Dating advice (catholic perspective)


#1

I'm struggling with this within my relationship and I would love good, sound Catholic advice. My girlfriend of 3 years wants to go to lunch with an old ex-boyfriend. This bothers me a little for obvious reasons. The thought of spending time one on one with another male i think is too much like a date and is needless. She occasionally does this and wants to go to lunch or go hang out with a guy she used to be friends with and we always end up in the same arguement.

Is it wrong for me to feel weird about it or should I be ok with it?

Thank you for the help!!


#2

I can relate to your feelings of jealousy. My girlfriend of 3 1/2 years has a close guy friend. They go on hikes, out to breakfast, out for Chinese food and a drink etc. At first it REALLY burned me up. It always caused a huge fight between us, especially because I was always away at college, or, like this summer, living in Louisiana. However, unless she has been unfaithful in the past, what reason do you have to be upset? It isn’t right to prevent her from having relationships with men. She has been with you for three years, so clearly, she has chosen YOU. I understand that you can’t trust the other guy, but at long as they aren’t alone at his place what is there to worry about? I can tell you from personal experience that by putting these limitations on her and dictating who she can and cannot spend her time with, there is very real danger of pushing her away.


#3

*I agree to an extent with the above poster. It’s hard to say, going on so little. I mean, having friends of the opposite sex is fine. I don’t see anything wrong with it. Personally, when I was dating my husband, I did not WANT to hang out with ex boyfriends, however. They were ex bf’s for a reason. lol I think that if I did, and my husband was upset, I probably would have chosen my husband above the ‘‘friend.’’ I see things from both sides. On the one hand, there is nothing wrong with having a friendship with someone from the opposite sex. On the other hand, I don’t see why she argues with you over it…I mean, is this a best friend all her life? At the end of the day, your feelings should matter, and if you are being reasonable, and are not of a jealous nature, she should not have lunch with the guy. Her feelings matter too, though.

I think these things cut both ways. It can be an eye opener for her, if she feels you are being unreasonable (only you know if you are) or it can be an eye opener for you, that your gf doesn’t seem to care about your feelings. (if she is willing to argue with you over having lunch with an ex)

I probably was of no help here. :stuck_out_tongue: I think you need to provide us with a little more detail on your demeanor, and your relationship. (if you could?) :o*


#4

My wife has plenty of friends, male and female, including ex-boyfriends. I trust her completely, so I have no problem with her hanging out with them. There are some ex-boyfriends who would get the wrong idea, so on her decision she doesn't hang out with them anymore.

They way I figure it is - I'm not supposed to, or even capable of, meeting 100% of my wife's friendship and companionship needs. Sometimes her friends offer her a perspective that I cannot. So I don't see anything wrong with her hanging out with her friends. Of course, the foundation for all this is trust.


#5

[quote="RCWarrior821, post:1, topic:177294"]
I'm struggling with this within my relationship and I would love good, sound Catholic advice. My girlfriend of 3 years wants to go to lunch with an old ex-boyfriend. This bothers me a little for obvious reasons. The thought of spending time one on one with another male i think is too much like a date and is needless. She occasionally does this and wants to go to lunch or go hang out with a guy she used to be friends with and we always end up in the same arguement.

Is it wrong for me to feel weird about it or should I be ok with it?

Thank you for the help!!

[/quote]

I see that you are approaching that from a rational point of view. First, you recognise your own feelings without trying to hide or rationalise them. That's good (just don't get too proud about it - that's where we begin to lose it and we think we're standing but we're falling). Second, you approach the problem from the point of view of there being no need to see that ex, which is a rather intellectual approach.

Now, I would wonder why you fight over it. You don't strike me as an unreasonable guy, so is there something in your girlfriend's behaviour that bothers you? For example, does she seem to seek affirmation or validation from other men? Does she seem to flirt with them? Does her strong urge to meet with a guy feel somewhat irrational, out of place, as if she's being under his influence but not realising it? I'm just guessing here but these are the sorts of things I personally would think about. If so, it might be a good idea to talk about it with her, although it might be too much for her, especially at this point.

