A Father’s Bits of Dating Advice

Working with many young adults, especially young women, I would like to share and reiterate my call for respect of one another’s dignity. Perhaps the young people will get bored with hearing this, but I think it is important for me to repeat this invitation as a spiritual father in the faith. I care for my spiritual children and get hurt when I hear and know that they get hurt or taken advantaged by others.

Young women, you have to know that no one is worth you changing your values and compromise your dignity. If he cannot love you as you are and respects you with all that you have, he is not really loving you! First, if someone is persuading you to do things in order to prove that you “love” him, he is not actually in love with you. If he is asking you to keep secrets and do things that compromise your honesty and trust with the people who love you, that is a BIG red flag. Second, please do not expect that you can change someone’s behaviors and save him just because you think you love him enough and that he seems to care for you. People do not usually change who they are in a short time unless they have a goal or want something from you. One’s character needs time to be understood, so take it slow to understand the other person. Be genuine and learn how to treasure intimacy, loving and caring for one another from the heart without having recourse to physical sexual exchanges.

Young men, in a world where many are being objectified, you are called to be the presence of Jesus Christ to the people around you, just as He loves and cares for the Church. In a world dictated by a perverted Darwinian utilitarian understanding where we think that we can objectify, use, manipulate, and take advantage of others before being taken advantage of, dare to love as He has loved. It is getting harder for women to trust men nowadays because they had been hurt and taken advantage too many times in the past. Be patient, genuine, and caring! You do not have to play games or try too hard to impress someone. If she cannot love you for who you truly are, she will not be with you if she sees you in your true self. If you truly love her, love her not only in her seem-to-be perfections or obvious attractions but who she is deep from within (with all the hurts and imperfections as well). Learn to love one another and treasure the importance of friendship first! It is easy to think that we can only have intimacy in a relationship, but true friendships can manifest itself as real deep, personal, intimate, life-giving, and loving care for others. Take things slow and treasure the present gift of the other person! If it is God’s will and both of you care for each other enough, then let the friendship develops naturally, but avoid rushing through things. It is perfectly fine to love, care, and respect without having a “relationship.”

If we truly want someone who cares for us and holds our hands in times of trial, find one that is willing to love us in the hurts as well. If we want true love, be willing to be genuine, vulnerable, and committed as to walk alongside with each other through the blessings and the storms of life. One cannot love if one only wants to be entertained at his or her own will, remaining safely, or independently apart from the true intimacy that is necessary for a Christ-centered and God-fearing relationship as we learn to care for the other. Love cannot exist if we are unwilling to go beyond ourselves to build a genuine and loving relationship that comes from the heart. It cannot exist if we only want certain things to emulate a facade or empty show without building up the necessary, substantial foundation with trust, genuine care, self-sacrifices, and personal commitment. A person cannot love us wholeheartedly if he or she does not have substance — and vice versa; hence, the only way to deepen and grow in the substantial qualities of mutual love is to be Christ-centered (as to care and to love because He has loved us).

Be honest and reflect on these questions regarding your side of the relationship:

  • Am I looking for a real relationship or just companionship because I am afraid to be alone or I am too lonely? Am I desiring something long-term and real or just a short-term solution with its immediate emotional or physical benefits?
  • Can I be genuine and transparent in front of this person or am I trying too hard to be someone else or as to impress him or her? Can I be honest in showing my true self to the other person?
  • Can I be vulnerable in sharing my deepest thoughts and aspirations with this person without worrying about what he or she might think of me? Can I trust this person with my well being?
  • How are our communications? Do we communicate? Can we really communicate like real people, or we just talk about other people or other little, insignificant, unrelated things? 
  • Are our conversations deep enough to reveal the heart or are they just about mundane matters?
  • Can I trust my life to this person and know that he or she will care for it genuinely? Can I be intimate and love this person from the heart without recoursing to physical intercourse or exchange?
  • Can I truly love and care for this person from the heart or am I just physically or emotionally attached to this person? Am I willing to trust, persevere, make sacrifices, and walk this journey with one another?
  • Are there “red flags” or things that make me feel uneasy or question the genuineness of the other person? Am I hopelessly hoping that I can change the other person if I just give it some time or just try harder?
  • Am I able to be honest with my family regarding this person? If it is not the right time, why am I afraid to introduce this person to them?
  • Can I pray for this person and ask God to be in the middle of our relationship? When hardships, trials, or differences arise, how are we willing to let the Lord and our faith guide our decisions and conversations?

