Since I started opening up about “dating” as a gay Catholic, people have reached out to me, asking questions along the lines of…
- How do you find people who want to do the dating/partnership/commitment thing while upholding Church teaching on sexuality?
- What advice do you have for me in doing this sort of thing?
- I’m lonely and want a relationship, where can I go to find one?
My advice for the vast majority of these people is: don’t. If you’re seeking out someone to “fix” your loneliness, then you’ll likely end up with a needy co-dependency which is characterized more by emotional instability than by love and freedom. You can’t “fix” your loneliness by getting your claws into someone and having that someone consume your entire emotional, social, and physical life. No single person can “fix” your emotional, social, spiritual, and physical needs.
To seek a relationship out of insecurity is to seek out another as an escape from one’s self. This seeks to cover over or fill in the parts of ourselves which we dislike, fear, or believe we lack. This mode of relationship presupposes that one lacks a full self to give. And so there can be no full and true gift of self. The relationship cannot be characterized by gift, but by taking.
Only when one has a full self to give can one truly love another. This is why Pope Benedict XVI, while insisting that the acceptance of self can only begin through acceptance by another, also insists that the fullest acceptance and joy must ultimately come from the love which we find in God. Only when we can find joy in silence can we then open ourselves up and give ourselves fully to others, whether they be family, friends, or romantic partners.
I say the same thing to my straight friends interested in dating. If you aren’t your own person, with your own integral happiness, then you won’t find happiness in a romantic relationship. Don’t pursue one until you’ve cultivated a deep sense of self, a strong community, a good prayer life, and friendships of deep love and vulnerability.
Otherwise, you’ll likely do what I’ve done in the past: throw your entire emotional life onto a person, which will exhaust him, and then fall apart when he says he’s exhausted and can’t do it anymore. In the beginning, the exhaustion will be covered over by the energy of infatuation. But once the infatuation passes and you settle into one another, you both become more the people you were before the relationship. So be the sort of person you’d want to be in a relationship with, before you inflict that person on another.
Oddly enough, I suspect that once you become that person, you’ll feel less of a need for a romantic relationship. Because you’ll feel happy as you. But you’ll probably also be more capable of a healthy romantic relationship, because you’ll be less inclined to set aside your own identity and become totally absorbed into the identity of another, propping up that absorption by dishonesty and subtle manipulation (of which you probably won’t be entirely conscious).
And, as your own full person, I suspect you’ll also be more capable of having a chaste relationship. Chastity involves personal freedom, and we’ll unable to live chastity with others until we experience it personally. Chastity is contrary to over-neediness and insecurity, so if we seek relationships as an escape from our insecurities, relationships which are characterized by neediness, I suspect that chastity will be near-impossible. Sex will be used as an insecurity “fix,” and you won’t be able to stand firm and freely through the sexual frustrations that mark the beginning stages of a relationship pursuing chastity.
So my advice for gay Christians interested in romantic relationships: maybe don’t get into one until you feel like you don’t really need one.
But, as I’ve said before, I don’t know you personally and am not equipped to tell you what to do. Take these thoughts as my musings, rather than commands. I’ve tended to learn my lessons the hard way, and maybe you do too. Consider talking it over with the people who know you. They’ll probably be more helpful than me.
“Josef Pieper, in his book on love, has shown that man can only accept himself if he is accepted by another. He needs the other’s presence, saying to him, with more than words: it is good that you exist. Only from the You can the I come into itself. Only if it is accepted, can it accept itself. Those who are unloved cannot even love themselves. This sense of being accepted comes in the first instance from other human beings. But all human acceptance is fragile. Ultimately we need a sense of being accepted unconditionally. Only if God accepts me, and I become convinced of this, do I know definitively: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being. If ever man’s sense of being accepted and loved by God is lost, then there is no longer any answer to the question whether to be a human being is good at all. Doubt concerning human existence becomes more and more insurmountable. Where doubt over God becomes prevalent, then doubt over humanity follows inevitably. We see today how widely this doubt is spreading. We see it in the joylessness, in the inner sadness, that can be read on so many human faces today. Only faith gives me the conviction: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being, even in hard times. Faith makes one happy from deep within.”
-Pope Benedict XVI