Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bright Maidens: Friendship That Lasts

Week Three: Dating

"Christian Commitophobia" by Elizabeth Hillgrove
 "Hillsdating and Other False Realities" by Julie Robison

 We three are writing a Lenten blog post series from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

Friendship That Lasts

During my last relationship, as my then-boyfriend and I discussed getting serious, we talked about the point of dating, specifically the point of dating as Christians.  What was the point?  And how do would we go about it?  These conversations stirred up even more questions in my heart.  Why is it that some couples date for years, marry, and divorce within months?  Why don't more college students find love during college?  What makes a relationship last the test of time?  I had recently bought
Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II's Love and Responsibility by Edward Sri and couldn't help but turn to it for guidance.  Sri writes about Aristotle's three kinds of friendship:  utilitarian friendship, pleasant friendship, and virtuous friendship.  Only the virtuous friendship lasts because it is true friendship.  Only the virtuous friendship is the one that will lead to a solid marriage.

In utilitarian friendship, the friendship blooms because it is useful.  John wants to drink alcohol but is underage.  His next door neighbor Pauly has a fake ID.  Pauly is generous enough to share his alcohol with John.  They party together, but the friendship is based on usefulness.  In the pleasant friendship, the friendship blossoms because it is fun and enjoyable.  Mary is have a blast dating Phil.  They go out dancing every weekend, and Phil loves having someone to bring to family parties.  These friendships don't last, though, because they are easily destroyed.  If one friend no longer needs the companionship or services of the other (John gets too many underage citations and gives up drinking), or if one no longer finds the other to be fun (Phil wants to go to a basketball game instead of dancing), the relationship dismantles. 

The hook up culture is a mutant of utilitarian and pleasant friendships.  It is based on nothing that can last, just sexual gratification and unstable companionship.  It ignores the dignity of each person and turns them into little more than a sex object or a status.  Hopes, dreams, wishes?  Not important in the hook up culture.  There is no higher aim than sexual pleasure and companionship that starts and ends at a certain time.  Hooking up demands no self-sacrifice or growth as a person.  Take what you want, then leave.    

In contrast, virtuous friendship is born as the friends seek the good, a moral life that is based in virtues.  The emphasis is not on what
I get out of the friendship; both parties are focused on growing in virtue, and this creates the bond of a common aim.  In this way, one person doesn't use the other, and individual selfishness is banished.  The friendship is solid.  It lasts because it's not based on fleeting emotions, certain activities, or usefulness.  You see the other as a whole person and in the light of the common goal. 

As dating Christians, our goal is to bring each other closer to God and to discern whether we're called to marry the person we're dating.  To do this, we have to grow our relationships from utilitarian and pleasant friendships to virtuous friendship.  How do we know if we're doing this correctly?  Sri writes that anytime you can focus on what
you get out of the relationship, you're stuck in a utilitarian or pleasant friendship.

At my high school, this video "Two Sets of Joneses" by Big Tent Revivial was shown often.  The song perfectly
sums up the difference between a relationship based on utility and pleasantness and one based in virtues.  The rain came down, and it blew the four walls down, and the clouds they rolled away, and one set of Joneses was standing that day. "Which one will you be?" the song asks.  

Today I ask myself, "Which friendship will I cultivate while I date?"  I haven't always practiced virtuous friendship.  Sometimes I just dated because it was  nice to have a date.  Sometimes I pushed for what I wanted just because I wanted it.  Sometimes I looked at a person as a means to an end.  I wasn't thinking of the other person; I lost sight of the common goal.  

Today I recommit myself to pursuing virtuous friendship.  I invite you to do the same!
[Disclaimer: This post was heavily influenced by Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II's Love and Responsibility by Edward Sri.  I do not own the rights to "Two Sets of Joneses"]  


  1. A very wise and beautiful post Trista. That advice is good for anyone!

  2. Your third paragraph is epic! You make no bones about calling out the hook up culture for what it really is. Great post, girly!

  3. What Elizabeth said! Seriously, that third paragraph is golden. Great post, Trista!

  4. It is a wonderfully eloquent, insightful, open, reflective, and challenging article. :) Thank you for writing such a great piece! You precisely articulate the foundational philosophical reasoning needed for a Christian individual to form a truly virtuous friendship that can lead into a Christ-centered dating relationship focused ever more on self-gift. Bravo, dear Trista!

