Ask Margot-My Sweetie’s In The Seminary!

She has strong feelings for a man who's studying to be a priest. Should she pursue him—or back off?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
About three months ago, I got out of an extremely bad relationship with a man who cheated on me. I thought that I was going to stay single for a long time because I knew that I would have a hard time trusting again, yet that's not how things worked
This situation is high-stakes and stressful.
out. I became friends with a sweet and intelligent man shortly after the breakup, and the more time we spent together, the more we both realized that we were meant to be together. I had never before experienced love at first sight, but that's exactly what happened between the two of us. We have talked about dating, but there is a problem: He is in the seminary studying to be a priest. I don't want to lose him, but we both have strong feelings about each other and can't go back to just "being friends" now that we know how the other feels. How do I deal with this? He is going to graduate this year and either become a priest or give up his chosen career path to be my boyfriend. I feel selfish but also obsessed. Please help!
– Obsessed and Confused

Dear O&C,
I can't imagine how upsetting this must be. This situation is high-stakes and stressful, and I'm sorry you're having to go through it. But since you're still just thinking about dating, I wonder if you're not jumping the gun. Still, you asked, so I'll answer.

Beware the rebound
Based on your letter, I think you're in a classic rebound. Whenever we get out of any relationship — and particularly a bad one — we fall into the next set of seemingly suitable arms. This happens regardless of any oaths we've made to the contrary. We're scared and lonely, and anyone who makes us feel better can easily become The One.

Sadly, rebound relationships rarely last. That's usually because we're not ready to be truly, openly involved. We're still grieving, healing. We're still sad, bitter, angry. And we're feeling insecure or overly confident. None of this is fertile ground for a growing, lasting relationship. But it sure does feel like it at first. Then, we either realize the new person doesn't meet our new needs or our Knight in Shining Armor tires of being our everything. Either way, we break up.

This is painful enough under normal circumstances. But you can imagine the consequences if this happens in your circumstances.

Whose decision is this anyway?
The hard truth here is that the decision to begin dating is actually his, not yours. That's because dating will take him off a spiritual path that isn't chosen lightly. Neither is the decision to leave it. He must be feeling
This happens regardless of any oaths we've made to the contrary.
even more confused and torn than you are.

So how do you deal with it? You give him the space he needs to make the decision of a lifetime. You don't pressure him. You don't woo him. You don't try to persuade him. Give him some room to make what will be a very difficult choice without having his judgment and true feelings compromised.

Don't believe me? Listen to the Bishop. "Your love must be mature enough to allow him the decision that will have lifelong ramifications," counsels Bishop Noel Jones of the City of Refuge ministry in Gardena, CA. "Particularly because his is not just a career based on monetary gains, but a plethora of interior concerns and faith. His is a career of his personal convictions." So take a break. You can both use the time to think about some very important things.

Focus on your motives
Here are the questions you should try to answer during this time:
  1. Are you sure you're not rushing into this so you don't have to be alone any longer? Why?
  2. How do you know this is "love at first sight" and not a classic rebound relationship (which it looks like to me)?
  3. Why do you think the first man you fell for is someone who's not exactly available to you?
  4. Are you prepared to be partially responsible for his leaving his calling — even if it doesn't work out?
  5. Do you think it's wise to ask someone to make a life-changing decision based on your obsession with him?
Help him sort through his feelings
While you're pondering all that, Bishop Jones, author of God's Gonna Make You Laugh, suggests your friend consider these questions, which you could suggest to him before you take your break:
  1. How important is your conviction and your calling to you?
  2. Is this a test of the power of your conviction?
  3. What is your history with love and do you trust yourself well enough to know what love is?
  4. Do you trust that you will feel good about yourself and her if it does not work out after you abort your calling?
  5. Can you serve God as well in another way with or without her?
I can't stress enough that it's imperative that each of you thinks long and hard about your futures before taking further action. Please proceed carefully and make sure you're doing the right thing — for both of you. This is a big decision — and one that each of you wants to make with as much certainty as you can... and a minimum of regret.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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