When I wrote yesterday's post, I had no idea I would get comments from ex-religious. I certainly had no idea I would be asked for dating tips by an ex-religious!
I am certainly not an ex-religious myself, but I was once a divorcee (and annullee so let not the new readers have a heart attack), so I may have some helpful advice for ex-nuns raring to get married.
First, do not date for at least a year after leaving the convent. Do not attempt to meet new men for at least a year after leaving the convent.
Leaving the convent was traumatic, even if you desperately wanted to go. You are probably not in any fit mental state to make good decisions about men, dating, sexual expression or what have you.
Give yourself at least a year. Get a plant. Get a pet. Learn to have a close relationship with some other kind of froward living creature before attempting to have one with a man.
Second, do not think that "going on a date" is a normal thing that "everyone does." I went on dates from the ages of 14 to 37 (with a hiatus when I was married), and I am left with the sensation of years and years of job interviews disguised as trips to cafes, restaurants and cinemas.
Courtship--when a man makes friends with you, walks you home from places, ingratiates himself with your family and friends and makes excuses to be with you--is ancient and normal.
Dating came in with mass ownership of the automobile. There are many places where it does not at all exist, or no longer exists, e.g. urban high schools.
Although places like Catholic Match--and I have serious philosophical problems with Catholic internet dating--may give you the impression that meeting a complete stranger online to see if sparks may fly is the most obvious way to find a spouse, it is not. Most married couples met through friends, work or school.
Third, when your year is up and your spiritual director or your therapist is of the opinion that you can safely form relationships with new people now, take up such hobbies that truly interest you and meet people that way. Think in terms of shared interests and then in terms of "making friends."
Do not allow your primary orientation towards men be that of "potential future spouse." That way total irrationality lies. Your primary orientation towards men you meet socially should be that of "potential future female friend."
Fourth, a lasting, marriage-track romance is "friendship caught fire." (I think I stole that phrase from Ann Landers or Dear Abby.) Do not think that male strangers are going to respect you and feel affection towards you just because they have asked you out on a date.
For most men in the West--and I am thinking very carefully about this and I think I am justified in saying "most"--dating is not for marriage but to get sex. Marriage is for later, if the sex works out okay. These men will marry if they fall in love with the women they are having sex with, or always were in love with them.
Unless you are lucky enough to know only the minority of men who think of dating as a way to court a potential wife, you will certainly have to make an embarrassing speech to a date about not wanting to have sex before you are married. He will either respect that, pretend to respect that and eventually start pressuring you for sex, or reject you at once. Do not chase him. Do not try to "fix the friendship." If he dumps you instead of beginning the sex siege, thank God for His mercy.
Fifth, sexually spoiled, sexually jaded men are often on the lookout for new thrills, especially if they are legal. There are monsters who would take a particular delight in debauching an ex-nun and telling all their pals or taking photos and showing all their pals. This world you've decided to embrace is not very nice, and it can be absolutely horrid to the innocent.
Of course there are good men--including men who have no idea why they should not be having sex outside of marriage because no-one has ever explained this to them. The difficulty is that there are many, many bad men pretending that they are good men. It can be hard to tell without experience or a long acquaintance with a man which is which.
Therefore, an ex-nun--like most women--is much, much safer emotionally (at very least) if she confines her social life to friends, male and female, and the friends of friends.
Do not be in a rush. Make friends with men. Do not chase them. Consider carefully the motives of men who chase you. Be ready to cut off your hopes about a particular man if he is cold or nasty to you or makes indecent suggestions.
I hope this is helpful.