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We walked to a table and the conversation quickly turned to our jobs. He paused with glass in hand and said, “Oh, you’re religious.” I nodded. Yet in a strange way the encounter exemplifies some key elements of the dating scene facing young adults today: We’re trying to be open, to build relationships, to find someone who shares a worldview that reflects similar morals, perspectives, ethics, a desire for growth and, well, other stuff.

And we are still working out the details of how best to make that happen.

“It’s hard to express skepticism about that without sounding overly negative, because I’d like to get married, but it’s not a guarantee.” She says that when she’s able to ignore her friends’ Facebook status updates about relationships, marriages, and children, she recognizes the fullness of her life, as is, and tries not to worry too much about the future. “Just being open to people and experiences and meeting friends of friends makes sense to me.” As young adults move further from their college days, the natural social circles within which they may meet new people become less obvious.

Many seek out young adult events sponsored by Catholic groups, parishes, or dioceses in an effort to broaden their circle of friends.

And while many acknowledge that such venues might improve their chances of meeting a like-minded mate, most also say they’re not arriving with a game plan for spotting a spouse.

“In a way, I am always looking,” says Rebecca Kania, 28.

According to a 2011 Pew Research Center study, 59 percent of people ages 18 to 29 were married in 1960. While it seems that there are more ways than ever to find a spouse—online dating and social media alongside the more traditional methods of parish events or friends of friends, among others—this array of options can also be overwhelming.

Today she is as a social worker who assists chronically homeless adults and says she is looking for someone with whom she can discuss her work and her spirituality.

, I found myself responding to his brief message in my inbox.

My response was part of my effort to be open, to make new connections, and maybe be pleasantly surprised.

And Catholics who consider themselves loosely affiliated with the church are more open to dating outside the faith than young adults were 30 years ago.

Yet young people of all stripes express frustration with the uncertainty of today’s dating culture.

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