I recently had a conversation with a woman by the name of Louise who also married later in life. She, too, experienced prolonged singleness and embarked on a journey to find her way out of it to love and marriage. Louise married her husband at the age of 44.
We were discussing some of the more practical things a girl can do to help herself out of the single wilderness; the different tips, and tricks that we each had to learn by trial and error as we were making our way through that period in our lives. When you marry later, you end up with more experiences in the dating and sometimes “no-date” world than other women who marry at a younger age.
The only way out of this season is to get through it. As with any struggle, trial, or hardship we encounter, one can either surrender and give up or one can be an overcomer. Everyone has a choice to make. The same is true with prolonged singleness. Each person must be working against the tide, seeking God for marriage while actively doing things to better their chances of meeting a suitable spouse.
When I was single, I realized that I needed to be able to go out on a date with a man once or twice (or thrice) and be okay if he never called me again. While I feared rejection and viewed the lack of a phone call as such, I had resolved to get over this dread.
I believed part of my journey to marriage meant getting out there and dating, and dating meant the risk of rejection. I needed to accept this as an “occupational hazard” of finding a suitable spouse. Either I could continue to hide from it and risk not finding someone or I could put myself out there and not go down without a fight.
As such, I began to recognize the potential risks each time I accepted a date with a new man. I will not tell you it made it any easier when it did not work out or I never felt rejected again. But I was not blindsided. Furthermore, I started getting dates because I was once again open to them. In addition, I felt like I was part of the dating scheme-of-things instead of sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else play.
In my discussion with Louise, I learned she had similar experiences. In recalling her dating history, Louise realized she spent many years in exclusive and long relationships with boyfriends. Then, she spent a lengthy time grieving the break-ups. Much time was lost to this and it did not lead to marriage.
Louise shared with me the wisdom that was imparted to her by both her father and a friend: not every date needed to be serious. It was healthy to accept dates from different men for coffee, a walk, or an activity. You do not have to be in love or “serious like” to do go out for coffee with someone.
Louise heard about an episode on the Oprah Show concerning a woman in her mid-thirties who committed to dating 100 men with the goal of marrying one of them. (Ann Marsh, “What I Learned from Dating 100 Men,” accessed 03/02/2021, https://www.oprah.com/omagazine/love-lessons-from-a-serial-dater/all)
Louise and her friend, Mary, were amazed at this, and thought it would be neat to try something similar since neither of them had had a date in some time. Finding the number 100 too daunting for themselves, Louise and Mary settled on the number twelve and called themselves, “The 12 Dates Club.”
The two friends agreed that they each needed to go on twelve dates, with a goal of becoming open to dating without over-thinking it. The friends encouraged each other along the way. This mutual support proved helpful when a rejection came, as Louise and Mary reminded each other that “it was just a date” – not a lifetime commitment. The two friends were better able to move on and look forward to their next date with hope. Louise’s friend, Mary, met her husband on date number six.
Louise went on all twelve dates and described it as a learning opportunity and married date number 13. She even counted dates from men that she tended to consider just friends, as she had not been open to that before. If they asked her out, it was a date. She wanted to change her mindset, from having to see every date as needing to be with someone she was extremely interested in. This experience made her freer to accept dates, which was a positive shift in her mindset. This all helped open her up to meet her future spouse.
What mindsets do you have about dating and/or rejection that could be limiting you or holding you back? Have you thought about this area of your life and how it may be affecting your journey to marriage? Is it possible that you are fearful of rejection like I was, and it is keeping you from putting yourself “out there?” Perhaps you believe every date should be with someone you have strong feelings for or an “intense like?” If this is the case, what take away from Louise’s story might you apply to your journey to marriage?
Whether you begin to start dating or form your own dating club with a friend, always remember to exercise appropriate caution when going on a date. Be honest with yourself about your mindsets, etc. They do not just go away. Start out with a reasonable number of target dates. I really do like the number twelve which Louise and her friend committed to. Jesus utilized that number as well.
