If you’ve had the great misfortune of being a young Catholic dating in the last ten years, this is for you.

If you met your husband in fifth period biology and life’s been a slow dance to Savage Garden’s “I Knew I Loved You” ever since, then just stop reading, shut your laptop, and fall to your knees in gratitude. Because as those of us still awkwardly swaying, arms crossed and alone on the dance floor, know – the modern dating scene is no boy band song. At best it’s an Avril Lavigne ballad, and at its very worst it’s just “Thnks fr th Mmrs” on repeat for years and years – and years. Whether or not you feel thankful for all those memories, the only thing that you can do is just brush yourself off and put yourself out there again. And in 2023, that often means making a dating app profile.

Now, we can save the debate for whether or not dating apps are the best way to find love for another day. I have coached thousands of young daters and the vast majority of them wish that the apps weren’t the core of our modern dating culture. Many romanticize the way that their parents’ and grandparents’ generations met and fell in love, and they wonder why they can’t have the same kind of love story. There are many contributing factors to the great gap between the ease with which our grandparents settled down and the difficulty Millennials and Gen Z have in finding a long term love, including the paradox of choice that comes with dating apps. But the fact is, we can only do the best with what we have. So, here are my tips for navigating dating apps as a person with Catholic values.

1. Use the Profile Prompts to Your Advantage

You can use the prompts to attract quality or you can use them to attract quantity, it’s up to you. But if you’re reading this article, I’m assuming you’re looking for quality. My advice is to use one of the prompts to share that you’re a woman of faith.

Hinge has a bit of a layup prompt for you to use. The prompt asks for your ideal Sunday, so just tell them the truth: your ideal Sunday includes Mass. And if it includes watching football or going for a run or brunching with the girls, then that’s great! Include that, too. Being honest about your lifestyle will lead to a lot more quality matches and while it may initially result in fewer dates, it will lead to better dates.

2. Know Before You Go 

Similarly to the prompts, these apps have built in “basic info” sections that you should use to your advantage. If you can’t autofilter out things that might be undesirable to you (incongruent faiths, smoking or drinking habits, etc.) without paying extra, that’s okay. Just pay extra attention.

People will really tell you a lot about themselves in those basic info sections. Before you start swiping, ask yourself: “What are my dealbreakers?” and only swipe in accordance with those (no matter how cute the guy in question is).

A small but important note on the basic info sections: A man marking himself as “Catholic” in his basic info doesn’t carry as much weight as a man marking himself as “Christian,” unfortunately. A lot of this has to do with cultural Catholicism, especially within Irish and Italian demographics. Men might mark themselves as “Catholic” because their family is Catholic and their mothers forced them to go through with Confirmation. If it isn’t referenced anywhere else in his profile, though, I wouldn’t expect a simple check mark next to “Catholic” to mean that much. However, men that mark themselves as “Christian” seem to have a much higher chance of actually being practicing believers, even if they aren’t Catholic.

3. Zoom In

Alright, now this one might seem a little silly but it’s true: put on your swooshiest detective trench, grab your best magnifying glass, and go to work. Zoom in on anything that might be a crucifix on a chain. Tattoos of crosses or religious themes can also often point to a shared faith background. Message him and ask about his tattoo or chain, people love to talk about that kind of thing!

If this  sounds kind of crazy, just know that once while swiping I zoomed in on what I thought might be a scapular and messaged the guy wearing it to see if I was right. Not only was I right, but it opened a whole conversation about how important his faith is to him (which wasn’t marked on his profile anywhere else) and after learning more about him, I set him up with one of my best friends – who he is still with to this day.

4. Be Honest About Yourself and Your Faith

As frustrating and cliché as it sounds, the truth is that nothing will ever work as well as just being yourself. Be clear about your faith in a way that’s authentic to your lifestyle and heart. If you don’t go to Mass every day of the week, you don’t have to pretend you do in order to attract a super devout guy. Hold space for others to have a unique spirituality, just as you would want them to do for you.

Represent yourself as you truly are and you will attract a partner who fits who you are, not who you think you have to be in order to be attractive. And if that yields a small batch of quality men over a large batch of every type of creep and jerk in the world, then praise God for that. Remember: this isn’t a video game where you win points for every match. Your goal is to just find one person whose values align with yours, so don’t worry about the rest! 

Good luck! I hope the rest of your love life is like a long, smooth slow dance to a Backstreet Boys song.

Clare McCallan

Clare McCallan is a spoken word artist whose work focuses on the intersection of virtue and adventure. She has completed two North American poetry tours, performing at universities, churches, and community centers. She is the author of two books, “STATIONS” and “MANGERS”. In 2022, she began co-hosting CatholicTV’s morning show, “This is the Day” and the Bleav Network’s “Crushed The Podcast”. She has been selected for and completed two artist residencies, at the Grunewald Guild (Washington, 2020) and Gamli Skoli (Iceland, 2022). Clare is currently serving as the Creative Director of St. Joseph’s Home for Artisans, a Catholic artist residency in the North End of Boston.

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