‘That’s exactly what I want.’ And you’ve got Catholics who think ‘That’s exactly what I don’t want.’ The unifying need that attracts married Catholic to events – namely their children’s sacramental prep and education – isn’t there.  “Even when you get a successful program going, it only lasts so long,” he continued. “Unmarried Catholics meet, get married, and the energy dies out.”  Finally, Chapman told OSV, simply reaching single Catholics is a very different proposition than reaching their married peers.  “Fewer go to Church. They don’t have kids in the schools. And they don’t read the diocesan paper,” he said. “They’re everywhere, but nowhere.”

Less ‘churchy’ events

For those reasons, the growing consensus among those involved in singles ministry is that a multi-pronged approach, which encompasses evangelization, formation, socialization and opportunities for service, needs to be taken.  In Bonacci’s Denver-area parish, they’re attempting an end run around the diverse age range by hosting events for singles that are more substantive than social. After the teaching is over, people still socialize, but they tend to break off into age-appropriate groups.  “There is a social need,” Bonacci said. “We just think it’s better served by letting them find each other through deeper things.”  In Atlanta, Sloan has seen service projects and events that are less “churchy” in nature draw single Catholics in and connect them to other single Catholics, as well as provide them with the resources they need for healing and formation. He also said that other dioceses, such as Los Angeles, have had success with Catholic Underground – a “concert-meets-coffee house” style evening that features Eucharistic adoration.

Taking charge

Where those types of programs don’t exist, Northrop urges singles to stop waiting for the hierarchical Church to act.  “We’re adults,” she said. “We need to take responsibility. So, if someone is single and wishes their parish offered more, they should start something.”  Along those same lines, Chapman noted, Catholics should stop thinking of “singles ministry” as something the priest or the bishop is called to do and start thinking of it as something they are called to do.  “The programmatic way is not always the best way,” he said. “More often, the best things come out of personal influence. Ultimately, this seems to be the proper province of laypeople who are in the world, living and working next to single people. We all have to make a conscious effort to form fellowship across lines of age or state in life.  “Families are the domestic Church,” Chapman said. “Any time a couple invites a single person out to dinner because they think he might be lonely or offers to set him up on a blind date, that is the Church reaching out to single people.”

Credit to Emily Stimpson of

Breaking Up is Hard to Do–There’s More Going on Than Meets the Eye with Heartbreak

By: Dr. Gregory Popcak

broken heart

Breaking up is always hard, but some people rebound more easily than others.   According to new research, it turns out a person’s ability to recover from a break-up has even more to do about their attachment style than it does with the depth of feeling for the object of one’s unrequited affections.  New research  shows that people with secure attachment styles handle breakups much more efficiently than those with less secure attachment styles.   There are 4 basic attachment styles (Secure, Anxious-Preoccupied,   Anxious-Avoidant, Dismissive-Avoidant) that dictate our basic attitudes and behavior in relationship.   We learn these styles based upon how promptly, consistently, and compassionately our parents responded to our needs as children.   These patterns of engagement between parent and child form our deep-seated attitudes about our relationship for the rest of our lives.

4 Basic Attachment Styles

People who are  Securely Attached tend to be comfortable in relationships and by themselves.   They are capable of being  appropriately vulnerable and setting appropriate standards in relationships.   Securely attached adults tend to experience the most stable and satisfying relationships.   People with secure attachment were raised in homes where parents responded to their needs promptly, consistently, and compassionately.  Those who exhibit an  Anxious-Preoccupied  attachment style tend to be somewhat nervous in relationship.   These folks value their relationships a great deal but tend to be preoccupied by fears that they might do something to alienate the other person or cause the other to want to leave them.   They tend to take the blame for any relationship problems whether they should or not and they often need a lot of reassurance that things are really OK between them and the other.   They often struggle with being alone and can be somewhat dependent or emotionally needy. People with an Anxious-Preoccupied attachment style were raised in homes where there parents tended to ignore initial cries and requests for help. Ultimately, the child’s needs would be met, but only after the child was made to work for it by crying a little harder and longer, or asking one more time.   In this model, the parent was a benevolent god who required some degree of supplication before favors were granted.   These individuals are at higher risk for anxiety disorders.

