If you want to marry someone, you need to have more than just the “checklists” covered of orthodoxy and wanting-lots-of-kids. You actually need to be in love (at least somewhat!) with someone of the opposite sex. And they should be (somewhat!) in love with you. You only got one shot at this, and you really don’t want an annulment. Go slowly and deliberately in courting. Marry someone you love, but don’t look for someone who is perfect, for perfect people don’t exist. Yes, the checklist should exist as far as being a traditional Catholic, but there has to be some “chemistry” with the other person. So, don’t “settle” for a loser, because it’s better to be an old-maid or an old-bachelor than to marry the wrong person.
You should only attempt to court another Catholic who is equally-yoked theologically. If you don’t think your future spouse is already on his or her way to heaven without you, do you think that person is going to get your kids to heaven? Of course not. The whole “flirt to convert” thing rarely works out for a happy marriage. There are a few exceptions, but they are rare. On the other hand, if you’re a perfectionist, keep in mind I had an Australian priest friend who used to say to young women: “Stop looking for St. Joseph, cuz you’re not the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
If you don’t want to court someone, simply tell them the following: “I don’t want to pursue a romantic relationship with you.” Or, if you must put it in the passive voice, just say: “I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to be dating.” DO NOT blame it on your spiritual director and say, “My spiritual director doesn’t think I should date you.” DO NOT blame it on God and say, “I prayed about it and God told me in adoration that you’re not the right one.”
Why not? To put your own personal decision to not be with someone on your spiritual director’s shoulders is probably dishonest. Or, if it is honest, then you have a bigger problem: Your spiritual director is fulfilling the roll of a guru-baby-sitter in your life. This is one reason why I always say people just need a good confessor, not a spiritual director. However, if you really think you need a spiritual director, find someone who will give you the tools to make mature, adult decisions in your life—not someone who is going to be your creepy cult-leader demanding obedience like you’re a 17th century Carmelite nun. (Those were happier days of great obedience, yes, but that only worked for religious before this wicked age that sadly includes priestly grooming of young people.)
Also, to blame your decision not to be with someone on God (you know, the old Steubenville sophomoric, “I prayed about it and God is telling me you’re not the right one!”) might sound charitable, but it’s wrong both theologically and morally. It’s wrong theologically because God doesn’t reject people in adoration just because you have feelings for a different person. It’s wrong morally because it can do a lot of damage to someone’s psyche for them to believe God has rejected them in your own personal time in prayer. I mean, how do you argue with someone who claims to have the bat-phone directly to God in your life?
The fact is that it’s fine to reject someone from a romantic approach to your life. Just own it honestly without blaming it on locutions or private revelations or novenas or saints whispering in your ear. Again, if you don’t want to court or marry someone, just say, “I don’t want to pursue a relationship with you.” Or, again, if you must put it in the passive voice, just say to your former-squeeze: “I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to be courting.”
Chastity before and during courting is more important than you think. Many women are dating men who have secret porn-addictions. These men often think the porn addiction will be solved when they get married. As you know, such addictions only get worse in marriage. When St. Paul writes, it is better to marry than to be burnt (1 Cor 7:9, DRB) he means that marriage is a remedy for the ordinary burning-in-the-loins concupiscence that came from the fall of Adam and Eve. However, the extraordinary concupiscence that comes from major porn addictions is normally not healed by marriage.
Why not? Because the grace of marriage builds on nature, and a nature gravely wounded by unconquered pornography addictions will not be healed by the grace of marriage. To put it bluntly, if someone doesn’t kick his or her porn addiction before marriage, he or she will expect equally kinky behavior in marriage. And, of course, such presumption on grace nearly guarantees an upcoming annulment when your spouse decides she will not endure such bedroom-objectification. Granted, it’s not a first-date question to ask: “Do you have a pornography addiction?” But it might be a fifth-date question. So, don’t be afraid to ask “Do you have a porn problem?” Heed such red flags as demurring answers.
Other, more serious sexual aberrations and unusual perversions may be healed by the grace of Jesus Christ flowing through prayer, fasting and the sacraments. But you should conquer them for a good five years before courting or dating anyone else. Again, find out before marrying someone if they have addictions to drugs or porn or attachments to anything else (including laziness or unemployment.)
When you’re finally engaged, still you should stay very chaste. Nobody needs a “trial run” to know if they are marriage material. All parts will fit, so I guarantee you don’t need a “test-drive.” In fact, St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that making out for the unmarried is a mortal sin: “When these kisses and caresses are done for this delectation, it follows that they are mortal sins, and only in this way are they said to be lustful.”—Summa, II.II.154.4 c.
In summary, court only someone you think you could marry. Make sure that person is orthodox, but also make sure it’s someone you enjoy emotionally and would want to pro-create with one day. It’s good if you’re in love, but then also realize there are no perfect spouses. Move-on in honesty if you don’t want to court someone; just tell them you don’t see a future with them. It is better for you to break their heart than to tell them God has rejected them. Finally, if you don’t want a future full of annulments (aka Catholic divorces) just remember this: You only got one shot at this, so don’t settle for someone who won’t get you and your future kids to heaven. Marry a very holy Catholic, an attractive person of the opposite sex, but don’t look for the perfect one, because they don’t exist.