One more thing, is she meeting that guy because he's a friend or because he's an ex? Or, in different words, is she staying in touch with a friend (who happens also to be an ex) or is she staying in touch with an ex? If the latter, does she have a habit of staying in touch with exes (in their role as exes, not in their roles as friends if they happen to be friends also)?

Regardless, I would allow her to go. As boyfriends, we don't have the right to forbid our girlfriends anything and we don't have a claim (other than to honesty). Besides, by not letting her go, you won't eliminate her need to do so. And, if she really needed some other guy than you or otherwise felt restless in your relationship, it would be better to let her go. If she loved you, she would then come back. If not, well. At least you'd be spared an unhappy marriage.


#6

Has she given you cause to feel weird about it? It’s not uncommon for people to have completely platonic friendships with past boyfriends/girlfriends.

In my opinion you attempting to control her will do more damage to your relationship than lunches with every boyfriend she’s ever had.

The last part suggests that you argue with her about being friends with guys generally, not just ex boyfriends. I think you’re in dangerous territory. It is very easy for a woman to get fed up with this kind of controlling behavior, and every woman has her limit.

I think you need to look inside yourself and find out what you are so afraid of. You have to be at peace with the possibility that your girlfriend may one day leave you for another man. Maybe then you will not be so afraid of her having lunches with male friends.

It would also help to realize that trying to control a person will only increase their chance of leaving you for another man. This is not Afghanistan and you can’t prevent her from interacting with men altogether, and the more grief you give her the more appealing those other men will seem.


#7

Please don't think I'm trying to hijack or something...

[quote="flyingfish, post:6, topic:177294"]
Has she given you cause to feel weird about it? It's not uncommon for people to have completely platonic friendships with past boyfriends/girlfriends.

[/quote]

Yes, that's true. However, it's also a modern notion, coming straight from sitcoms, that exes have to stay in our lives. This is why I would spend some time thinking whether she kept in touch with exes because they are friends or because they are exes. If the latter, I wouldn't be very happy about it to say the least.

I agree with what you say later, too, but here comes something I was going to stress but that German gentleman that steals my glasses got the better of me: while you can't control another person and it's the other person's right to decide about his friends, spending his time and so on, it's always your right to decide whether you want to be in that relationship. You don't have to take everything from a person you aren't married to. Sometimes it's not a real offence per se, sometimes you just can't live with something. If it's unbearable to you, you have the right to quit. I'm not advocating this solution in this case, but it exists as a possibility. There are worse things than not having a girlfriend or even not having a wife. One of them is having a wife you can't agree with on how much time together you need, how much attention, and on other guys. Regardless of whether or which of you is right on the issue.


#8

I don’t know to what extent it’s a modern notion, it just happens that you can be with someone and discover that a marriage will never work but the person comes to be a great friend and remains so when the relationship is over.

I agree with you. I think it would be very hard though to find a woman who will agree not to have male friends, or who will agree to cut ties with ex boyfriends who ended up being close but completely platonic friends.

This goes both ways. It’s better to learn to be secure enough in yourself so that you’re at the stage where you are not afraid of your partner leaving you for someone else.


#9

It’s not a modern notion to remain friends if things don’t work out romantically, but the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing along with plentiful “exes” is a modern notion indeed. As I’ve been saying, I’m stressing the difference between the “capacity” as exes (a minor version of a “first wife” or "first husband) and the “capacity” as friends - the motivation is important here. If exes remain friends, that’s rather normal. But when exes form a special group (they aren’t friends, they are exes) - and they are kept around by virtue of a past romantic relationship, not by virtue of a still current friendship - then things have gone the wrong way. Consequently, to meet a friend who happens to be a former romantic interest is not a problem. But to meet a former romantic interest in order to stay in touch (for what reason?) and to reminisce on that past relationship is a problem. It means that past relationship is not really past. And that is an objective problem.


#10

[quote="chevalier, post:9, topic:177294"]
Consequently, to meet a friend who happens to be a former romantic interest is not a problem. But to meet a former romantic interest in order to stay in touch (for what reason?) and to reminisce on that past relationship is a problem. It means that past relationship is not really past. And that is an objective problem.

