Pure sex, Pure Love

There are more than 4,000 dating and relationship self-help books in print. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus has sold 30 million copies worldwide. And last month, relationship guru Dr. Phil McGraw hosted a primetime special on CBS where he placed a hidden transmitter in some guy’s ear and coached him through a date.

Dating and relationships are tough?and apparently we’re all looking for some advice. As young Catholics, we face our own set of challenges, but most relationship advice books, columns and TV shows won’t come anywhere near issues of faith.

So that’s where I come in.

Welcome to a new column on BustedHalo devoted to questions about dating, relationships and marriage ? from a young Catholic perspective. A few months ago I wrote a column about S.W.A.N.S. – Strong Women Achievers, No Spouse. I asked you to react to several recent studies that suggested successful, ambitious and career-oriented women were at a disadvantage when it comes to serious relationships. Wow, the response was huge. We received dozens of heart-felt letters from men and women around the country sharing their personal experiences and feedback. Our community has a lot to say about relationships and faith?and we wanted to continue the conversation.

My name is Dr. Christine Whelan. I’m a 27-year-old, single Catholic and I live in New York City. Like you, I struggle with relationship questions, agonize over dating protocol and wonder what the future holds. But probably unlike you, my job is to research and ask questions about those subjects: For my master’s degree, I studied changing dating and marriage trends in the United States, specifically the increasing cultural shift from lifelong commitments to “contingent” commitments. For my doctorate, I studied self-help and advice literature: I’ve read more than 100 self-help books so you don’t have to! Now, I’m turning my research into a practical book of questions and advice.

While this background does give me an interesting perspective, no one is an expert on your life except you. I’m here to help you ask the questions that will lead you to your own solutions.

This column is a forum for you?that means both men and women!?to share your experiences, questions and opinions.

You know the ?rules’ of Catholicism, you know today’s ?rules’ of dating? and a lot of the time they don’t quite match up. You might be still figuring out your faith and who you are?at the same time that you’re trying to figure out what you’re looking for in a relationship. You’re in love, but not married?how do you reconcile your values with your desires? How about dating non-Catholics? Or living together before marriage?

And for young married Catholics, the challenges are deep as well: You’re still evolving as a person and as a couple?at the same time that you’re making big decisions about the future. What if your partner becomes more or less religious? Do you have questions about the use of birth control or other types of family planning? How do you raise your children? How do you deal with the divorce that goes on all around you?

Our shared faith will set this column apart from the other advice blogs out there. Yes, I plan to tackle all the juicy topics you and your friends gossip about over drinks. If it’s important to you, chances are it’s important to a lot of other people like you. And sure, we’ll spend a lot of time discussing the challenges that religion presents in relationships. But at core each column will be based on the fact that faith has some role in our relationships, and that asking questions about the why of our faith can help us find personal answers to even the toughest questions. You might be uncertain about exactly how your spiritual life and interpersonal life connect, or you may see the two as fundamentally intertwined? I’d like to hear from everyone.