  5. I wholeheartedly agree. A lot of people (even good Catholics!) think I'm weird when I say that I want to develop a good solid friendship before entering into a relationship with the next person I date... but I think it's so important to enter into that virtuous friendship state before adding in any of the romantic stuff, because that can sometimes lead to using the other person... as I've learned from past relationship catastrophes! Thanks for doing these posts - I'm loving them!

  6. What a beautiful post!

    As one who married very late after WASTING a great portion of my life mired in badly chosen friendships I can say that it is only by God's grace that I managed to find a spouse.

    One of the greatest challenges in our marriage has been her continued association with "loser" friends who only wanted to use her as a footstool, or because she was entertaining as a side-kick.

    It took years for her to finally let go of those relationships and realize how harmful they were to her and to our marriage.

    Finding good, solid friends who challenge you to be a better, more holy person can be tough. But better to be alone with God then to spend your time with one who drags you into the pit!

  7. Trista, firstly, I love Aristotle. So this post is already a winner from that merit. But as someone who has three excellent guy friends who are definitely of the virtuous sort, I can attest to their influence on my life and keeping my head clear when it comes to dating. I love your fourth and fifth grafs best! I love you T, thanks for this beautiful post and testimony!

    Oh, but now I have another book to read; I've heard good things about Edward Sri, but never read anything myself. So many wonderful books out there! :D

  8. I marvel at the ability of every other blog to put into words the thoughts that are jumbled up in my head :-P

    Since I just graduated college about 10 months ago, it's become clearer who my weak friendships were (mostly out of convenience for one or the other), and who my very dear friends continue to be. Also, college certainly opened my eyes to the rampant popularity of relationships that started with hookups. I can't count how many relationships I witnessed that began freshman year and ended sometime right before or after senior year. Why? Because when the real world hits (career moves, money issues, long distance), the couple whose relationship holds together based on being in the same place 24/7 has a heck of a time trying to talk about "real" topics, and they fight and fade away....

    I for one am thankful that I spent all of my freshman year and some of my sophomore year cultivating a deep friendship with a very awesome guy! This way, when we made that awkward (and slightly adorable) transition to realizing we wanted to date each other, we already knew each other deeply as fascinating people. I can't wait to marry my virtuous friend (turned fiance) in only 3 months :-)

    Thanks again for the great post!

  9. Wow, Kendra. Well-said! Way to post the cutest comment I've read in a really long time! Congratulations and best wishes in 3 months and the rest of your life together!

  10. Thanks for all these wonderful comments! I've been so busy I haven't had time to respond to each one, but please know I appreciate them and will address y'all (if I can say that, Elizabeth??) soon!

    I second what Elizabeth said! Kendra, you've posted the cutest comment! :) Best wishes to you and your lucky man!

  11. Very well said! You are absolutely right. Virtuous friendship is the only one that will stand the test of time and stay evergreen. Build that and stay with it--you'll have a spiritual friendship as well as a love!

    Great post!

  12. Great post! Though I'm sure I'm not the target audience for the post, as a guy I still find the the tips applicable to us.

    Building friendship seems an interesting, and even counter-cultural, perspective to dating. Thoughts of building a friendship as the base for a dating relationship leads many guys to fear getting into the infamous "friend zone", but I suspect that there may be an equivocation of terms here in my part.

    In any case, when guys are pursuing girls, we are generally not into a "building friendship" mindset, but rather a pursuit that showcases us as the "alpha male" to be chosen (I suppose this has to do with our evolutionary history, as we can see in the animal world), but this is unfortunate!

    Friendship is the base of a good dating relationship, and even more importantly, marriage!

  13. @Jgrdaniel, you are the target audience! Wrote it for everyone!

    I'm actually not advocating putting someone in the friend zone for a bit before dating - I personally find that too confusing and stressful. I CAN'T HANDLE EMOTIONAL LIMBO! But as I move forward in dating that person, whether we were previously friends or strangers, to keep the focus on having a virtuous friendship, not just going on fun adventures and enjoying having someone's hand to hold.

  14. Great post, btw! We should rise to the occasion of building good, God-centered friendships.

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