[/quote]

If she goes out for lunch with her ex and talks about their past relationship in a non-casual way, that is definitely a problem, and might be a sign that she is not over him.

But part of being friends is making an effort to stay in touch. Some people are just more social than others. Personally I don't need frequent contact with my friends, but there are people who need to socialize frequently to maintain their friendships.

I don't know, it would seem that men are more likely to have the attitude that their woman should not hang out with other men. Do you agree with this? Maybe the reason is biological, because men have no way of determining the paternity of their wives' children aside from keeping other men away.


#11

To be honest, I’m not sure I agree that men have that attitude more than women do. As far as I know, it’s rather unisex, and women too would actually have a biological reason to compete as well (less protection/resource for them and the children if the man has other responsibilities of the same kind).

As far as “non-casual” goes, I don’t think there’s any specific reason to talk about it casually, either. Basically, it comes down to what’s the decisive status here: friend or ex. There’s a good reason to meet a former love interest in his capacity as a friend - when he still is one. There’s no reason ever to meet anyone in his capacity as a former love interest. Some people do stay in touch with exes on the basis of the latter’s capacity as former love interests (as opposed to as friends). Not saying this is the case here - I don’t know. I’m asking the OP if that’s what he’s fearing.


#12

I think it makes sense to voice your concerns to her, but ultimately it's her decision and, unless you have a specific concern about his or her intentions, it's probably not worth arguing over. But you might want to discuss it more - if she is used to having close friendships with men and occasionally visiting with ex-boyfriends now, she probably will expect to be able to continue these relationships after marriage (I'm assuming you are dating to discern marriage). I speak as a woman who does both of these things, and discussed it with DH while we were dating. It doesn't have to be a problem, but you should both understand each other's feelings on the matter so that you can each understand where the other is coming from.

Personally, I've always had lots of "guy friends" and frequently went on one-on-one outings with guys, or had long conversations with them. For me, a lot of the motivation for this is that most women didn't share my interests, but most men had at least one interest in common with me (video games, philosophy, computers, science, math, martial arts, hiking). Since those interests were a large part of what attracted DH to me, he could understand and appreciate how hard it was to find a girl who wanted to talk about that stuff :)


#13

To be honest I don’t know. A lot of this is guessing of course, and it’s easy to overlook something. We’d have to know the conditions under which human beings evolved, how the resources obtained by males were distributed among the group. (Wouldn’t matter for example if the resources were obtained by a cooperating group of men and divided among the tribe instead of a man getting resources to give to his women/children).

There’s definitely plenty of jealousy in both sexes, but it seems that more men than women go so far as to forbid contact with male friends. Muslim society is an example of this extreme.

As far as “non-casual” goes, I don’t think there’s any specific reason to talk about it casually, either. Basically, it comes down to what’s the decisive status here: friend or ex. There’s a good reason to meet a former love interest in his capacity as a friend - when he still is one. There’s no reason ever to meet anyone in his capacity as a former love interest. Some people do stay in touch with exes on the basis of the latter’s capacity as former love interests (as opposed to as friends). Not saying this is the case here - I don’t know. I’m asking the OP if that’s what he’s fearing.

Well you might talk about it casually as in “remember that person we knew when we dated”, it’s inevitable that things that happened during the relationship would come up because it’s a part of their history.

Obviously if they start talking about how they were kissing or some other romantic outing it becomes a problem.

But I agree with you, some people keep ex’s around for romantic reasons. If the OP has reason to believe that is what his girlfriend is doing, there is definitely cause to be upset. But even then, in such a case the best solution is to ask her about it once and if she doesn’t change to move on. You can’t really argue someone out of wanting to have some kind of a romantic connection with a former boyfriend. If you’re not okay with that and want an exclusive dating relationship, you’re best with seeking another partner.


#14

[quote="flyingfish, post:13, topic:177294"]
To be honest I don't know. A lot of this is guessing of course, and it's easy to overlook something. We'd have to know the conditions under which human beings evolved, how the resources obtained by males were distributed among the group. (Wouldn't matter for example if the resources were obtained by a cooperating group of men and divided among the tribe instead of a man getting resources to give to his women/children).

