Quitting the Dating Game (ABCs of Choosing a Good Wife by Stephen Wood)

I am reading The ABCs of Choosing a Good Wife by Stephen Wood, published by Family Life Center and sold here at Catholic Answers. The book has been a wake-up call for me in many ways, but specifically in terms of what it says about dating.

Basically, Mr. Wood writes off dating completely as a loser’s game, a constant “pattern of bonding and breaking up” (p. 32).

I am very much eager to quit the dating game. However, I am not sure how to apply his advice, which seems to be written for teenagers and college-age adults. I am a busy postgraduate professional, as are my relationship prospects.


“You and the woman you are courting should interact with your families at mealtimes and join in family activities, recreation, and outings as much as possible.”

This is a “cut to the chase” approach (reality speed dating). When you marry a woman you’re also marrying her family relationships.

Does this mean we should not meet for lunch unless it is at one or the other parents’ homes?

This book seems quite odd. I’m a 30 year old man, not at all tired of the dating scene. I am not going to, on a first date, ever be chaperoned. If the young lady said, “Can my mother and father come along to watch us?” I would say, “You are insane. Thanks anyway.”

At the age of 16 I wasn’t chaperoned either.

This whole “courting” thing-for grown ups? Freaky man. Really freaky. The whole subtext that “dating” is immoral really feeds into negative Catholic stereotypes.

I have to agree with Rascalking. Chaperoned dating may (or may not) be appropriate and feasible for teenagers and people still living with their parents, but when you become an adult, move out of the family home and possibly live in a different city from your parents, how on Earth would that work? If I live in City A and so does the person I’m dating but their parents live in City B and my parents live in City C then am I only supposed to go on dates when I can afford to fly to another city so we can spend time with eachothers families?

I see the point the author is trying to make and I agree that spending as much time as possible with your significant other’s family is a good idea, but only when its feasible. And as for the chaperone thing, the way I see it is that people act differently when they’re alone with you and when they’re with you and other people and if you plan on marrying them, you’ll be spending a lot of time alone together. You need to know what they’re like on their own. I’d almost go as far to say that never spending time alone together before you got married would be grounds for annulment based on incomplete or inaccurate knowledge of the person.

I disagree with the author. I would say that dating can be a losing game. If two people hop into a car, talk a bit while driving to the theatre, watch a movie together, then hop back into the car and go back to the home of the person who doesn’t have the car, while talking a little bit more, well, that is a complete waste of time IMHO (please stress the humble as I’m no expert and my marriage was a debacle).

My best dates have been those where we talk. It doesn’t matter where. I think that talking and really communicating is what is missing in many dates.

As for eating meals at the date’s house, personally I would be honored if my son or daughter and his/her date ate dinner (or lunch) at my house. But then I’m very informal. After two or three times, especially at the beginning of a possible relationship, I would think that someone is taking advantage of me. I would start to wonder if he/she really had a job. Why can’t he/she afford to take my daughter or son out to a restaurant?

It could also be intrusive. I think it depends on the family. My parents, like me, were very informal. When people were close to perhaps becoming part of the family (and I don’t mean engaged but involved in a serious relationship), my Mom would say “If you get hungry in this house, it’s your own fault. There’s the kitchen.”

I miss her. :frowning:

Ahem. Sorry. Anyway, it depends on the situation. Why would a professional postgraduate student be living at home? I know it’s expensive and I’m sure there are good reasons, but it would raise a red flag for me. And that is speaking as a mother, not as someone who is dating.

Picnics with the date’s family? Great! Anything that gets someone involved with their date’s family is wonderful, as long as the dater (this is hard so I’m going to call the male the dater and the female the datee) is really welcome (“Oh, is he coming over again? Doesn’t he have a job or some money of his own?”)

I think that when people get to the age that most postgraduate students are, dating like high school kids is boring. It also wastes time. The most important thing any two people who are not married can do is talk. Talk about life, love, children, families, RELIGION, school, philosophy, all that sort of thing.

Those are my (somewhat rambling) thoughts. Hope it helps. I think that book may have some great ideas but I also wonder if it’s meant for younger people.

As someone who read the ABCs of Choosing a Good Husband in my mid-twenties, I found that I had to take the wisdom and apply it to my situation.

There are a lot of good ideas in the book, but some that are simply not applicable and I had to disregard. For instance, the car thing you mentioned. And chaperones. I think the general idea of having someone else around to avoid being alone is well and good if you are a teenager and haven’t learned how to control yourself and avoid temptation, but as an adult the situation is different.

Which is not to say that avoiding temptation is easy, but really being alone with a significant other is unavoidable if you are an adult and living on your own. I don’t even have a roommate, so my boyfriend and I spend a lot of time alone at my apartment watching movies, etc. We’re both mature and very much in control of ourselves, so it’s really not much of a problem. However, when we were just “dating” (or courting, or whatever) and not in a relationship, we were never alone together- we always met each other and drove separately. Once we were a couple, we started spending time alone together.

I think that I probably read this book too late. I wish I had read it in high school, if it even was written then. So, I took what I could from it. It would be nice to see a book or some kind of guidance on “courting” as an adult.

