Dating Do’s and Don’ts

Single Rev's Guide to Life
This month, the Single Rev’s Guide to Life goes to the lighter side with a brief list of survival guidelines the rocky territory of dating in the church.  Enjoy – and feel free to add your own tried and true rules in the comments!

1.  Never date a parishioner. 

2.  Don’t let the little old ladies in the parish set you up with their niece/nephew/grandchild/any sort of relative.  Bad. 

3.  As an ordained person, breaking up can be disastrous; you’re a public figure, and people can be mean and vindictive in break-ups.  So, treat others with dignity and respect, and be honest and transparent during the break up process, should it occur.  You don’t need the drama of a bad break up, and neither does your congregation. 

4.  Be cautious about bringing your new person to church.  Wait until after you’ve established a foundation, and you’re ready for your congregation to latch on to him/her.

5.  Never, never date a parishioner.

6.  If you use online dating services, such as eHarmony, prepare to be recognized.  Seriously, it happens.

7.  Always be honest about what you do.  Being a priest or minister is something that you’ve worked hard for.  Don’t compromise your beliefs, identity, or integrity just because they might be uncomfortable.  If they love you, they’ll love who you are.

8.  Don’t be afraid.  Establish friendships and make connections.  From there you’ll find happiness with or without a partner.

9. You can be bold and use your significant other to help you out of a situation (sometimes even if you don’t actually have one). For example, if someone says something inappropriate about your appearance or about wanting to set you up, it is fine to say, “My boy/girlfriend would not appreciate hearing you say that.”

10. Never, never, never date a parishioner.

11 replies
  1. Sarah K.
    Sarah K. says:

    These are both hysterical and wise–thank you for sharing them!
    So, um, how do you feel about dating parishioners?

  2. Erica
    Erica says:

    Some of these work for not-single people, too. “Never date a parishoner” becomes patently obvious, but I use # 9 all the time. As in: “I can’t meet that evening; my husband says I’ve been out too many nights this week.” The only downside is that I’m starting to wonder if some folks in the congregation think he’s borderline abusive and controlling of my schedule.

  3. Susan
    Susan says:

    I’ll admit it. I hate number 9. I hate the idea of using others (often a man) to deflect inappropriate comments or establish boundaries. If a comment is inappropriate, it’s appropriate whether or not you’re dating someone or married. If a request is too much, it’s too much. I feel like the “my husband, boyfriend, SO” comments imply that if you were unattached the comment or commitment would be okay. Which, if you’re the unattached person in the crowd, sort of stinks.
    Sorry to be a Debbie Downer.

  4. Elizabeth T.
    Elizabeth T. says:

    Erica, I hear you! I prefer to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t teach this week too, I have spent too many nights out and it’s not fair to my husband. ”
    As a single clergy girl, I used to schedule in gym classes (like Yoga, Spinning…) and those were my excuse. “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t come in, I have an appointment” or “I’m sorry, I’m meeting a few people and they are saving my seat!” I never told them what the real reason was.
    That also goes for dating- my first parish NEVER met my now-husband. The Rector was TOO unhealthy, so I would only say, “I’m sorry, I can’t have a meeting at 630 on Friday night. I have another obligation”.
    Sometimes, transparency is dangerous, if you are in a dicey situation.
    And AAA-men to #2. In my first parish, #2 was an old man who tried to set me up with his divorced friends. All these 50 year old men with combovers coming to church and chatting up this 25 year old sweetyoungthing at coffee hour.

  5. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    I’m with you, Susan, mostly because I feel like we ought to be able to own the fact that WE don’t appreciate it when inappropriate comments are made. It’s offensive even if I don’t have a man to be offended on my behalf.
    Same sort of ownership goes for being able to say no to requests for our time, in my opinion. “I have another commitment” works, even if your commitment is one you made to yourself to stay home and chill out in your PJs all day.

  6. teri
    teri says:

    I agree with those of you who don’t like 9–I don’t either. And I always hated it when my colleague would say “I have kid responsibilities” as his excuse to not have meetings–it was totally true and valid, but definitely made me feel like I didn’t have an excuse. I know he didn’t mean that, but it was my feeling nonetheless. I don’t even say “I have another commitment”–I just say “I can’t meet then–but you’re free to!” I work WAY more than I should anyway, usually with 5 nights a week–which I can do “because you’re single”…umm, no.
    I obviously need to practice saying no a little more often! soon my cats are going to wonder who that intruder is…

  7. Leah H.
    Leah H. says:

    I agree with most of these, and try to follow them. However, regarding #2, I resisted meeting the “nice grandson” for five months. We both finally gave in to grandma member and met last year, and we are getting married in October.
    It’s a fine balance between keeping your personal and professional life separated, and also realizing that the congregation wants to (and needs to)know that you are human. Hopefully, they will want to see you in healthy relationship with others, single or not.

  8. Alissa
    Alissa says:

    #5 is SO true. All kinds of people join online dating sites. It’s so easy to sign up! Chances are, someone from your parish will come across your profile. Thanks for the fun tips!
    alt com

  9. Alt Com
    Alt Com says:

    These dating dos and don’ts apply to any relationship regardless of the status of the people involved. Whether it be parishioners or someone you’ve met through Alt Com, Friend Finder, etc., always treat people with respect. Converse with them courteously.


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