[/quote]

So far, I've seen the "ex thing" more evidently in women than in men, but in men also and I'm naturally rather disinclined from man-watching, which may well make up for the difference. This is why I suspect it's rather unisex. (A lot of things wouldn't matter then and possibly most of the man's individual qualities... or even marriage or monogamy could possibly make less sense for those tribes.)

There's definitely plenty of jealousy in both sexes, but it seems that more men than women go so far as to forbid contact with male friends. Muslim society is an example of this extreme.

We would have to find some settings where women generally forbid their men from something. The Muslim society is polygamous, which changes things (the man being able to contract multiple marriages concurrently anyway, so what does it matter if it's a second or third wife or just going there?), and there would be a huge problem with enforcement.

Well you might talk about it casually as in "remember that person we knew when we dated", it's inevitable that things that happened during the relationship would come up because it's a part of their history.

Yes, of course, that's a casual mention, sure. But people don't set up a meeting because of planning a trivial conversation. ;)

But I agree with you, some people keep ex's around for romantic reasons. If the OP has reason to believe that is what his girlfriend is doing, there is definitely cause to be upset. But even then, in such a case the best solution is to ask her about it once and if she doesn't change to move on. You can't really argue someone out of wanting to have some kind of a romantic connection with a former boyfriend. If you're not okay with that and want an exclusive dating relationship, you're best with seeking another partner.

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. I would be slow, however, to conclude that this is taking place. It's easy to go too far in such conclusions and make one stupid decision that has results lasting a lifetime. I would just ask her.


#15

Most people meet for entirely trivial reasons. Normal people don’t plan trivial conversations, but most people also meet their friends just to be in their presence, or to “hang out”.

Do you think she needs some kind of “real” reason to have lunch with her ex? Many people just have a need to meet with their friends at least once a week to maintain the friendship.

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I would be slow, however, to conclude that this is taking place. It’s easy to go too far in such conclusions and make one stupid decision that has results lasting a lifetime. I would just ask her.

Oh right, it’s unlikely that this is taking place. If it were, she probably wouldn’t be telling him she is having lunch with her ex, and wouldn’t argue with him about whether she should. She’d just do it.

I think the far bigger issue here is that it bothers the OP so much, and that the fact that it bothers him suggests that he is too attached to her, too dependent on her that the idea of her leaving him scares him. That is something that he should work on for his own benefit, because in real life people love you one day and aren’t interested the next. Relationships end all the time, for that matter plenty of marriages do as well. He needs to find a way to be at peace with this possibility for his own benefit, since chances are it will happen to him and more than once.


#16

[quote="flyingfish, post:15, topic:177294"]
Most people meet for entirely trivial reasons. Normal people don't plan trivial conversations, but most people also meet their friends just to be in their presence, or to "hang out".

[/quote]

And planning a trivial conversation would be exactly it - after all, we're talking about a scheduled event. ;)

Do you think she needs some kind of "real" reason to have lunch with her ex?

If the ex is not otherwise a friend, yes. If the ex is at the same time a friend, no, not at all.

Many people just have a need to meet with their friends at least once a week to maintain the friendship.

Depends. I suppose most people have a dozen or so good friends and another dozen or so (being arbitrary here) that are "above" acquaintance (bigger figures for college students). Even if everyone lived in the same town, which most often is not the case, giving each of them an hour a week in addition to work and/or study would result in a very serious position in the week plan. Let's say a weekday is 8 hours work or study, 2 hours commute and/or similar, 7-8 hours sleep, 1 hour total meals etc. That's five hours remaining. Some people have slightly more, some have less or much less. An hour per week per friend is not very realistic here. Anyway, this isn't part of the core subject here.

Oh right, it's unlikely that this is taking place. If it were, she probably wouldn't be telling him she is having lunch with her ex, and wouldn't argue with him about whether she should. She'd just do it.

Depends on the personality. Most people have some need for openness and affirmation. Others thing they should be allowed "something", or "something" is not a problem and shouldn't be etc.

