Catholic Dating: Fear of rejection

So, earlier today I wrote that I wanted to resurrect the abandoned blog series I began last year. I wanted to finally return to address the question I’ve so often heard asked about Catholic guys: why do they seem so averse to asking girls out on dates?

I would suggest that the main reason is simply fear of rejection.

It’s a pretty basic answer, but I think that this is all-too-often the reason why the Catholic guys I know haven’t dated more. This reason applies to non-Catholic men as well, of course, but I think there are some uniquely complicating factors for Catholics and I’ll talk about those in a bit.

Living Dangerously

Asking someone out is not exactly a stress-free activity. It involves risk. It involves “putting yourself out there” and risking  rejection. Sometimes that rejection can be swift and direct (“Sorry, but no thank you”), sometimes laced with platitudes (“You’re really special, but I think of you as more of a brother”) and sometimes you’ll just be ignored. However, in the mind of a guy there is always the irrational fear that it’d be cold and brutal (“You want to go on a date? Ewh! Ewh! Get away from me!”).

This fear of being shot-down is very real for a lot of guys, particularly those of the more sensitive variety. The lack of confidence and fear of rejection can lead to a paralyzing insecurity.


Asking someone out requires courage and willingness to be vulnerable, but I think there are two complicating factors which are unique for Christian men…

Complicating Factor #1: “Masculine” Christianity

I think that somewhere along the line, the concept of masculinity became seriously warped in Christianity. I would suggest that there has been an identity crisis of sorts among male Christians. Rather than being called upon to be strong and valiant, men are called upon to be, well…nice.  Rather than be courageous, we were told we should just be…polite. Bravery and self-sacrifice were brushed aside in the name of equality, resulting in a culture of passive men.

Be Nice

I would suggest that all this has left guys knowing very little about what is expected of them. The breakdown of families and the absence of strong faith-filled fathers has left many devoid of good examples. In the absence of good role models, bad ones, of which there are no shortage, have rushed to fill the gap. Authors such as John Eldridge and Jason Evert have often commented on this rather sad development.

Maybe some of this has been brought about by the Christian reaction to the secular world. Is it possible that, in response to the secular approach to manhood and dating, that a certain level of prudishness and passivity has crept into the Christian male psyche? Maybe it’s time we changed that and reclaimed an authentic vision of masculinity? Honestly, what guy would not want to be thought of as heroic and courageous?

Several years ago there was a male friend of mine with whom I would sometimes go out and hit the town. On a few occasions, we ended up at one of the larger nightclubs. It was quite a thing to watch him in action. Fear appeared not to apply to him. He would start at one corner of the club and move to the opposite corner, hitting on every single girl in his path. It was quite a marvel to behold. This guy was made of Teflon! Any rejection just seemed to slide right off him like water off a duck’s back. Now, I’m not advocating the same indiscriminate behaviour, but I do think that we Christian men can learn something from those in the secular world – no guts, no glory. As another friend of mine recently wrote “…most, if not all worthwhile pursuits require the prospect of rejection”.

Complicating Factor #2: The Faith Community

I’d now like to look at the other complicating factor related to the fear of rejection.

If a guy is serious about his faith, it is likely that he would want his future spouse to share that faith. The “target rich environment” for such a lady is therefore the faith community of his city or town where he lives. However, there is a slight problem. Even in a city with a vibrant social scene, the faith community will be only so big and there are some consequences to this if a guy asks out one of the girls in that community.

The main problem arises if she either immediately turns him down, or if they date for a while and then break up. The issue is that they will most likely still have to see each other on a rather regular basis…


Attending the same Bible study with your Ex can be kinda awkward…

It’s my experience that, in closed communities, it will not be long before virtually everyone knows that the two dating and it possibly become a source of gossip and social pressure. Additionally, a break-up will most likely become a matter of public debate and consumption.