By Julieanne M. Bartlett All Rights Reserved Copyright 2021
8 thoughts on “The 12 Dates Club”
Fear of rejection puts people into ruts that are hard to escape. I love your resolve to “not go down without a fight.” I wish I’d been given this advice when I was single!
That is a great insight, Celeste! I was in that rut, also, through my mid-thirties. I came to realize that only I could get myself out. It was my fear of staying there forever that gave me this resolve 😉
(I found this site as a result of your article on crisismagazine.com, where unfortunately the comments are already closed.)
I’d like to know exactly how “Louise and Mary”, at age 40+, found 12 men to ask them on dates.
I’m in the same age group as the author. I’ve lived in the same general area since the late 1980’s and attended the same handful of Catholic parishes ever since. In all that time, I have not known of 12 single Catholic women. Heck, I’ve not ever known of ONE single Catholic woman whom I might approach and offer a ride to Mass or treat to coffee afterwards or even just say “hello” to on a regular basis. To say nothing of actually dating these nonexistent women.
Parishes don’t have social activities where singles can become known, so no one has ever gotten to know me and say “you know, you should meet our neighbor’s niece who attends XYZ parish in the next town over”. I don’t ogle women during mass nor stalk them into the parking lot after.
So exactly _where_ were the Catholic single women hiding all these years? I suspect the answer is that, like most of the single Catholic men, they are all ex-Catholics now. I see very very few people my age or younger at mass any more.
Hi Larry, I definitely can hear your frustration. When I was single, there were no events or ways to meet other single men at church either. I was very frustrated about the situation as well. I plan to write about this in the near future, e.g., why the Church should care about prolonged singleness and helping singles get to marriage. I met my husband via a blind date through an acquaintance at work. I encourage you to try alternate ways to meet people (blind dates, online dating platforms, non-church events), not to say that you have not pursued these. My husband was a non-denominational Christian when we were married (in the Catholic Church) and he entered full communion with the Catholic Church a year later. If you are so inclined, you can listen to the story on the Sewing Hope podcast, episode #120. The link is available via my website.
The two women in the “12 Date Club” blog post accepted dates from men that were friends as well as not Catholic. They started the project to reduce the pressure on themselves that they felt every time they went on a date: “is he the one?” “will he call me again?” They started to look at the date for just what it was, a cup of coffee or a walk and nice conversation. If the man called for a second date, that was great.
From a man’s perspective, perhaps picking 12 dates or another number would be a starting point. Have coffee, go for a walk, go out to lunch, or go bowling (just examples) with different women, whether they are Catholic, Christian, have a belief or not. This way, going on a date becomes more natural and the pressure to find the one is lessened. God works within established practices, which for us, is dating. I am not saying to marry someone who does not believe. What I am saying is that going out for coffee is not a proposal 🙂 It is just coffee – a process to meeting different women and brushing up on dating skills. If the man really like one of the women enough to ask for a second date, call for one.
I really wanted to marry a good Catholic man. I ultimately ended up doing so, just not in the traditional way. I handed it over to God and sought priestly advice every step of the way (you can hear this on the podcast as well, if you are interested).
I don’t know if what I am saying helps or not. If you have any additional questions/comments, please let me know.
Thanks for your reply. As you know, very very little is written on this topic. I started looking for content in my late 40’s, and I found most articles and comment threads dominated by women insisting “there are no good men” when I could look in the mirror and easily see that wasn’t true. So I’ve been dropping comments here and there for several years, to no effect. (While still not chasing women through the parking lot after mass.)
I wish I’d seen your Crisis article when it was still open because there was some agreement with my main conclusion: that parishes simply abandoned their social role… a role that has turned out to be just as important as the spiritual. The dropoff in attendance, and the dropoff in Catholic marriages by up to 90% are fallout of the utter collapse of parish social life. This is so incredibly obvious that I don’t know why it even needs to be pointed out.
Unfortunately it’s impossible to have discussion online since everything turns into a shouting match. There are arguments about “when” or “why” this happened, and because women have been spouting “there are no men” for so long that it “cannot” be challenged. Mothers and grandmothers continue to be convinced that herds of virtuous Catholic women roam the plains, and refuse to listen to an actual Catholic man who knows that’s 100% untrue.