Those who exhibit an  Anxious-Avoidant  attachment style like the idea of being in a relationship, but tend to have a hard time opening up in relationship.   They can communicate their feelings but they typically don’t do so willingly or without a great deal of effort.   They tend to send mixed messages to the people they are in relationship with insofar as they want the other to be close to them, but they don’t want to return the closeness.   They fear being hurt or left so they often remain aloof even when it would be safe to open up.   People with an Anxious-Avoidant attachment style were raised by parents who only met those needs the parents felt were worth meeting and only when the parents felt it was worth meeting them.   Often, the decision to meet or not meet a child’s needs would be based more on how the parent was feeling in the moment rather than any discernible logic, so the child is left with the impression that relationships are a mystery that they have no direct control over.   These people tend to be suspicious of the motivations of others and often read negative intentions into even unintentional slights.   They have a strong tendency toward depression and substance abuse issues.  Finally, those with a  Dismissive-Avoidant  attachment style are lone wolves.   They can take or leave relationships.   They tend to be fairly out of touch emotionally and don’t do vulnerability. They can be very task oriented and accomplished in their lives because all of the energy other people spend on relationship they save for achievement.   These individuals were raised in homes where needs were largely ignored.   The child learned to rely almost entirely on his or herself and to believe that needing others at all was a weakness not a strength.   Because these individuals are largely unable to get any joy or satisfaction from being close to people, they have a much greater tendency toward substance abuse and other compulsive behaviors (sex, gambling).

Attachment Style and Coping with Break-ups

So, what does all this have to do with ability to recover from romantic breakups?   Quite a bit.  According to new research by Cornell University,  Those with a secure attachment style usually have the healthiest response to break-ups. They are more likely to turn to close friends and family for support as opposed to using drugs or alcohol as a means of coping. They are more open to authentically grieving the loss, and are better able to understand, or empathize with their partner’s reasons for the break-up which allows them to respond in a less hostile manner. And–this is important in regard to future relationships–they are less likely to blame themselves for the relationship ending.

People who have an anxious attachment style are more likely to turn to unhealthy coping strategies, such as abusing drugs or alcohol in the wake of an emotionally distressing situation such as a break up. They are prone to jealousy after the end of a relationship, particularly if they are not the ones who ended it, and they will be more likely to try to re-establish the relationship, even if the relationship wasn’t a healthy one. Some research suggests that those with an anxious attachment style would be the most likely to engage in unwanted pursuit behaviours such as stalking, threatening, or even attempting to physically harm their previous partner.  Those with an avoidant attachment style tend to turn less to friends and family after a break-up, and are more likely to use drugs or alcohol as a means of coping. They may avoid the former partner, sometimes going so far as to change jobs or schools, consistent with the inclination to suppress distressing thoughts, or in this case any reminders of their former relationship.  

Read the entire article here.

The Takeaway

The takeaway for those grieving the loss of a relationship is that your reaction may have more to do with what’s going on inside of you than your feelings about the other person.   If you are having difficulties recovering from a breakup that are affecting your well-being, seeking help can empower you to heal a less-than-secure attachment style.   Look for someone trained in Mindfulness Based Therapy which has been shown to be effective at helping to heal damaged attachment styles.   If you’re looking for help, your PaxCare Tele-Coach  can help you find healing.  The takeaway for parents is that attaching to your child by meeting your child’s needs promptly, consistently, and compassionately does more than help your relationship with your child.   It gives your child relationship and coping skills that can last a lifetime.   To learn more about how you can give your   child everything he or she needs to have healthy adult relationships and strong coping skills, check out  Parenting with Grace: A Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids.