I received an email from a male TCF reader in his late teens and it went something like this
“I have seen some of your articles about courting and relationships, and I just have a question: what about me?
I am about to enter my first year of college (studying neuroscience), and I am starting on the track to go to medical school.
If I go to medical school, I will be in school for 4 years for undergraduate studies, 4 years for medical school, and following medical school, I will still be in training, but I believe I will have a salary, unless I get my bachelors or even my PsyD or PhD.
So I am looking at 8 years of schooling at the very least.
Am I disqualified from relationships and courting for that entire time?
I will have you know that my education is being paid for, no student loans are being taken out, and I currently have some money put away; I will also not be required to work during my education, as my generous benefactors are covering my education, and my family is paying for my other needs.
So, am I disqualified from courting until I am 26?
I would argue that I am not, given whole I would not have an income, I would not be financially unstable. I would just like to know what you think about my situation and I would also value the opinion of a Catholic woman in my situation.
What an admirable young man and I am really impressed at the clear plan he has for his future, career-wise.
As traditional Catholics, we need to have a clear idea of what courtship and relationships are.
For modern society, dating is a way to get a sexual companion that you can also have fun with – there is no end goal or even intention of marriage.
This is why many relationships like these fail – they lack purpose and direction.
And getting into a relationship because you are lonely is not a valid reason either.
You shouldn’t be feeling lonely as a student.
You don’t have the time to be lonely. You should be focusing on your studies, planning for your life as an independent adult, fostering connections, discerning your vocation and building healthy same-sex relationships.
All these are necessary building blocks to your future and for a successful future courtship or marriage.
What about opposite-sex friendships? Can you have opposite-sex friendships?
Yes, you can. An opposite-sex friendship is NOT the same as a courtship as there should be no emotional intimacy there.
In addition, time spent with an opposite-sex friend must always be within groups or public settings.
See >>> ON OPPOSITE SEX FRIENDSHIPS for more.
Whilst at University, you should also spend this time on developing the traits of an Ephesians 5 Man.
And if you are a woman, spend your University time on developing the traits of a Proverbs 31 woman.
As traditional Catholics, we court with a very clear purpose in mind – marriage.
There is intentionality there.
Do not date to find a partner; date and court to find a WIFE.
So unless you are READY, WILLING, and ABLE to get married and support a WIFE and FAMILY, why on earth would you start courting?
A high school student whose long-term goal is to be a medical doctor would not start applying for medical doctor jobs while they are still in high school. This is because they are not yet ready – academically and physically – to take on that role.
Setting aside the topic of marriage for a minute, the main reason that people fail in different aspects of their lives is that they often put the cart before the horse, jumping into situations that they are just not ready to handle.
Having a clear plan for your life and steadily following that plan in its proper sequential order is how you are able to achieve your plans and goals in life.
Now the young man who wrote to me – let’s call him Mr. X -asks if he is disqualified from courting and relationships during the entire time of his education.
And the simple answer is this: unless you are looking to get married within that timeframe, YES, you should not be courting or dating. At all.
However. Given the unique circumstances of his career path…….as in, he has no loans or debt….I would say it is very possible for him to get married, and support a family while still in school, but only after he has completed the first 4 years of undergraduate studies.
The last year of his undergraduate studies, and before medical school, is the ideal time to begin courting and dating.
As we know, a courtship period should not last longer than 2 years.
Ideally, you should make a decision by the end of the 1st year and if you are not prepared to propose and get married in the following year, you must end the courtship to avoid wasting each other’s time and falling into occasion of sin.
Mr X also said “I would argue that I am not, given whole I would not have an income, I would not be financially unstable. I would just like to know what you think about my situation…”
This is a bit confusing as in the previous paragraph to this he said “I will still be in training, but I believe I will have a salary”
In any case, Mr X, having no debt or financial obligations does not equate to financial stability.
One can be in debt, have financial obligations and STILL be financially stable.
How? By having income coming in.
It doesn’t have to be a large income, but it needs to be incoming and regular.
So while Mr X may have no financial obligation, he also has no income.
How does he propose to be able to court? Courtship isn’t cheap or free.
You will need to spend time, money and effort on your intended.
Where would the money for this come from?
And say, you were to get married, how will you support your wife and family if you are still in education and have no income coming in? Where would you both live? In your parents’ house??
Or are you expecting her to shoulder that burden?
The role of a man is to be able to PROTECT and PROVIDE, and you cannot PROVIDE if you have no income coming in.
During courtship, you will be demonstrating to your intended your intention and ability to provide via taking her out on dates, getting her little gifts, perhaps even paying for her groceries occasionally…..all these are gestures that display a willingness, intentionality and ability to provide.
And no woman in her right mind who takes marriage seriously will date or even accept a proposal from a man who fails in this aspect.
Courtship is pretty much an audition process for both parties to determine “Would this person make a good spouse?”
Now, let’s say that after his initial 4 years of undergraduate study, Mr X is in medical school AND getting an income or salary, then yes, by all means, he would be able to PROVIDE for his family.
However, if that is not happening, then he MUST wait.
As you can see, it is not so much the length of education you engage yourself in.
It is whether you as a man are able to fulfill your primary marital duties of being able to PROTECT and PROVIDE.
As a whole, I generally advise students to only start courting in the final or penultimate year of University. This puts them on track to get married within a year or two of graduation.
Many students have successfully followed this advice and in the past 12 months, we have had 3 very happy TCF weddings.
However, if your career path requires further education after University AND you also have no income coming in, you should not be courting.
Also, before you even consider courting at all, you should have spent some time discerning if you are truly being called to marriage.
You should not be courting if you are not being called to marriage.
You should spend that time working either on discernment or your other vocation ie religious life and so on.
Check out my tips for students in the video below.
It applies to students in secondary or high school as well as University or college students.
I also recommend that you see the following:
I hope this information helps to address Mr X questions, as well as others in a similar position.
Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.
ad Jesum per Mariam