… “I’m discerning a vocation”. When I, as a single woman hear those words from a man, especially one I’m interested in or dating, they get interpreted as the Catholic equivalent to “it’s not you, it’s me”. I hear them and move on. In fact, I’d go as so far to say whenever I hear a man is discerning a vocation I immediately place him in my Friend Zone and he becomes off romantic limits. There’s a whole slew of men like this on Catholic Match. I’d wager they’re over there on Ave Maria too.
I respect a man’s desire to consider the priesthood. I encourage it. Lord knows we can always use more wonderful priests. Don’t let me get in the way of that. I wonder, and I’m just wondering out loud here, why they do that though- why do men who are considering whether they have a calling place personal ads on dating sites and extend dinner invitations to women? A genuine calling to serve the Lord isn’t supposed to be a second choice… if I can’t find a wife I guess there’s nothing else to do but become a priest.
In all fairness women do this too. They think, “if I don’t get married by 40 I guess I’ll become a nun”. Even I’ve entertained thoughts of getting to a nunnery, but when I was honest with myself those thoughts were not serious. Usually my desires are accompanied by the need for spiritual solitude and prayer. Once those needs are met, in adoration or at a retreat, the desire to take the habit disappears. So maybe this is why so many of my married friends tell me not to immediately discount a man who says he’s considering a vocation. Maybe, they say, the man is only in need of spiritual rejuvenation or a partner that will help live his faith more profoundly. Fair enough. I suppose.
My married friends also encourage me to not give up on the discerning man because they are obviously pious men. They claim men who are discerning before saying “I do” make the most wonderful husbands. They become men and fathers who are unafraid to be the spiritual head of their domestic church. Of course this sounds tempting and attractive to women looking for this very thing. And I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth – when a happily married women takes her time to give me, a singleton, her married advice I listen attentively.
But I can’t help but wonder, especially when not every married woman holds the same thoughts as my friends. My go-to-girl for all things Single Woman is Dorothy Cummings who blogs at Seraphic Singles. She strongly cautions against dating the discerning and has written extensively on the topic.
I tend to agree with Mrs. Cummings on this. I truly feel that someone considering a genuine vocation needs to figure all that out before throwing a personal ad up online or chat up women in mass. What do you think? I’m I wrong to think they should be working with a spiritual director before trying to start a relationship? It’s that thinking that leads me believe the “I’m discerning” bit is a man’s attempt at politely letting a woman know he’s not interested in her without hurting her feelings.
I also look at vocations like relationships; the ultimate relationship between God and man. A woman wouldn’t start a relationship with a man who admitted to her he was unsure about relationship with another woman. She’d tell him to figure out what he wants first and call her, maybe, when he’s decided.
And finally, here’s a thing – women like, no we love, men who know exactly what it is they want. A man who doesn’t know and dates while he is “discerning” is a man who simply has not made a firm decision and cannot commit to whether he wants a wife or he wants the collar. Very few woman, myself included, find the trait of indecisiveness attractive. Granted there are women who enjoy a challenge but I’m not one of them. I’m too old for challenges, games, and indecisiveness. And for that reason I label this post under the “Why I’m Still Single” category.