If there was ever a group discussion on the topic, I’d be the first to sign up. But I did read your article, I listened to your podcast, and I even listened to your zoom presentation. I’m sure we could have a civil in person discussion, but I could never attend a conference where you presented that material, because I’d challenge all your talking points and probably get up and walk out.
I don’t want to hear about “vocation of marriage” or being called to it. Normal people don’t talk like that. “Vocation” means being a nurse or a farmer or a teacher or a priest. There should be no talk of a “singles vocation” because there should be no talk of a “married vocation”. Yes I know “vocation” has a theological meaning but I just don’t care.
I don’t believe “I want to be married” is something that can be prayed for. Maybe a woman has a different perspective when the clock is running out, but men don’t think that way. Nor do I care what the Catechism has to say about it and it seems laughable to take the matter to a priest. In writing, this probably seems argumentative but I don’t mean it that way.
As to more modern solutions: I tried online dating back in my 40’s and realized the total folly of it. I am too grounded in reality, I cannot develop an interest in a woman that I don’t already “know” or “know of” or that might have been recommended for some good reason. Even when I relaxed my expectations and simply wanted to “meet” women through a dating site, I did a few coffee dates and walks and hikes. Simply put, these women seemed absolutely terrified to be talking to a man alone. I concluded that most of them only wanted to show their mothers or aunts that they were “trying”, or just wanted a “pen pal”. I felt truly sorry for them.
I’m now closer to 60 than to 50, so my prime time is long gone. But when anyone asks me why I never married, because it’s a reasonable question to ask someone like me who is a regular church-goer but not too over-the-top about it, I simply say that no friend or co-worker ever (ever!) suggested anyone that I might like, and it is just impossible to meet anyone at church. That usually ends the discussion.
It baffles me that if so many people claim to seek friends or a spouse who at least shares their faith, that “church” is the last place on Earth to look for help. I mean, I’ve asked in multiple parishes about general social activities (even offering my help) and without exception I’ve been told “we don’t do that any more” or “we’ll get back to you” which never happens.
Well this is a summary of all those comments I’ve dropped around the internet. Thank you for the opportunity. I know you don’t draw many comments.
Hi Larry, I apologize for my delayed response as my husband and I were away and returned yesterday. While the Church has abandoned its social role, God can still get you married with your cooperation. I believe that is the central point of my message. Regardless of how bad things are in the world (or the Church) God can still work a miracle for us. We just need to have faith in Him that He can and will do it (Hebrews 11:6). Also, both sexes have been ravaged by sin and the culture. As such, I have found it useless to point blame at either one. For as much hurt as you or another man has experienced by women, I or another woman has experienced by men. Forgiveness is the key – to forgive the opposite sex and the Church for their failings and focus on ourselves and God.
Also, I don’t think it is too late for you to get married. I want to encourage you to bring all of the past failings of the Church and the opposite sex to God and share your desire for marriage with Him. God is the one who created you and put the desire for marriage in your heart. It takes grace to get married. I get the impression that you are a hard worker and very ethical. Ask God to show you how to receive the gift of a spouse from Him. I had to do this as well.
The more I grow in my relationship with God, the more I realize I need to bring Him into everything in my life. Bringing Him into my struggle to get married was really just the beginning. It fostered my faith in that the God who sees saw me and helped me. I now know that there is nothing he cannot do with and for me in my life. And I have seen this play out so many times.
I wish you the best. And if I can be of any more assistance, please let me know. You can always email me at email@example.com as well. Take care!
As an example of how little reasonable discussion exists, here’s a site that went dormant several years ago. The author only made about 10 posts total and was starting to draw a small core group of commenters, but one day it just stopped. She tended to favor “singles ministry” groups while I think the segmenting of our parishes into tiny ineffective narrow cliques is a big part of the larger problem of parish social collapse. Anyway, it was good discussion while it lasted, which wasn’t long. https://thehiddenfaithful.wordpress.com/