Unrealistic spiritual expectations in relationship?/Experiencing God differently?


#1

Let me preface this by saying that this is my first post so I apologize if I’m not posting in the correct forum.

Let me begin by saying that I am, by nature, an over analyzer and worrywart :p. To give you a bit of background about myself, I was born and raised Catholic, but fully didn’t understand the beauty of the Catholicism until I attended a Catholic college. There, I had a very eye-opening experience of God’s love for us that completely re-defined how I viewed my own life and life in general. With that being said, ever since I came into my faith more fully 6 years ago I’ve been praying for my future spouse, as I do feel called to marriage. I did my best during my time of being single to grow in my relationship with God and become the woman God has called me to be. This hasn’t however been without struggle, as I’ve watched my close Catholic friends find wonderful spouses and kept wondering why God would put this desire in my heart for a Catholic man for nothing.

I had been deeply upset about my current state of being single, but realized that for it was still my time to be single and decided I needed to stop being bitter and openly accept that. During this time, I had reluctantly joined a secular dating site (after many tries on Catholic dating sites) at the encouragement of a friend. I was doubtful that I would find a truly Catholic guy on such a site but low and behold I started to talking to a Catholic guy who, in his first message, told me how nice it was to find someone else who was religious on the site. I was VERY hesitant about beginning in a relationship with him and he waited for a solid month and a half while i made sure I felt God was calling me to this. During this time he made it very clear that he I was worth waiting for, regardless of whether or not I chose to date him. I felt God tugging on my heart, telling me to just trust him and so I did.

We hit it off basically instantly. I’ve never been too comfortable relating to guys but things with my boyfriend are just easy. He is so much fun to be around, makes me laugh, he is so respectful of me and chivalrous (opens doors, helps me with my coat ect) and values my purity and wants to be chaste until marriage. He’s confided in me about his parents nasty divorce and explained to me how overcoming the anger from that taught him what marriage is supposed to look like. He too came more into the faith in college- made his confirmation in his sophomore year. Within our first week of dating we were talking about how much we love being Catholic, how amazing the mystery of the Eucharist is. I really can see a deep love in him for the Church-he altar serves regularly, is a member of the Knights of Columbus and attends retreats.

So we’ve been seeing each other for about 5 months…hes 27 and I’m 25 and we agreed straight away that dating for the sake of dating is silly and that we hope that we are called to be married (although neither of us are in any rush). I’ve been realizing that our faiths are very different-which instinctively I know- I know that everyone is on their own faith journey and experiences God differently. When I say that our faith lives are “different” I mean that I’m more “emotional” about my relationship with God-I’ll never hesitate to tell a friend how much God loves them. My boyfriend describes himself as being more “intellectually Catholic”-where the “emotional” side of things don’t resonate with him as much. I think he tends to relate more to the things that touch the senses-ie incense during Mass, visiting ornate cathedrals, a little bit of Latin thrown in during Mass :stuck_out_tongue: those sorts of things.

I’ve been struggling lately because I worry that the spiritual side of our relationship is lacking. I have sort of these preconceived notions of what Catholic relationships are supposed to look like ie: the guy leading prayer, going to Mass together every week, going to adoration together, praying the rosary together. A lot of these views come from my friends relationships and me thinking that that’s what is supposed to happen. I worry that I’ve sort of idealized what a relationship is supposed to look like and that I have totally unreasonable expectations. We’ve gone to Mass together once earlier this month, after I explained that I was upset that we hadn’t gone yet and I felt like he didn’t want to go with me. He assured me that that’s not the case but that he has gotten so used to going by himself and that he didn’t realize it was upsetting me so much.

I’ve also been trying to encourage us to pray together more. When I brought up prayer together initially, he seemed nervous at the idea, and told me that he never prayed with his roommates in college, while I did quite a bit, so praying with another person doesn’t phase me at all. I initiated and led a brief prayer together this past weekend. I asked him multiple times beforehand if he was sure he was okay with it (because I don’t want to force him into doing something he really isn’t comfortable with) and he said he was. We’ve had REALLY open communication basically from day 1 so I think he would tell me if he really was uncomfortable with it. I told him that I’m not trying to push the prayer thing but only trying to get us more comfortable with it so that we have a good foundation if we are to discern marriage later on.
I’ve been really anxious that because our prayer preferences differ so much that it is a sign that God wants me to break up with him because he isn’t “holy” enough. This thought that deeply saddens me as I feel I can be myself around him, see so many fruits of the Spirit in him and feel inspired to love more authentically, more like Christ. I wonder if I am undergoing a spiritual attack because I feel like God wouldn’t judge someone for being “not holy enough” because God knows we are not perfect.