Here are some questions to think about the other side of the relationship:

  • Is he or she able to talk to me as a person who really cares or willing to care, or only as to get what he or she wanted? Does he or she have my genuine good in mind?
  • What does this person really want to talk about in our conversations? Does he or she want to listen, communicate, and care, or to only kill time? Are the conversations genuine and inclusive or just one-sided and self-centered?
  • Does he or she always make me feel like I have to be someone else than who I am to be around him or her?
  • Is he or she always asking me to do things that are beyond my comfort zone and asks that we keep things as a secret between us? Can we be honest and genuine with ourselves and with one another?
  • Is this person the same person when he or she is with me and before others, especially his or her family and loved ones? Is he or she is a “what you see is what you get” person?
  • What do my friends and family have to say about this person objectively? Am I able to accept their observations or am I too defensive and fanatical about this person?
  • Is he or she willing to give me space, respect me, my values, and my faith beliefs without constant pressures, manipulations, or persuasions as to get me away from my core foundations?
  • Is this person willing to make compromises and sacrifices for the mutual and greater good of our relationship or is he or she just wanting things beneficial in the now? When things get rough, the trials get hard, or differences arise, what would be his or her first reaction or response to the situations?
  • Is this person willing to pray for and with me, grow in together in faith, and work together to achieve what God wants of us?
  • Are both of us willing to die to ourselves, to make sacrifices, and to try to do what is right as to seek the greater good for both sides?

It is easy to feel that we are entitled to love (like we feel entitled to be better life and job). It is so easy to simply want everything and everyone to be like what we want them to be so we do not have to be lonely! When was the last time you and I were able to engage in meaningful conversations instead of simply having a gathering of people who were too busy looking at their phones and scrolling through their apps’ newsfeeds? Perhaps what we truly need is not to find quick, changing, and short-lived “relationship” to keep us occupied and being fearful of loneliness but actual, real, meaningful, caring, and intimate friendships of people who can help one another grow and mature in our life and faith journey. It is easy to find quick (but false) happiness, but everything that is wrong and missing with post-modern relationships tells us that every one of us desires the real thing, which is much more than what is popular, often portrayed and talked about nowadays. We, then, have to rise above the short-term shallowness to seek, nourish, and deepen meaningful and substantial friendships that are founded on personal, intimate, and qualitative loving cares of one another.

Often times, our problem is that we simply want a quick solution, a placeholder, a companion, a warm body instead of a person, a friend, someone who we can truly love through the thicks and thins. All worldly failures and shallowed standards remind us that what we truly want — what is truly meaningful, what is deeply satisfying, what is genuinely fulfilling — requires patience, commitment, and genuine gift of ourselves to one another. Everything that is real and substantial requires sacrifices, personal efforts, focused energy, in order to make it work! It is easy to simply want someone who can make us happy, but we have forgotten that happiness is not just a feeling. True joy and happiness is a state of being united with God. Only when we are able to rest and be content with who we are in God, can we be able to give ourselves to others without reservations or be tempted to look for something that is quick, shallow, or cheaply satisfying.

We can only give, nourish, and maintain meaningful, genuine, and heartfelt relationships when we know who we are — loved by God — as we learn to share that same personal and intimate love with others. We are all made in the image and likeness of the Almighty; therefore, it is important that we treat one another that way. Do not be afraid to have good, caring friendships and allow Him to motivates, transforms, and be in the center of everything. This is what makes us both humans and divinely loved as children of God! We are truly ourselves when we are able to have empathy, care, respect, and love the other person with dignity because we have first (personally) experienced this divine love in our very own lives. Therefore, let us learn to care and love one another just as God has loved us.