On the Lost Art of “Pairing ‘em up” and Its Effects on Marriage Today

One of the more common concerns that young adults express to me is the difficulty in meeting and dating. Once adulthood is reached, of course, the purpose of dating is to look for a spouse. Hence, their problem is a problem for all of us because marriage and family are central to the life of the Church as well as the foundation of our culture and nation.

When I was a young priest, more than thirty years ago, I had numerous weddings to celebrate, and most of the couples were in their early twenties. Today, I have far fewer weddings, and the average age seems to be early thirties. In 1990 there 326,079 weddings in Catholic parishes. Last year there were 137,885, a 58% drop.

While there are many practical reasons for the delay of marriage (college debt, longer time spent in college, the rise of the virtual world, etc.) we must consider that we who are older aren’t doing much to help them to “pair up.”

In the video below, an older couple notices that a young man and woman live next to each other but are seemingly lost in their own worlds. Through a series of mysterious mailings, they get them to meet. The old expression calls this “pairing them up.”

Adults used to take a more active role in getting their children to meet potential spouses. My parents’ families knew each other before my parents married and had helped make the introduction. In our parish, we often sponsored dances and other youth and young adult activities. Far fewer colleges were co-ed in those days, and so the faculty was much more intentional about sponsoring activities between the women’s and men’s colleges.  Frankly, there was an expectation that young people should get married soon after high school or college was completed. It was “time to settle down.”

Every now and then, as a priest, I try to make introductions between young adults. At other times I try to coach them into introducing themselves. I also advise many of them to work through other friends to meet someone. I tell them that when I was young I remember asking a friend if he thought his sister might go to the junior prom with me. He laid the groundwork, found out that she had some interest, and set up the occasion for me to ask her. I met my college sweetheart when a friend told me, “She likes you and wants you to ask her out!” I was surprised because she was so pretty; I would never have had the nerve to ask her out on my own. I gladly took the hint and asked her that very evening.

At any rate, we older folks need to do a better job of pairing ‘em up. Elders, families, Church leaders, friends—they all have a role to play; we used to do it more frequently. See if this video gives you any ideas.



8 Replies to “On the Lost Art of “Pairing ‘em up” and Its Effects on Marriage Today”

  1. The problem is Monsignor that at most Catholic parishes if a young man is noticed who is not married and is seen at church more than once a month everyone gangs up to try to make him a priest.

  2. Msgr, your insights are keen; but one element we do not seem to consider is the contraception/sterilization/abortion effect. Often I have noticed young marriage age persons that I know seem to be drifting. Within prayful reflection an intuitive insight tells me that God’s first choice for them (or even second/third) may not have been permitted to be born, as well as the other factors mentioned.

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful piece, Msgr. Pope. But please fix the typo in the heading — we want marriage, not murder!

  4. Monsignor Pope, First, thank you for being a faithful priest and for the many posts I’ve read of yours. Second, I heartily support your recommendations in this post. I was 34 when I read an article suggesting that single people should meet by “referrals.” At the time, I was a practicing lawyer. I would wake up early, go to work, work late, go to the club for an hour, and then return home. Even at mass and at the gym, the opportunities to meet a suitable woman were slim and awkward. It is better to marry younger if you can meet the person God has for you. When I read the article (similar to yours) about “referrals”, it lit a fire under me. All of my best clients came from referrals. Of course, I thought, why wouldn’t I be able to meet a Catholic woman that way?! People who care about you introduce you, both in work and in friendship, to other great people. So I started to ask several friends if they could “refer” me to meet women who they thought would be good matches. They were happy to “set me up.” Within 6 months, I met 5 high character, faith-filled women who I was grateful to meet. And, yes, they were attractive women. One of them is my wife today. The wisdom and care of others “set us up” with a great match. Today, after 18 years of marriage, we have 10 children – 4 in heaven. Your article is timely and true. Thanks for your perceptive guidance and for being a beacon of light.

  5. What a loaaaad of rubbish! Women have embraced feminism whether they admit it or not. Precisely, what do women bring to a relationship these days? They pursue men’s goals and disdain child rearing and domestic skills as demeaning. Further, any woman with normal personality and body proportions has PLENTY of interest from guys. Deluded, they overrate their SMV and dismiss most guys in pursuit of the 9-10 rank guys. Unless a women is HIGHLY virtuous, she will give sex away to any ol’ male. Then what is she worth? Pareto principle: 80% of women chase top 10%-20% of men. No man wants to pay full price commitment for used goods.

  6. Father, your last writings on this topic were in 2014-15. Please continue to write about it now.

    And please do not limit your attention to “young adults”. We are now about two generations into the collapse of parish social life and its obvious consequence, the steep decline in Catholic marriages. Your parish has single adults in their 30s, 40s, even 50s who might like a gentle nudging toward other singles.

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