I apologize that this is so long winded. Could anyone shed any light at all on this? Thank you

Danielle


#2

That’s not long-winded at all. Everything you say is absolutely necessary to understand your situation. I hope that when you bring this to your parish priest, you are as thorough in your description of the problem.

You need to ask yourself a big question here: are you looking for another Danie1113 as a husband? or are you looking for someone whose personality, tastes, and giftings compliments Danie1113? It’s no real secret that men and women are different. But it’s also no secret that they are complimentary.

You say: “When I say that our faith lives are “different” I mean that I’m more “emotional” about my relationship with God-I’ll never hesitate to tell a friend how much God loves them. My boyfriend describes himself as being more “intellectually Catholic”-where the “emotional” side of things don’t resonate with him as much.” I think you’ve keyed into the biggest psychological difference between men and women here. You might lack his formal, intellectual side, while he might lack your spontaneous, emotional side. But you shouldn’t think that you don’t need the other, nor should he. If you can’t quite think of that applying to yourself yet, then consider this: you shouldn’t think that your potential children should lack one side or the other, neither yours nor his, if they are to grow to become healthy and rational adult Catholics, a boon to their Church and to their society in general.

Consider these things very carefully in your private prayers and meditations. God bless you.


#3

Everything you said was great, but I didn’t really understand this bit. If he is going to be chaste before marriage, he goes on retreats, he’s growing in the faith, he’s willing (though a little hesitant) to pray with you, etc. - well, I think your situation is the envy of many a Catholic woman. Seriously.

I would also advise against going by “signs” like these. What do you know for sure about the will of God? You know for sure that he wants you to be holy, and if you marry, to marry a holy spouse. The way it sounds, you’re doing just fine.

He also sounds a little like me. Maybe he needs more time to be teased out of his shell. Maybe he can help tease you out of your shell! :smiley:

As Padre Pio says," pray, hope, and don’t worry." May God richly bless you!


#4

If my wife knew all about me before I married I don’t think she would have married me. I brought my baggage with me, and she brought hers". Also I might have balked too. When we entered marriage I accepted it as the vocation God wanted for me. I think I can safely say that my wife felt the same way. We entered our marriage as two adults, knowing that it could only work right if God was with us, and we were with Him. We were mature enough to know that marriage was a real commitment, and had its’ trials. We had our trials as expected. Some of them were really rough, but Christ brought us through and forged our love even deeper, I think they call it “conjugal love” not romantic love, although there was plenty of that too. WE always pray, and go to Mass daily, and will until we can’t go anymore. Conjugal love is a love for each other that comes with loving, and suffering life’s trials together, crying together, and laughing together, a spiritual bond that can only come from God. We both had our faults, and maybe even sins, but that’s what marriage is all about designed by God, to bring about our salvation by the grace given to us in marriage, thats’ why it is called a "Vocation and a Sacrament instituted by Christ. It is a first rate vocation that sanctifies and leads to Heaven.


#5

My husband and I are poles apart spiritually. It has been a huge blessing to both of us.

I’m sure that this isn’t the only way you differ.

Learn from each other. God uses many avenues to enrich our knowledge of Him.


#6

Hello everyone,

I just realized that I never responded to any of your thoughtful comments-how rude of me. Thank you all so much for your responses. Thank you Bardegaulois especially for your insight-I really had never thought about things in terms of “complementing one another” like that and the “carbon copy” concept. I’m pleased to say that I think things are very slowly, going in a stronger direction. While I still don’t think we’re going to Mass together as often as we should (although I keep reminding myself that we’re dating-not married, so going to Mass together every Sunday isn’t a requirement and it’s still okay to go separately), we have been going more frequently. This past Sunday he even suggested we go (admittedly with a little nudge from me:p) And we stopped by a church in the North End of Boston to pray together for a few minutes while we were there having lunch.

If you could continue to keep us in your prayers, as I’ve come to realize that we both struggle with a particular vice, that worries me but I know we are both trying our best to work through with God’s help. Thank you!


#7

One way to find out of either of you are really converted is to see whether both have really establish a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We do many religious things like go to Mass, even receive Communion and other Sacraments. We know about our faith, but do we have a relationship, a real personal love for Christ, have we encountered Him? If we sin, are we remorseful for hurting Him? If we still are having trouble with a vice do we love Him enough to break that vice. Even if we do , do we return to Him in the state of grace. Is He really the center of our lives? This relationship is the most precious gift of our entire lives nothing else can compare. If we have Jesus, we have everything else that is important in our lives. Many have been brought up in the Faith and they are good, but never had this relationship. Have either of you been Evangelized? If you want a guarantee of a good, happy and holy marriage Jesus must be the center of your family. In our marriage, He is.

