When dating is hard.

As a Catholic, I believe that dating is for discerning marriage — for discovering the truth about each other. For deciding whether to choose to love each other until death.

Sometimes, dating is fun. You can go to aquariums together and stuff. There are otters at aquariums. Need I say more? Dating is good. If you pay attention, you learn about God and each other and yourself. Sometimes dating is easy — when you’re laughing, or at Adoration, or noticing a new reason to appreciate him or her.

But sometimes, dating is hard, like when there is conflict. Miscommunication. Insecurity. Distance (all the kinds). Inconsiderate decisions. Resistance to vulnerability.

What we’ve learned in dating long distance

I sat at the gate a half hour before I would board the plane and cracked open a copy of Harry Potter. It could quell the urge to pout about how I had to spend the morning: traveling 784 miles away from my boyfriend.

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The distance between my city and his is a difficult but worthy hurdle. A molehill that often feels like a mountain. An excuse I use to pout a lot at airports. And doing this — dating at a distance — has required teamwork to make work what wouldn’t work without effort.

Please don’t accept me as I am.

One day I will look my future husband in the face and say it: “Please don’t accept me as I am.” I turned 30 before I decided that I would do this — a decision that Timothy Keller helped me make.

In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Keller dissects, in part, the prevalent urge to resist relationships with people who won’t accept us as we are, whose involvement with us could disrupt the habits we established before we met.

The quest then is for a spouse who doesn’t just choose and love you as you are, but whose relationship with you doesn’t change you.

Which makes little sense for us who are Catholic, because we believe that marriage, like all vocations, should change us — we’re supposed to be holier at the end than we were at the beginning, because of grace and each other. We’re supposed to be committed to each other’s sainthood, not to maintenance of each other’s status quo.

How to determine what your significant other is thinking.

I recently saw an article about body language and dating that had the following subheadline: “Next time you find yourself wondering what he’s thinking, try observing these nonverbal cues.”

Or — here’s an idea — ASK HIM (or her, gentlemen — it works for you, too).

We do not know what other people are thinking but advice that encourages us to use any method for finding out other than “ask them” is advice that discourages communication. And that is advice that misleads us.

This is not always easy but it is healthy, and it is worth discomfort. If we are unwilling to communicate while we date we will be unwilling while we are married.

And neither our world nor our Church needs more marriages with the walls that spouses build between each other when they don’t communicate.