Dating with a Purpose: To Avoid 'Twisted Love'

Author: Mary Beth Bonacci


By Mary Beth Bonacci

In the last column I ended with the question, "What if you 'really love' someone and they 'pizza love' you back?" It's a logical one, especially to someone who knows what 'pizza love' is.

For those who don't, a brief recap is in order. We talked about how real love means honestly wanting what's best for another person, and being selfless enough to put that person's needs above your own desires. "Pizza love," on the other hand, is loving someone the way I love pizza.

I love to eat pizza when I'm in the mood for it, but once I get tired of it I don't care what happens to it. "Pizza love" is when you "love" someone for what that person can do for you, but you don't really care what happens to him or her as long as you get your way. "Pizza love" is using.

Picture a scenario where you really love someone. You're dating this person and you honestly want what's best for him or her. You care. You're willing to sacrifice your own needs and desires to get this person to a.) get off of drugs, or b.) stop holding up convenience stores, or c.) renounce atheism to become a rosary-reciting, Bible-reading Catholic, or d.) all of the above. All you want is what's best.

This person, on the other hand, doesn't seem particularly interested in what's best for you. In fact, he seems to share your interests in what's best for him. However, his ideas of what's best for him is not renouncing immorality, but rather getting stoned and picking up his beer and beef jerky at gunpoint.

"But," you say, "I love him. I know he treats me badly sometimes, and my grades are going down, and I cry a lot, and the FBI is investigating me as an accomplice, but I want what's best for him. I have to get him to stop. I can sacrifice all of this because I love him."


Now this is unfortunately a fairly common scenario among single people of all ages, and especially nice Catholic single people who seem to often have a "Savior Complex." We stay with people who treat us poorly and justify it by calling it "love."

This is "love" of a very lopsided and twisted nature, and there is no place for it in a dating relationship. Dating is about finding real love--that real honest-to-goodness, "I want what's best for you for the rest of our lives" kind of love. And if that love is one-sided, it doesn't work. It's very difficult to give yourself totally to someone when you know they're not looking out for what's best for you. Because if you're not and they're not then nobody is. And that's a problem.

Besides, often people in relationships like that need to examine their own motives. Are you really just trying to "do what's best"? Or is it more that you have a vacancy here in the "girlfriend slot" or the "boyfriend slot" and you figure if you can make this person over into the image and likeness of your perfect mate you can have what you want? That's not really love--it's a very subtle form of using.

This kind of twisted "love" is present in a lot of different kinds of relationships. Why do I stress dating? Because dating is about finding a spouse--a spouse who loves you and whose life you can join to yours. Once you're married and you've signed on the dotted line the rules change. You're committed. You're sacramentally united. You can't just cut out because you finally get tired of someone who doesn't care about you. There's something larger present--a marriage, a family.

And probably most importantly, children become involved. Someone who can't love you won't suddenly become a loving parent. Parenting is really hard--a total renunciation of time, money and energy to this small bundle. You need someone who can handle it, and loving you right is the first test.

I wanted to write about this problem immediately after the love column because it's such a widespread problem and so many single people of all ages suffer because of it. I don't want my definition of love to add to the problem.

So remember, it's okay to try to get someone off of drugs, or stop holding up convenience stores. But don't date that kind of person, and don't put up with being treated poorly. You're supposed to love others because they're all created in the image and likeness of God. But remember that you're created in that image, too. People can't be forced to respect that. But that doesn't mean you have to date them. And you certainly wouldn't want to marry one.

Hold out for someone who loves you for real.

Bonacci is a frequent lecturer on chastity.

This article appeared in the June 16, 1995 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."

Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.