Okay, that may seem a bit harsh. But it's also true that the Church has been and is yet, unprepared to handle the numbers of adult singles and our unique struggles living faithfully, counter to the culture.
One area working to address the problem, are the Catholic-focused online dating sites. They serve as a gathering place for like-minded Catholics who place priority on their faith life in any potential love match. Reasoning that we won't have to wade through the secular crowd, explaining why we're not game for sex on the third date! (we hope).
There's a delicate balance in caring for the needs of the Catholic Single. Where both the Church ministry and Catholic Dating websites flounder, is understanding the difference between young singles and long-term, older singles.
I've been both. I think I can help.
After a lengthy break from online dating, I recently started a membership with Catholic Match. Prior to joining, I did have a profile up for a few months, getting ready for a release date!
Until I had membership privileges, I was not eligible to take the survey used to formulate matches.
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The survey questions focus pretty narrowly on one's family life growing up. I can't recall the questions exactly, but they were along the lines of family dynamics. How frequently did you go to church as a family? How did your family discuss issues, solve conflict. Offering multiple choice options like A) Calm discussion, B) Heated discussions, yelling. Additional questions hone in on influential relationships from our formative years, which may or may not be relevant in adulthood.
I answered the questions with a vague sense of futility. I don't think I quite caught it at the time, but when I considered it later, I realized that these family dynamic concerns make sense for people in their early 20s, but they're not so relevant for singles older than say, 35.
A marriage-minded couple in their 20s is still quite influenced by their childhood household, as they are just coming out of it, as they venture out on their own. Learning how to navigate life with the tools and resources from their family life. The basis of their family life will, indeed, be the foundation of their new family.
For singles over 40, well, we've been on our own for 20 years. We've established our own traditions, and learned how to work around some of the habits we learned from our family. We've made relationship mistakes and hopefully learned from them, growing in the process.
If we've raised children, that experience is likely more pertinent to a new relationship than how we were raised.
Also, by 40 some of the most influential people in our lives have died. Possibly gone for 15 or 20 years already. The family relationships connected to the people we lost change dramatically after a death as well.
Let me say this; answering those survey questions, I couldn't even remember how family conflicts were handled in my childhood home, with my nuclear family. After all, that was 20 years ago!
In the past two decades I've learned different strategies. Some of the same strategies and lessons that might have happened within a marriage, we also learn from life alone. It's part of maturity, growth, and life. Even if you didn't have a spouse with whom to negotiate changes, learn from and grow.
All of that to say, that the creators of Catholic Match (and other serious dating sites) aren't taking into consideration the dynamics of the people who need them the most.
What good is the matching system if we're answering irrelevant questions?
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I'd like to suggest a variety of questions based on age range. Maybe questions that ask how we've handled conflicts with roommates or neighbors. How we've dealt with losing friends to marriage or moving. How we anticipate adapting to life with partner after living alone for a lifetime.
What would you suggest? What questions do you think would be more suitable for matching couples in your age range?
I love to see your suggestions in the comments.