Whenever a single person, or someone who is about to start dating, comes here, they are really anxious and want other people to answer all their questions. Should I ask her? Should I ask her father's permission first? What if he says no, should I still ask her? How long does it take before it's reasonable to propose? Should I be worried that we don't go to the same parish? Should I be worried that all my friends are getting married and I'm still single? Should we kiss before we're engaged? Should I buy her gifts, or is it too soon? Am I too young to be dating? Am I ready for marriage and parenthood? Am I wrong not to be too marriage-minded about dating? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! I'm really stressed about dating!!!!
Then all the people who are married or in relationships post to say 'relax', 'stop worrying', 'stop over-intellectualising', 'being desperate is a big turn off to the opposite sex', 'pray, it will happen in God's time', 'pray, but also listen to your heart', 'you sound really down, that's a big turn off to the opposite sex', 'one step at a time', 'hey, this dating thing shouldn't be so scary!'
I notice myself doing it. When I was single, my posts looked a lot like the first paragraph here. Now that I'm in a loving relationship, they look a lot like the second.
I think there's a secret to let single folks in on here - chaste dating isn't really that hard. I mean, it's difficult sometimes when you want things to go further, but as long as you are both committed to wanting the best for eachother, it's not that hard. If you both care about eachother, and are on the same level, i.e. you're not chasing someone who's not interested, but have similar life goals, it will just work itself out. Yeah, hard stuff might get in your way (like being in a long-distance relationship on two different continents and suddenly needing to find out a lot about immigration law!) but generally, if you are in love and know where you're going, it will work itself out. Your relationship won't be exactly like one you read in a book on Catholic marriage, and it won't be exactly like that family at your parish who you look up to, but it shouldn't be, because you're both unique human beings.
Sometimes I wonder if we make marriage too complicated in Catholic circles these days. By placing it on such a pedestal, we make it all about us and not about the grace that the Holy Spirit gives in the sacrament. Imagine trying to make a confession that was all about being sure that you were the one who had made perfect amends for all your sins, you'd never make it. Instead, we go to the sacrament of reconciliation focussing on the forgiveness we've already received through Christ, and it just works. Think of all those couples of your grandad's generation who married at 18 and were perfectly happy all their lives together - they didn't have a whole bookshelf full of the Theology of the Body, was their marriage any less grace-filled and sacramental? (I'm not disrespecting the theology of the body, it's fantastic stuff, but the heart of marriage is not how much of it we know, but how much we love eachother in the Lord.)
So, basically, my post ends in the way all the smug people in relationships on this board end, by saying 'chill' to all the worried singles.