We promised each other never go to sleep being angry with each other, and the longest I stayed awake was five days :smiley: God love and bless you and lead you to this encounter.


#8

Well like I mentioned in my original post…while he hasn’t denied that there is definitely a relational/emotional aspect to his faith he is more “intellectual” in how he thinks about God (he’s a political analyst for a living so he’s just analytical by nature). I definitely had a significant “conversion” experience so to speak but I don’t think he ever had that notable AHA! Moment…I think it was more a gradual realization for him. But I do know for certain that he’s undeniably Catholic as am I and we are both working on breaking the vice (praying for one another, trying to frequent confession as often as we can).


#9

Some conversions are dramatic, others slower and all should be progressive if we are faithful
There are many stages of conversion. Some years ago they had a science fiction movie called “The encounter of the first kind” ( to the best of my memory) I think it was followed up by the Encounter of the second and third kind. Strange objects were occasionally spotted in the sky, this was the encounter of the first kind. Sometime later, these objects or space craft could be assigned times and places when they appeared, they were identified as alien space craft by how fast they traveled, and the strange maneuvers they made. This was the encounter of the second kind. Then one day one landed, and little green men appeared, the encounter of the third kind.
In the spiritual life of Faith, as we progress, God manifests His presence gradually, and if we co-operate with grace faithfully Jesus says that “He and the Father will manifest themselves to that person” This seems to be the most common way that people experience, a gradual growth in Faith So keep the faith, and God bless both of you.


#10

Even though the title of this thread seems to be asking, who’s to say when your expectations of (really, preferences for) a spouse are unrealistic or not? I will offer this general advice though: “A man who does not meet your expectations before marriage is unlikely to do so after.” Many a woman (and many a man too) regrets having learned this the hard way.


#11

To be honest, with regards praying, too much emotion is what tends to put off many men (and even young boys). If you ever find yourself at a particularly emotion-packed Mass, look around and see how engaged the men are. Usually not many, standing near the back with folded arms, totally disengaged.

It sounds as though you have nothing to fear. It’s our nature to have a tendency to be more logical, whereas it is also a tendency for women to have a higher focus on emotions. These things have to be in balance, of course. Emotions are simply feelings that arise in response to something. They might be pleasant, though not terribly important. Emotion has to be tempered. As Dr Peter Kreeft says, they are the sorts of things that if we focus on them they will disappear, but if we pay little attention to them, they will arrive when needed.

God has made us this way naturally, these two tendencies are fundamental with the raising of children. For instance, a child is very upset after ruining his bike by accident. The mother will naturally teach the child how to deal with his emotions, tempering them with reason and reassuring him. The boy learns from this - not how to be care free, but how to deal with being upset.

On the other hand the father will take a little bit less of a focus on this and will tend to the source of the problem, in this instance fixing the bike. Resulting from this, he is taught that being upset about something should encourage him to act in setting right what is wrong.

It is all natural. If I come across wrong in writing this I apologise, but is it possible that your style of prayer is a little more flamboyant than his? Since you mentioned latin and smells & bells, it could be that your boyfriend is simply at a very deep stage of prayer at present.

May God bless you both!


#12

I do realize this-thank you. I suppose I just don’t know if the expectations I have of him are particularly fair-I realize not all Catholic guys are like Bobby Angel.


#13

Thank you-yes I try to remember often that we are all on our own faith journeys and that for some things happen slower than for others.


#14

Thank you thank you for this wonderful response. Thankfully, I am 100% that my boyfriend would never be the kind of guy to stand in the back of Mass, disengaged. Even if going to Mass with him now, I can tell how seriously he takes Mass and participating in the Mass.

I do struggle with anxiety often (although admittedly its never been quite so bad as it has been lately). I think I might have mentioned in my OP that this is my first real relationship, with someone whose Catholic values align with my own. You definitely hit the nail on the head though-I do think I am more flamboyant about my faith (probably due to the fact that I had a more significant conversion experience).

I really appreciated your example about parenting. Since we both decided early on that we are dating intentionally with the hope of being called to marriage, I guess some of my anxiety is rooted in whether or not we would be fit to raise our children (God willing) adequately in the faith since he is quieter about his faith and I tend to be a little louder. However, this I think can go back to the earlier posting about two people’s faith lives being “complimentary” as opposed to carbon copies.

I guess what I’m struggling with ultimately is why I would have so much anxiety if this is God’s will? I thought that God’s will is supposed to bring us peace and not anxiety.


#15

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