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Young Catholics Dating in 2020

This is the first in a 3-part piece on a survey of young adult Catholics who are dating in 2020.

Part 2

Part 3


One day, I was moving laundry from the washing machine to the dryer when my eldest son came into the utility room with me and nervously shuffled around until I asked if he needed something.  He did.

He needed some advice about how to ask this girl on a date.

He had been on a date before. . .if you count high school dances.  This was different.  This was the thing that his father and I had been preaching about for years, really.  This was the massive step into the often scary, always uncertain terrain of ASKING. A. GIRL. ON. A. DATE.

We were never the parents who encouraged “girlfriend/boyfriend” relationships for our boys when they were young.  We made the intentional choice not to tease them about it.  We didn’t make fun of evident crushes or take too seriously obvious interests in and from the opposite sex.  Instead, we talk about the importance of friendship and being a gentleman.

We observe the beauty and virtues of girls we know and note them in front of the boys.   There is always plenty of Theology of the Body thrown in there, for good measure, but we mainly keep things general in the “relationships” department until they choose to get specific.  As in, a specific girl, a specific time, on a real-life date.

There is a variety of opinion today among young people on the topic of dating.

Some Millennials and Gen Z-ers still have pretty traditional opinions about dating culture—even the rebranding it as “courtship” in some instances.  Others have modified their views to fit certain cultural expectations, especially as they pertain to online interactions and sexual behaviors.  Plus, the “hook-up culture” has turned the most intimate human behavior into “no biggie,” while at the same time many young people eschew overt invitations to date because asking someone on a date is tantamount to a marriage proposal.  It is all so weird.  And confusing.

The landscape of dating is wide and vastly different from when I was dating.  I barely can keep up or even understand it.

But, I have children to form and teach this stuff.  As Catholics and parents who want them to have healthy and holy relationships, my husband and I care deeply about what our boys think about dating.  And, over the years of countless high school chastity talks and Catholic young adult ministry, I have been asked so many of same questions about dating.

Like. . .what kind of girl are guys really looking for?

Like. . .what are the “rules” for dating?

Like. . .should I follow my parent’s advice when they haven’t dated in 25 years?

Like. . .should I follow my parents’ advice because they got divorced?

Like. . .How do I know if a girl likes me?

Like. . .How do I show a guy that I like him?

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to ask these sorts of questions to a large group of college students actively involved in the Catholic campus ministry of a large secular university.  They answered my 10 question survey anonymously and of their own volition.  48 respondents, college and graduate school aged, women and men.

I got some answers. . .

That’s what I want to share.

First the demographics.  About a third of the respondents were men.  Two thirds were women.  Among the 48 respondents, 18 reported they were dating someone, 28 said they weren’t, and 2 said it was “complicated.”  All of the 48 identified as Catholic, except for 3 (which makes me think that this Catholic campus ministry must be amazing for those 3 to be active AND respond to my survey!).

There were so many excellent responses to the open questions that I posed.  I am going to break up this analysis into two more blog pieces:  The Girls and the Guys.  Stay tuned.


And, if you are interested in listening to our conversation on this topic, please click the links below for our podcasts on dating from both the women’s and men’s perspectives from two amazing young people!

Click here for our One Good Guy podcast with Tommy Killacky.

Click here for our Dating with Katherine Cimorelli podcast.

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Picture of Franchelle Jaeger

Franchelle Jaeger

Franchelle writes from Nashville, TN.

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