In my last article, I discussed healthy intimacy in friendships. In this article, I focus on intimacy in romantic relationships. For many men, their goal in life is to get married and have a family. Finding a wife begins with knowing how to date successfully. This can be difficult for many men as pornography has damaged their ability to relate to women in a healthy manner. Hours spent online has also robbed them of the opportunity to go out and learn how to relate to women. Many have tremendous difficulty just talking to women. Fortunately, you can learn how to relate to women in a healthy way that will allow you to develop a deep loving relationship that can lead to marriage.
In the beginning of a romantic relationship the intimacy is similar to friendship intimacy. You begin by spending time with a woman to get to know her better. You engage in activities you enjoy together. This is where romantic love begins to grow. You show her the highest respect by not using her or any other woman sexually or otherwise. You treat her as a cherished child of God. From this develops a deep trust, the ability to feel safe with one another. This is where healthy intimacy in dating can develop. From this comes a deeper love where you want to spend more time with your sweetheart. You want to know her completely and be known by her completely. You want to protect her and provide for her. This kind of love inspires a man to become all God created him to be – a strong leader, provider and protector.
As the intimacy and romantic love grow, you will naturally want to reveal more of yourself to the woman you are dating. This forges a deep emotional and spiritual intimacy between two people that will help prepare them for marriage. Developing the skills to relate well to women and to successfully date them takes some effort; however, there are many excellent resources available to help. Four books I can recommend are:
- Couples In Love: Straight Talk on Dating, Respect, Commitment, Marriage and Sexuality by John R. Weiss
- Christian Courtship in an Oversexed World by Fr. Thomas G. Morrow
- Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
- Men, Women and the Mystery of Love by Edward Sri
An excellent website on Catholic dating is:
- ChastityProject.com by Jason and Crystalline Evert.
Pornography use will not only hurt a man’s ability to relate well to women, a lack of confidence can also drive a man to use porn. An example of this is Mark.
Because of his deep insecurities, Mark always had trouble relating to women. He never thought he had anything to offer a woman or that a woman would ever love him. To ease his pain, loneliness, and need for intimacy, Mark turned to pornography and became addicted. Realizing this problem, he sought professional help. A large part of Mark’s healing was strengthening his male confidence.
As Mark progressed in recovery, his confidence grew and he began to feel better about himself. He wanted to try dating, but didn’t know how. By working with his therapist, reading books of Catholic dating and talking to married men in his men’s ministry group, he learned a lot about healthy relationships. He joined a Catholic young adult group and got to know the women in it better. At first, his goal was to simply befriend them. As he got more comfortable with them he asked a woman out for coffee. At first Mark was nervous but as their time together progressed, be became more comfortable and really enjoyed his time with her. This meeting didn’t turn into a dating relationship; however, it gave Mark the confidence to continue pursuing women.
What excites Mark about dating now is that he knows he has something to offer women that many young men don’t have. He knows how to treat them with respect! Many of his male peers are simply out to use women. They don’t know how to have a healthy relationship. Fact is when women discover a man who truly loves and respects them, they view him as a real “catch.” Mark now knows the secret to having a healthy relationship and looks forward to finding the woman God has planned to be his wife.
The secret to healthy intimacy in a dating relationship is simple: avoid pornography and focus on respecting women. If you struggle with confidence in relating to women, first try being friends with them. Daily ask the Lord to strengthen your confidence with women. Consult the books and website listed above. Find married men who are good role models for being a good husband. If after doing all this you are still struggling with dating, seek professional help from a therapist who specializes in relationships.
Finally, keep in mind that if being married is your vocation, God already has the perfect women picked out for you. When you are ready for that relationship, God will bring her into your life. You simply need to trust God in this matter. In the mean time, work on your confidence and on becoming the man God created you to be – a strong and virtuous leader, provider and protector.