I think the far bigger issue here is that it bothers the OP so much, and that the fact that it bothers him suggests that he is too attached to her, too dependent on her that the idea of her leaving him scares him.

True, and it reminds me of myself some 4 years ago. On the other hand, you can't have a healthy relationship without attachment or without depending on each other, let alone without caring if the other person leaves us.

That is something that he should work on for his own benefit, because in real life people love you one day and aren't interested the next.

You need to take that into account and you need to learn to deal with it, but you need to pick people who won't. Especially for more than friends.

Relationships end all the time, for that matter plenty of marriages do as well. He needs to find a way to be at peace with this possibility for his own benefit, since chances are it will happen to him and more than once.

To an extent yes, but I totally do not believe in psychological preparation for possible divorce and that's totally not the way to look at a spouse or future spouse. Incidentally, as this is again rather far from the original topic, one needs to find someone who does believe in marriage for life, without divorce, till death do us part (someone who expressly reserves for himself the right to divorce is incapable of contracting a valid marriage at all and authorities responsible for celebration are obliged not to proceed if this might be the case).


#17

I don’t know, maybe I am a negative person, but I don’t believe in people’s intentions and promises.

Someone might one day believe that marriage is for life, and the next day they might change their mind. That doesn’t even require them to stop being Catholic. That person might come to believe that there was no valid marriage to begin with, and plenty of annulments are granted.

Personally, if I ever do get married, I am not going to take my husband’s vows as everlasting truth. I will assume that he is telling me how he is feeling at the time, and that at any moment his beliefs, feelings, and commitments might take a drastic turn. I don’t think it’s so much me preparing for divorce, but more of a recognition of human nature.

It doesn’t mean I’m going to hold back and love him less, but it’s more of an outlook that I have toward life. The constants in life in my opinion will never romantic partners. Parents, children, siblings, even friends are more constant.

I also think it’s easier to love and enjoy a person when you don’t place unrealistic expectations of everlasting constancy on them, and when you don’t depend on them or need them.


#18

Actually, believing that marriage is not for life and that one can walk out does in a sense make a person less Catholic, similar to politicians who vote against the Church’s teaching. What’s more, a person wanting to be Catholic can’t just take his abandonment of a spouse as a one-time thing, the way it works with Orthodox or some Protestant second and subsequent marriages. As long as the marriage lasts, which is until death of one party, all the obligations persist - without a valid cause for separation, a Catholic can’t just decide it’s over, now he or she is going to be single but unable to marry.

I understand that you’re in much pain with regard to loss. Sometimes people walk out on us and sometimes circumstances of life (our own sins notwithstanding) part people’s ways and there is no longer a good contact, or any, between family members, friends, lovers (in a clean sense). And sometimes people just, “turn to the dark side.” This doesn’t mean we should spend a lot of our time and invest our emotions and brains in preparing for another person to go away any time. That would take away the joy, as well as put up barriers preventing unity in marriage. It could lead to trust issues or monsters from the past getting hold of a relationship. We don’t want that to happen.

Things are “easier” in a sense without depending or needing someone, but not really. Even and especially in the army - and again, even and especially in those elite units in which a single soldier is supposed to be able to survive half a year in the jungle or something like that - there the lives of the whole platoon or squad may depend on a single recruit with shaking hands. Trying not to depend on other soldiers could be disastrous - one can do a lot on his own, but not all things can be done alone. Imagine every soldier relying on himself alone… That’s the way it rolls. Of course, dependence and neediness are a different cup of tea!

And the expectations aren’t unrealistic. That’s the way God ordered the world and it’s not even an unreachable ideal like with the law of growth, but it’s a basic obligation - one doesn’t cheat, one doesn’t walk away (not talking about legitimate reasons for separation), same like one doesn’t steal or kill.


