Country music fans will recognize the title of my article as the name of a chart-topping Sugarland song. For the one or two of you readers who aren’t country music fans, the chorus goes like this:
I've had enough so so for the rest of my life
Tired of shooting too low, so raise the bar high
Just enough ain't enough this time
I ain't settling for anything less than everything”
Whether Sugarland is currently playing on your iPod or you’ve never heard of the band, the words of their “Settling” song are a perfect introduction to my topic this month. When it comes to dating, I’ve found that most (certainly not all, but most) Catholic singles fall into one of three categories on the “pickiness meter” of what they are looking for in a spouse. These three groups of people are:
Definition: You have carefully thought through your standards and requirements for what you are looking for in a spouse. You know yourself well, and take into account a person’s temperament, personality, characteristics, interests, faith, and worldview, before beginning a serious relationship or deciding to marry that person.
You look for someone who shares a similar desire for marriage and family life – someone who will be your best friend and your partner on the journey to Heaven. You decline the attentions of those whom you are sure would not make a suitable or compatible marriage partner.
Occasionally, friends or family members tease you about being “too picky” when it comes to dating, but you know deep down inside that even though it’s difficult to be patient and wait for the right person, in the long run you are being wise in your relationship decisions and will one day be rewarded with a successful and happy marriage.
2. “Too Picky”
Definition: You keep a long and detailed list of exactly what you want in a mate, down to the age, weight, eye color, and favorite sports team. Your friends and relatives frequently warn you that you’ll never get married because your standards are so unrealistically high. They tell you that John the Baptist or the Blessed Virgin Mary would not pass your checklist of requirements in a spouse. You find nearly every new person you meet “not good enough” to date. Whether you realize it or not, you are looking for a “perfect” spouse, not just “perfect for you.”
3. “Not Picky Enough”
Definition: This category can be summed up in one word: settling.
While you know yourself well and know what your “ideal” is in a spouse, you have such a hard time finding single people who meet your standards, even on important matters such as a shared faith, ideas about family life, and common interests. But you don’t want to remain single for the rest of your life, so you decide to settle for less than what you had always thought was good enough for you.
Many of you who would admit to “settling” in your relationships may even be disappointed in yourself for lowering your standards, but you don’t know what else to do.
It is this third category – “Not Picky Enough” – that I’d like to focus on this month. The motivation to write about “settling” in a relationship came as a result of several unsettling conversations I’ve recently had with single Catholics.
Should We Compromise on the Important Stuff?
A couple weeks ago I was listening to a radio talk show that was discussing dating and relationship topics. A young woman called in during the show and said she had been receiving a lot of advice from her friends to “expand her horizons” and start dating men who did not share her Catholic faith. With confusion and a touch of desperation in her voice, she asked the show’s guest expert, “The Catholic faith is really important to me, and I’ve always wanted to find a guy who shared my Faith. Am I being too picky if I have a personal rule that I’ll only date Catholic guys?”
The show’s “relationships expert” responded by telling the woman that perhaps she was too picky, and maybe she should start widening and deepening the pool she was fishing in for a spouse. “Otherwise, you might end up single for the rest of your life, and it sounds like you really don’t want that to happen,” he concluded.
I was horrified. I sat there wishing I had the woman’s phone number so I could call her up and encourage her that it’s okay to be picky on the stuff that really matters to her. I couldn’t believe that the “relationships expert” was playing the “Old Maid” card with this radio caller.
Not long after the radio show incident, I was out to dinner with a group of single friends. Somewhere between the pizza and beer we got on the topic of how difficult dating is for Catholic singles. It was surprising how many people around the table admitted that as the months and years of dating and searching for a soul mate continued to grow, many of them were becoming increasingly willing to compromise on important issues or areas where they had previously held high standards. One of my friends at the dinner table came right out and said it: “I feel like the older I get, and the harder dating becomes, I’ve started settling.”
