The Old School Rules of Dating

The Old School Rules of Dating


One of the biggest snags in modern dating is this: the lack of distinction between “dating" and "going steady”.

In my post last week I encouraged the Catholic gentlemen to man up and ask Catholic ladies out on more dates. That post was by far the most read Canadian Catholic article to date, with well over two-thousand reads and counting. While the majority seemed to be in favour of what I proposed, I also saw a couple of very negative reactions.

Just to clarify, I am NOT advocating playing games with other people’s hearts. I’m not telling men to be a Catholic, somehow chaste version of James Bond (whatever that would look like...).

What I am advocating for is a simpler, healthier Catholic dating scene, and this requires defined terms. 

“Dating" as I am using it means going out on dates. It means spending time one-on-one in public with a member of the opposite sex in whom you have an interest. It can mean going for a coffee, having dinner, seeing a movie or play, skiing, or, best case scenario, going to a hockey game together.

It’s aim: getting to know the person better. Appreciating them for who they are, and gradually assessing whether there is romantic chemistry and shared interest in pursuing a relationship together.

Now “going steady” is an unfortunately forgotten, old school term. Hearing it may make you think of Archie comic books or movies about the Fifties. But trust me, we need this category today!

Going steady signifies a move past dating into the realm of committed relationship. At this stage you have acknowledged a substantial interest and attraction to each other and have decided not to go on dates with other people anymore.

You are at this point discerning marriage- Is this really the one for me? Do I admire, respect, and love this person? Do they have the qualities I am looking for in a spouse? Do they have the qualities of a good father/mother? God willing, the next step up from this is engagement, followed by marriage.

Why do we need to separate dating and going steady? Because it makes sense, and because it will spare you both tension and awkwardness and save you from potential heart ache.

One of my friends commented on my last post that asking someone out could cause a lot of damage and potentially ruin a friendship. Well, it shouldn’t. Exploring a possible romantic connection in the right way should NOT prevent later friendship, at all. Thinking you can go on one date with someone and break their heart confuses dating and going steady.

At the same time, if you’ve been on several dates together and you see no signs that this other person is getting serious about you in particular, you can choose to breach the subject of exclusivity with them. If you aren’t on the same page about moving to the next stage, you can bail before you get too invested in the person. And if you’re getting a sense that you’re dating a player, cut it off early. 

Maybe this all seems like common sense to you, but as my anonymous friend noted, common sense is not always so common when the opposite sex is concerned.

What do you think of my dating rules of engagement? Are you buying what I’m selling, or have I as a married guy just been out of the scene too long? Let me know below. 

For more articles on Catholic dating, see the Relationships section

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