#19

[quote="chevalier, post:18, topic:177294"]
Actually, believing that marriage is not for life and that one can walk out does in a sense make a person less Catholic, similar to politicians who vote against the Church's teaching. What's more, a person wanting to be Catholic can't just take his abandonment of a spouse as a one-time thing, the way it works with Orthodox or some Protestant second and subsequent marriages. As long as the marriage lasts, which is until death of one party, all the obligations persist - without a valid cause for separation, a Catholic can't just decide it's over, now he or she is going to be single but unable to marry.

[/quote]

That's true, but many good Catholics can sincerely come to believe that there is no valid marriage and obtain an annulment. I don't know to be honest how easy or difficult it is to get one, but there are certainly plenty of people who do this without going against their religion.

I am skeptical that just because someone is a faithful Catholic it means they are unlikely to leave you. It would be interesting to see statistics on this. The statistics that I've seen show Catholics not being any less likely to divorce, but that of course includes cafeteria Catholics who are the majority.

That would take away the joy, as well as put up barriers preventing unity in marriage. It could lead to trust issues or monsters from the past getting hold of a relationship. We don't want that to happen.

I wonder about this, I guess I'll have to see how my relationships are affected in the long term. I have had several "crushes" and casual relationships lately, but none where I was "in love". Maybe I'm just fooling myself and it's impossible to be in love and not dependent to some degree.


#20

There is absolutely nothing wrong declaring a marriage null when it’s null. In fact, sometimes letting it rest would be no solution because convalidation would be required. It’s true that there are some stats showing that around 90% of American nullity decrees are reversed by Rome on appeal (this doesn’t mean 90% of nullity decrees granted, it means 90% of the appealed ones), in which case your skepticism is understandable. However, the sacrament of marriage is a consensual “affair”. You can’t effect it by words alone. There’s no valid marriage under force or by fraud. Same way, if someone is in a severe mentally debilitating condition, that’s no marriage because the person just can’t make the promise he’s trying to make. There’s nothing wrong in not insisting that those people do live together or stay unmarried in the practical sense or something like that.

I am skeptical that just because someone is a faithful Catholic it means they are unlikely to leave you. It would be interesting to see statistics on this. The statistics that I’ve seen show Catholics not being any less likely to divorce, but that of course includes cafeteria Catholics who are the majority.

Yes, I dislike that fact. I also dislike nullity decrees given for light reasons (in which case, if the tribunal is wrong, the result is material divorce with material bigamy and material fornication following). But in the cases where it’s obvious or proven that at least one of the persons attempting to marry did not have the capacity to marry at the point of exchanging vows and there was no convalidation later on (just because someone excluded children at the time of wedding but changed mind later on doesn’t mean the marriage is invalid right now), then I believe it would be wrong to force or expect people to stay together. Convalidating such a marriage if possible might be morally superior to splitting up in some cases (and morally safer, perhaps), but it’s the parties’ right to split up if they have no valid marriage.

I wonder about this, I guess I’ll have to see how my relationships are affected in the long term. I have had several “crushes” and casual relationships lately, but none where I was “in love”. Maybe I’m just fooling myself and it’s impossible to be in love and not dependent to some degree.

If you really insisted on using medical terminology without any respite, I suppose you’d have to say that being a love is technically a psychosis. Anyway, it’s possible to have a normal, healthy, loving marriage and family without being dependent in a medical sense. But there’s nothing wrong in depending on each other or needing each other in a normal human sense. A similar, although closer, sense to the one in which you need the cops, the hair-dresser, the plumber, the attorney (well, let’s hope you don’t need that one), the doctor (again), the teacher… Even if you pay them, you still need them and they need you because they couldn’t feed their families without working for you for money. You can live without them, but it would be all the harder. Same with a husband or wife. You won’t die when he or she is no more with you, and, “I couldn’t live without him/her,” is a metaphore only, but on some occasions you may and probably will depend on him/her for a living or for life itself. You may have to trust that person with it. If I couldn’t give a woman a blank cheque or my only credit card with a code, I wouldn’t marry her. :slight_smile: If you can’t leave a guy alone with your friend… same thing. Now, if a lawful wife actually asked me to give her a blank cheque up to the whole sum in my account, I would surely ask what it were for and she would have to do a lot of talking before she got it. We’re not expected to be naive.


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