I have never been on the dating game per say, but I think spending time with each other’s families is a good idea (if they are nearby). You want to see how he gets along not just with your family but with his as well and you also need to know how you would get along with his. Friends are also a good gauge where family is too far away. You have to be able to be together in differing situations not just on dates out alone but also with other people.

I think I need to take a look at the ABCs of Choosing a Good Husband.

No kiddin’. While the book might not be written for adults, there are couples in their 30, 40s and beyond who aren’t going to take advice given for kids seriously.

That’s true, but there are other ways to do that than on a first date saying, “those people in the restaurant glaring at us our my mother and father. Oh yeah, I’m 28 years old.”

Time to spread your wings and fly, little birdie. Leave the nest.

I like meeting families, and most of them usually like me back (how could you not? I’m a lovable guy :p) but on a the first few dates, let me get to know you-not your friends, family, dog, Facebook friends, etc.

Wow, I am surprised by all the negative comments! I must be out of it!
Our children all brought their “dates” home before they actually starting dating. I am not sure if it was for approval or what, but we met their prospective boy/girlfriends before any dating even happened.
In fact, when I met our second son’s girlfriend, I hugged her - and my son told me later that he was jealous because he had never even held hands with her!
As my children were in courtship, our entire family was present a lot of the time, because we all spend a lot of time together. The boy/girlfriends were invited along. There, we got to know them and I think the interaction helped our children know if these people were right for them.
As they all got married, we were part of the process. We had gotten to know their families. We knew their beliefs and goals and dreams. There were times when a boy/girlfriend did not fit in and it was pretty obvious. That happened maybe twice.
I am proud of the choices in spouses my children made. They were very careful in their courtships. They all have amazing spouses whom we love dearly.

How old were your kids when they did that? Did they live close to you? What did their dates have to say about it? Did they think it was odd? Did they come from a very religious background? Did they have jobs, friends, and a life outside from dating? Did they meet beforehand?

My father works full time,and even though he loves me dearly, he doesn’t have the time to “approve” of every woman I meet. My mother is retired, and even though she has the time to “approve” of the every woman I meet, she has better things to do.

Look, nothing against the way your kids did things. Do whatever you want, it’s a free country. However, the overwhelming majority of the dating world (yes, dating can be moral as well, it doesn’t have to be “courting”) would be a bit freaked out by some of the things the book suggests.

My children were all pretty young when they married. That might have had something to do with it. I’m not sure. All but one son lives in our area.
The dates never said anything, and have ended up being very close and involved in our family. I don’t know if they thought it was odd or not. One son’s wife was raised quite secularly outside of church.
Yes, they all had jobs, educations, etc.
I am not sure if our children were seeking our approval or not. I guess they were, but we were very open and generous and loving to their boy/girlfriends. Our children, even now as they are grown, usually come to visit us and their grandparents about once weekly, at least.
I have spent much of my life out of the US, so I was raised basically with a European mindset of “the family is all”. My European friends seem happy to live with their parents and grandparents and children and grandchildren in a very involved, intertwined way; most often living in the same house. We have lived essentially the same way. Not very independent and American, I know, but it feels right.
One thing is that we did raise our children in the belief that a marriage is forever, be very careful of your choice of spouse. There is no question of divorce.
Dating seems superficial to me. Courtship, to use an old-fashioned word, is the process of finding one’s life companion and building a family.

So let’s say they actually divorce. Or the spouse dies. Will the same dating instructions apply?

We never gave them “instructions” to present their friends for an inspection…they just did it. :rolleyes: In our community, it is just the thing to do.
Divorce? Death? Who knows what will happen? We have prayed and prepared as their parents to assist them in their lives, in whatever capacity is appropriate.

I think that you should find a chaperon with a thick Irish brogue to drive you around on your dates and remind you, “No patty-fingers, if you please.” and “The proprieties at all times.”


Just have one of them ride shotgun.

Okay, let’s get some things straight on the point of bias before we venture into my opinion:

  1. There’s a cultural difference. There’s a cultural difference between yours truly and anybody, for that matter, but let’s not go there.
  2. I hate dating too. The concept is broken. Many of you have likely heard me rant on this. I don’t support dating.
  3. Hereby do I roll my eyes at 1890-ies revival.
  4. Premarital sex is dead wrong, just in case somebody doesn’t know my opinion and would like to comment on that angle.


  1. Just because something is old or comes worded the way our grandparents would talk doesn’t make it better.
  2. Chaperoned dates for adults, what the? This is understandable and prudent if there’s danger of the couple actually doing something off limits if they aren’t supervised. Otherwise, eh… Do I really have to comment?
  3. Shotgun exhibitions. If I ever happened upon the receiving end of those, I’d probably look that father in the eye point blank and say, “Fire it now or lay it off forever.” If I were having a good day. On a bad day I might ask, “you’d seriously want your daughter to have a husband who’d cow to that?”
  4. Different rules for children, male strangers, cases where slips have already happened.

Chaperoned dates for adults (presumably we’re not talking about young adults – but even 25 year olds should be rolling their eyes) is not going to work, regardless of what is or isn’t prudent. The immaturity level of a pair of 40 year olds who believe they need a chaperon is sufficient to preclude anything from actually happening.

(Nice comment about the shotgun.)

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