Finally, it’s quite likely that each will have dated others within the community before, meaning that a guy may well be good friends with several of his new girlfriend’s ex-boyfriends. We all have to deal with a loved one’s past, but that’s kinda weird! One of my friends even said that he didn’t ask out too many ladies in our community because he thought it would be disrespectful for a future spouse to deal with a “boneyard” of women he’d asked out or dated before.

Closing thoughts

So…are these good reasons? Put simply, no.

Although it’s easy to say, community gossip and pressure really aren’t worth fussing over. In fact, why not use the community to your advantage and get your female friends to find you a date? After all, statistically speaking, they’re quite likely to know the person whom you will ultimately end up marrying.

Next, regularly bumping into an ex can be awkward, but it’s not exactly the end of the world. It’s both an opportunity to grow in holiness, as well as an additional motivation to treat her rightly and not use her as an object while dating. In fact, I would suggest that many of the “problems” and “issues” which I talk about in this series can be avoided if dating is approached in a holy, Christ-centred manner, treating one another as image-bearers of God.

I think the advice of this post can be summed up in the proverb “Fearful heart never won fair maiden”. You will miss 100% of the shots you never make. Sometimes you just have to step up and be brave. If the lady is worth it, it’s worth the risk, and I say this as a man who very recently “struck out”. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but I’m sure glad I took that chance.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? What do you think can be done on either side of the gender gap to lessen this issue?

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  • Excellent post! – great discussions are in order among the female population – otherwise known as girl-talk !

  • This post goes out to any other sister in Christ who might agree:

    Funny thought occurred to me… that which is already written in our hearts by God, is what we as women are naturally drawn to… are we not?

    God created man as the protector; “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” as the book Genesis tells us… equivalent to “form and protect” perhaps?

    Perhaps in more areas than one, men were divinely programmed to “form and protect” not only the garden in Eden, but also the garden of the woman’s heart, garden of their spiritual home, garden of the family – so how can a woman feel her gardens will be “formed and protected” when the man is too afraid to pick-up a rake and shovel!
    Hmmm…. Yes, let us pray for our brothers in Christ that they reclaim their divine calling to be the courageous men that God wrote on their hearts!
    Peace and Christ,

    • Catalina is right — you’ve got us all talking! 🙂

      I found this part of your post to be particularly thought-provoking:

      “Is it possible that, in response to the secular approach to manhood and dating, that a certain level of prudishness and passivity has crept into the Christian male psyche? Maybe it’s time we changed that and reclaimed an authentic vision of masculinity? Honestly, what guy would not want to be thought of as heroic and courageous?”

      Amen! 🙂

  • “Father, I am so afraid of the impossible desires of my heart, and am so tempted to settle for what is comfortable. Show me your Son, the answer to my heart, so that I may always have the courage to risk for what my heart is made for.” – (Prayer from Magnificat Lenten Companion )

  • Thought this Ignitum Today article is a good addition to your thoughts.

  • Wow, excellent article, David! Your “Closing thoughts ” makes it. Men: even when we get turned down, we should pat ourselves on the back for having the guts to ask. All the best out there, ladies and gentlemen!

  • Hey David, thanks for the shout-out! Great piece. The world could use some more courage and chance-taking from all Christian men and women, and it’s heartening to see you encouraging that. All best.

  • Ba-BOOM! David, this was an awesome post!

    I would add one more thing : a guy with a fear of rejection is going to be a wimp in a marriage, and a wimpy father. He’s not going to initiate “romance” (this is a euphemism…)enough in the marriage. He’s not going to be able to handle the malignant stares of a child whom he is disciplining. Think about it: if a guy’s too afraid to ask a girl out on a date, for fear of rejection, how’s he going to handle it when his fifteen year old daughter spews vitriol at him for not letting her pierce her belly button?

    On the other hand, Telfon-man might not make a good dad, as he might have conditioned himself to just not care, and might behave recklessly with the feelings of those close to him.