I can relate to all of the single people I’ve mentioned, and to all of their concerns. It is certainly not easy to be a Catholic “single and searching” person in the pagan culture we live in. Finding people our own age who share our Faith and also share similar goals, interests and dreams seems nearly impossible sometimes. While the temptation to start re-evaluating or even lowering your standards may be great, know that you are not alone in your struggles or your anxiety, and take courage that God is with you and He truly wants your dreams to come true and your deepest desires to be fulfilled.
Anxiety about being too picky in your search for a spouse is one of the reasons I am so grateful that CatholicMatch.com exists. This is a place where single Catholics from all over the world can come together and find community, support, encouragement, good (sometimes even challenging) advice, and, if it is God’s will, the spouse of your dreams. When you become anxious or despondent about relationships, visit the forums or community rooms on CatholicMatch and be encouraged that there are literally thousands of single Catholics in the world today, searching just like you, but also willing to be patient and wait for God’s best in their lives.
If you feel that you might fall into the “not picky enough” category when it comes to dating, perhaps now is a good time to “raise the bar high” as Sugarland sings, and re-examine your priorities and perspectives on dating and choosing a spouse. Following are some helpful tips for elevating your standards.
If You’ve Compromised with Yourself, Renegotiate
I challenge you not to compromise on the important stuff. Sure, many of us probably have items on our “spouse wish list” that are unrealistic, and in that case we truly do need to give the Holy Spirit a little more room to work in our lives. However, there are certain aspects or traits in a person that you know beyond a doubt are important to you. You know that “giving in” on these areas is lowering your standards, or settling for less that what you are really looking for.
These “important standards” are not just faith compatibility in a relationship. Just because a person is Catholic, or shares your faith, does not mean that the two of you would make a great marriage. There might be several other areas of life that are truly “must haves” or “can’t stands” for you, and it’s completely okay to make those things part of your standards for a relationship.
If you feel that you have begun compromising on important issues in your dating relationships, revisit your standards and make a renewed commitment to avoid settling.
Pray for Discernment, and for Patience
If you ask Him for it, your Heavenly Father will give you a discerning heart to know what His will is for your life. Ask specifically for wisdom in creating your list of standards when choosing a spouse, and He will supply your needs.
Also, ask God to give you the virtue of patience, which is intimately connected to wisdom and endurance in difficult times. The dictionary definition of patience is: “1) bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; 2) manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain; 3) not hasty or impetuous; 4) steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity” (Merriam-Webster).
All of the above definitions remind us that being patient is a difficult struggle, and oftentimes it hurts. However, the Bible is very clear that there is great reward and blessing in store for those who patiently endure trials. The Book of Sirach states: “A patient man will endure until the right moment, and then joy will burst forth for him” (1:23). King David reminds us to “Wait for the LORD, and keep to his way, and he will exalt you” (Psalm 37:34), and St. Paul teaches us that love itself “is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4).
After you have prayerfully discerned what areas or topics are “non negotiables” for you in choosing a spouse, and if you still find yourself struggling with sticking to your standards, ask a close friend to be an accountability partner for you, and hold you to your standards at the beginning of each new relationship interest. Your accountability friend will help safeguard your heart from settling.
Remember that God is In Control
The Author of Life is writing your life story, including the chapters of your love story. The hardest thing for a single person – or any Christian for that matter – is to surrender our will, our hopes, our dreams, and our desires to God, and let Him take control of our lives. This is really hard, but it’s also really worth it.
God’s dreams for your life are even bigger than the ones you dream for yourself. Take courage, raise the bar high, and don’t settle for anything less than His best for you.
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11
Stephanie is the coordinator of
™, a youth and young adult division of
Family Life Center International
She has been a frequent guest on several Catholic programs, including
EWTN Radio's Faith & Family, which she currently co-hosts with her
father, Steve Wood, and EWTN Television's Life on the Rock and The
Stephanie hosts the first worldwide radio show for Catholic youth,
, which airs weekly on the EWTN Radio Network.She also
writes a monthly
for teens and young adults. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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