Thank you, thank you, thank you! After quite some time of corresponding long-distance, we had our first F2F. There was no awkward first-date feeling at all. I felt so comfortable, and friends who joined us thought we’d known each other for years!
We agreed that we were kindred spirits and that this was just the beginning of a wonderful relationship. Once again, thank you and God bless!
Yeah, not to me either.
Well, everything in that letter to CatholicMatch is true. But what’s also true is that I met my new BFF, Anne-238166; it wasn’t a date.
A few years ago, I met another CatholicMatch member who came to NYC for the weekend. We met for the first time over brunch in my neighborhood. Same thing: we talked, no awkward silences; we immediately felt a kinship that neither one of us had on dates. In fact, as we were putting on our coats, she exclaimed, “Well, thank you! This was the best date I ever had!”
One of the common things I hear from CatholicMatch members is that they first join with the intention of dating. What happens is an unexpected outcome: great friendships. This is certainly a wonderful thing, and I’m eternally grateful for the enduring friendships I have forged with CatholicMatch members.
But that got me thinking: just what is the disconnect about? Between meeting friends and meeting a potential mate, why do we react so differently? While it’s obvious that we never quite act the same in very different situations, what does this disconnect really tell us about ourselves?
The first thing that comes to mind is that, with some friends, there is no Relationship X-Ray Machine. With a trusted friend, there is no need for scrutiny, second-guessing, or neurotic self-consciousness. In fact, Anne and I didn’t discuss relationships at all; we were too busy talking about other things: Halloween, Chicago, centering prayer, body image and Central Park!
The second thing that occurred to me also seems obvious: with platonic friends, none of the fluttery, heady nervousness enters the picture either. This is, of course, a good thing, because those heady feelings sometimes cloud our judgement and lead us down the wrong path.
So what does all this really tell us about ourselves? How can this disconnect between friends and dates teach us about how we approach dating?
It seems to me that most of us want to marry our best friends; we certainly hear a lot of that in the forum and in conversations. It’s also an idea pushed in the media: advice columns, movies, romance novels and the like. Even a popular wedding invitation expresses the idea: “This day I will marry my best friend, the one I laugh with, live for, love…”
I’ve always thought that particular wedding invitation was a bit overstated for my taste. I’ve also thought how it reflects this popular idea of who our mates should be for us; and it may not be fair. It seems like an awful lot of strain to put on one relationship.
If two people decide they are going to share a life, it seems the person they’re with should have to play every role: best friend, lover, confidant, family member, athletic partner, chef, financial supporter, personal assistant and teammate. Asking our partners to fulfill every last need not only puts a lot of pressure on them, but it diminishes the people in our lives who played some of those roles before we met our partners.
It would make sense, then, that one reason for this disconnect is because we understand that, at least initially, our dates cannot be all things to us. So why, then, do we demand it later on, as conventional wisdom dictates?
Is it too much pressure? Or is it something that naturally occurs as two people grow closer?
If it doesn’t happen – if our mates stay limited in the roles they fill – is it less pressure on the relationship, or are they looked at as irresponsible?
One thing is certain: we get mixed messages about this all the time. According to current social mores, we should find someone who can be all things to us, but maintain our independence. We should share everything, but keep our careers and our bank accounts separate. We should hold sacred our girls’/guys’ nights out, but we should marry our best friend. Women should never go after a father figure, but they should marry someone just like dad. A man shouldn’t be a mama’s boy, but women should scrutinize how he treats his mother. We should live together, but we should spend time apart. We should give our heart and soul, but we should never compromise our dignity.
It makes conventional wisdom look pretty unwise.
So what are we singles supposed to do about these roles and the disconnect we experience between friends and dates?
Like many Catholics, I take very little stock in conventional wisdom. If our shallow hook-up cultural mentality is any reflection of it, I take even less stock.
I find I’m most at peace when I take each relationship – platonic, familial, professional or otherwise – on a case-by-case basis. I try not to compare one with another, and I try even harder not to compare the present to the past. I also try to refrain from determining who should play which role for whom. No good can come of it.
In the meantime, I eagerly await my next F2F and look forward to new friendships. Any CatholicMatch members coming to NYC for the holidays?
Reflecting on CatholicMatch’s 12th anniversary.