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. In the last  year before the plague (i.e. 2019) 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.



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

  1. I think the falling divorce rates suggest that young ones are doing an increasingly good job at recognizing how to build real, long lasting relationships. I think they are doing just fine on their own. I appreciate your interest in using your role as a community leader in helping those that could use some support.

    1. While falling divorce rates may be indicative of healthier marriages, I don’t think they’re necessarily indicative of people recognizing how to build relationships. One only needs to look at the dichotomy of cohabitating couples vs. married ones to see that something is amiss here.

      1. I think cohabitation is a tool that people have used to help learn more from their relationship last and build better marriages

        1. But it is sinful and fornicators do not inherit the Kingdom of God. Only path is repentance.

    2. As a “young one” myself, I can tell you that in my experience we are not doing just fine on our own. Most of my peers agree that the project to find a spouse is generally exhausting and depressing.

      1. I agree it can be Albert. I also think some parts always have been. It is hard to consider generational changes as they will likely work well for some people and not work for others. I hope things work out well for you.

    1. I think the answer is both. More people are cohabitating vs. marriage. Also, those who are getting married are more likely to stay married

  2. The Institution of Marriage is failing…at least in the wealthy First World. The “test run” has now replaced ” ‘Til death do us part ”

    Score 1 for Team Satan.

  3. I was very lonely as a teen and young adult. We didn’t socialize with the people at our parish. My mother was very much against me dating. She very much avoided the subject and stressed school and college.

    I think it would have been nice if my parents or relatives had taken an interest in me and tried to introduce me to someone they thought was nice. Or if my parish had events for young people. Life isn’t just school and work. It’s difficult finding someone.

  4. Thank you for this Msgr! I am a single Catholic woman who just turned 30. If you are not lucky enough to meet your spouse in college, it is difficult to “find” someone in the real world. A lot of people meet online these days, which is not inherently a bad thing if your intentions are pure. I definitely recommend Catholic Match. But, I agree that we need to bring back a culture of set-ups/pair-ups! It’s hard to be a single in the Church, especially as a woman. Sometimes, it seems like the “good” Catholic men either get married young or become priests, while those who remain are very weird/awkward. Women outnumber men in churches. I don’t want to put all the blame on men, but I there needs to be greater outreach to getting men in church and intentionally pursuing marriage. Some will blame “feminism,” but even most modern, working women want to be married by their 30s. Pray for us singles! It can be very disheartening. Thank you for acknowledging this struggle.

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