    The way you ended this post conveys the happy medium: yes, it hurts, but you had to take the chance, both because you cared about her and you’re not a wimp. It’ll hurt when your kid tries to melt you with his eyes on his way to time out, but you have to do what’s best, to the best of your knowledge, for everyone involved. If you outlive your spouse, you have to have the guts to keep going, despite wanting to crawl into the tomb with him. A guy who doesn’t have the guts to ask for a date probably doesn’t have the guts needed for what follows if the date is successful, i.e., creating a family and seeing it through to the end.

    Maybe guys who are terrified of asking women out should reconsider whether marriage is actually the vocation to which they’re called? Some may just need to find the courage, but others may be putting themselves through something they don’t really need to do? Just a thought.

    • Thanks Teresa, and thanks for giving your feedback! More open discussion is what’s needed here I think.

      > Maybe guys who are terrified of asking women out should reconsider whether marriage is actually the vocation to which they’re called?

      I understand your point, but I would say that if a guy is terrified of asking women out, he has separate issues aside from whether or not he’s called to marriage. Before pursing whatever vocation, he’s going to go have to fight some of his demons and kill some dragons before being able to make a gift of himself to a particular vocation.

      When I took nine months out to discern the priesthood I found to my surprise a significant overlap in the different vocations of life. Many of the same qualities which make a man a great husband and father are the same qualities which will make a man an excellent priest and spiritual father.

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  • I definitely identify with #1 – the concept of “masculinity” is compromised with the “nice guy” identity expected for Catholic Males. In other words, I get the impression that as a Catholic male trying to date Catholic females as a “nice guy.” The problem is that in the dating world “nice guys” often “finish last.” Statistically, most young adults date outside their religion – about 90%. This means that most Catholic females will generally prefer a Non-Catholic. The “bad boy” pattern of preference by Catholic females is very real. Take Katie Holmes – she married a Scientologist. Adriana Lima, the Brazilian Catholic, dated the Jewish Lenny Kravitz. Selena Gomez, the traditional Mexican-Italian Catholic has dated the “bad boy” Justin Bieber who is not Catholic. In my experience, many of the Catholic women who rejected me chose “bad boy” Non-Catholics. I have a 100% rejection rate among my attempts to date Catholic females. I truly am a “nice Catholic guy” from Notre Dame who ALWAYS finishes last. So what to do? Over the years I observed that some white Protestant women of the Deep South seem to have a heightened preference and attraction for me – a brown Catholic from Arizona. To these beautiful southern belles of the Protestant Bible Belt I am the “bad boy” symbol – a brown Catholic they are not supposed to date. So some of them will do it. I finally figured out how to avoid being perceived as a “nice guy” not to date – just date Non-Catholic women raised not to date Catholic guys – lol. Southern Belles are great. I actually have had a normal dating life because of the beautiful southern Protestant women of the Bible Belt. If I had a choice I’d rather make a dating attempt on one of the southern belles of U. of Alabama rather than my Alma Mater. I always got rejected at Notre Dame and in the years afterwards by beautiful Catholic women. So I prefer Protestant women now. Go figure.

    • Hey NotreDameAlum, welcome to Restless Pilgrim 🙂

      The point of #1 wasn’t so much the idea that “nice guys finish last”, but rather that Christianity in general, more often than not, presents to men a vision of manhood which is decidedly lacking. What I’m suggesting is that we can offer men a higher aspiration than simply “being nice”.

      Where did you get that statistic concerning dating someone of a different religion? I don’t doubt it, but I’m interested in your source. I’m not really sure that Catholic females prefer non-Catholics. Over the course of this series I point out more general problems with dating within a pre-existing social/religious group and I think this has an extremely powerful effect.

      Having dated non-Catholics, I can certainly attest that although it can be wonderful, it is not without its very distinct challenges. I’m not really sure that I’d want to date a girl whose primarily reason for dating me is because I fulfill some kind of “bad boy” persona. That’s probably a good thing because it’s kinda hard to pull off with a posh English accent 😉

      God bless,


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