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  • Mary Shivanandan

Dating and Friendship



Nowadays, it seems young people do not know how to date. Thus, we hear of special courses on college campuses specifically geared to dating, with practice sessions as homework. The problem seems to be that sex is often expected by the third date and the power of the sexual experience can obliterate any misgivings or misfits between the couple. In Christian sacramental marriage, sexual intercourse is expected to take place only after the couple have solemnly committed their bodies to each other for life. Outside marriage, even during the engagement period, the couple are called to abstain from sex. This makes them freer to discuss many topics related to their interests, their families of origin and their future.


My husband’s Sri Lankan culture still favors arranged marriages, in which the bride may see the bridegroom for the first time at the wedding ceremony. Loving parents usually choose a spouse from their own community. In the Middle Ages the Church ensured that brides would not be pawns of parents, who wanted the marriage to increase their social or economic circumstances. In fact, as related in my book, The Holy Family Model Not Exception, the marriage of Mary and Joseph was a key factor in establishing the priority of consent. (In Kerala, India, the Church still endorses arranged marriages but each party must freely consent)



While parents may choose wisely for their sons and daughters, selecting someone from their own community, in contemporary society, the couple themselves are called to determine their compatibility. This calls for the ability to distinguish the kinds and levels of relationship, a skill most young people apparently have not been taught. Here I would like to draw attention to a series of books for grade-schoolers called The Body Matters by TOBET Press, which seeks to inculcate John Paul II’s theology of the body to young people. (For information on TOBET, see our partner sites) The particular book I shall discuss is called The Body and Friendship.

“Friendship . . . consists in a full commitment of the will to another person with a view to that person’s good.”

The book begins with a discussion of the gift of friendship, distinguishing between seeing someone as a second self (which belongs above all in marriage) and other levels of friendship. These levels include practical, fun and lastly virtuous. Practical friendships, for example, comprise those at the grocery store. Fun friendships include those made in sports and other activities the kids like to do together. For virtuous friendships, the author cites Love and Responsibility by John Paul II/Karol Wojtyla: “Friendship . . . consists in a full commitment of the will to another person with a view to that person’s good.” This is what is involved in a betrothed relationship and all worthwhile intimate friendships.




The chapter on “The Body and Friendship” shows physical presence is important in friendship and not just in the commitment of the body in sexual intercourse. Social media, while promising intimacy, in fact, keep the parties at a distance. Some form of physical presence is essential. Another chapter discusses how friendship are to be cultivated. Friends help and care for each other. Good friends lead to virtue, while friends of bad character can lead one astray. There is much else of value in the book, including our friendship with Jesus through prayer and his bodily presence in the Eucharist.


Although this book is for grade-schoolers, it offers excellent information for adults and could be especially helpful for young adults navigating the challenging dating scene in our culture. (For those interested, visit the link: https://tobet.org/product-category/bodymattersbooks/)


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