I didn’t expect . . .

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Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!”


We made it to ten months! Ten months since he asked me to court him!!! Courtship flies when you blog about it constantly . . .

Also, as of this post, I think I’ve finally exhausted our (rather large) resource of six-month courting milestone pictures, so we’re really going to need to take a new batch of couple pictures over the next month or two. (Yay!!!) I can hear The Dash now . . . When it’s not so hot. And I can only agree (it’s bad) . . . still, I’m itching to drive out to some prime local location and let my brother take new pictures of us. Our six-month photos are precious, but they were a long time ago and reflect a stage of our courtship that we’ve moved past as we’ve matured, been challenged and continued growing together.

But anyway. Back to the present moment ❤

Ten months . . . that’s over three hundred days . . . and that’s a long time! Needless to say, I’m even more head over heels with this amazing, amazing man than I was to begin with. (Did I mention that he was amazing?)

Ten months has been an ample amount of time to discover how much I know him, and how much I still don’t. Because a person is always going to be sacred, always a mystery . . . always going to be God’s in a way they can never be mine.

With that in mind, I’ve spent ten months now of being slowly introduced, by God, to The Dash on a daily basis, so often being allowed to go deeper into his heart than I did before. It’s been such a privilege. And through God’s gift, The Dash has had the same privilege (ahem) of coming to know my colorful and messy heart, and so many of my quirks and inclinations and deepest thoughts.

I write a lot here about the fundamentals of courtship. Because yes, courtship is about rationality and discernment, self-control and direction (dancing, and chocolate truffle ice cream . . . I digress).

But above that irreplaceable foundation flowers other things. The “chemistry” as some people call it. But really, it’s the chaste sweetness of close friendship and, yes, romantic love. The affection, excitement, sheer happiness, and peace you are given in their presence, as well as the naturally growing desire for marriage. Those intangibles become (permit me an amateur’s metaphor) a thriving ivy that flowers around the indomitable castle of faith and reason in courtship.

You see, courtship is the prologue and early chapters of initiating a beautiful unity of heart and mind with another person, rooted in Truth: a unity that will, God-willing, last for life (and eternity, because everyone in Heaven is totally unified in mind and heart! Won’t that be sublime?!).

But even so, it’s unity with an adopted son or daughter of God, who ultimately belongs to Him and is destined to adore Him forever with all his/her body, mind and soul. This beautiful unity (in Truth) that comes through courtship, and eventually betrothal and marriage, is simply a means to an even more beautiful end: the Beatific Vision . . . union with God. It’s such a gift.

In thinking over these past ten months of courtship with The Dash, it struck me that it would be a lot of fun to write about ten things I didn’t expect about courtship. (I like it when I can make significant numbers align.) However, each one became so long and rather multi-faceted that I felt six would do.

I assure you, ten months of being in a wonderful relationship is ample time for a girl to encounter things she didn’t anticipate. More than six, actually, but this post can’t go on forever . . .

I didn’t expect . . .

1. God uses our courtship to draw my heart to Him

The other day, I was reading an interesting quote from an article (unfortunately, I can’t remember the source . . .), stating how marriage isn’t difficult, per se: rather, life is difficult, and marriage (because of its obligations and responsibilities) simply limits where you can run to when things get hard.

Courtship is somewhat similar. It forges an intensely specific perspective within you, especially when you go through hard times, because you’re already in the stages of growing in unity of mind and heart with another person. The emotional stakes of your heart are simply far bigger when you love someone else in that way. It’s how Our Lord made things to be. And, ultimately, He uses that as a tool to bring you closer to Him.

In courtship, you begin suffering together. Occasionally sufferings arise that wouldn’t arise at all if you weren’t courting, because you encounter and care for the other person’s difficulties and sorrows as well as your own. But that’s a part of life. Embracing suffering is part of the Catholic life, and is part of Catholic courtship, too.

As a matter of fact, when you desire to do something amazing, such as 1) have a pure pre-marital relationship 2) intellectually, spiritually, emotionally & materially prepare to begin a holy family, and 3) one day to live in chastity and charity as a married couple for God’s glory while raising children to be saints . . . it’s very likely you’re going to fall under attack, even during courtship, and/or Our Lord is going to send you suffering to refine and strengthen your love for Him and your readiness for marriage. Even during courtship. Especially during courtship! You will be challenged as an individual and as a couple to put God first and to cling to Him during confusion, worry or pain.

Only, I didn’t expect this to manifest itself so clearly during our courtship, with the result of me being forced to rely on Our Lord in ways I hadn’t before. Because it’s all about Him.

The ten months I’ve spent in our courtship have experienced stretches of intense growth, pain, fear, and necessity for sacrifice unlike any other time in my life. I didn’t expect that. Of course, the patches of pain have been far outweighed by joyful times and happy, loving moments.

But the suffering has helped me the most, because (in spite of my weakness and spiritual complaining), it has thrust me (and, collectively, The Dash and I) back onto God, back onto prayer, and back onto the reason of our courtship: God’s glory.

2. “Being myself” in courtship still sometimes means being awkward

I liked The Dash from the very beginning. I fell in love with him early on. By the time he asked me to court him, I was more than ready to say yes, and yet I had all the natural shyness and butterflies that came from being attracted to a wonderful man and friend who I, nevertheless, had so much left to learn about. Not to mention figuring out how to help him get to know me.

Ten months in, and it’s hard to recognize the nervous, bashful girl who started courting The Dash. Most of the time, that is.

But . . . building a relationship takes time, work, and patience. It occurs gradually and gently over a long span of time. When I compare the (still relative) newness of The Dash and I’s love for one another with the seasoned love of, say, my parents–the closeness doesn’t compare. And The Dash and I are close. So often we are natural and ourselves with one another . . . but even seeking to be completely and always “ourselves” around one another (in the normal, healthy sense of the term, like giving our honest opinions and not being a little awkward from time to time) is still a learning curve that will continue even after we’re first married!

So for now, in our courtship, there are still times when I get awkward, don’t know what to say, don’t know what to do with my hands, or just giggle bashfully. I didn’t expect that, ten months in. You marry your best friend (or so the saying goes), and I know that will certainly be the case for me. The Dash is already my best friend. But at the same time, I know The Dash and I have so much room to become far better friends than we are now. There is a richness, knowing-ness, and peace that we are still waiting and working to attain, and that, honestly, we’ll be cultivating for the rest of our lives.

And that’s entirely fine with me.

3. Routine is a deeply integral part of our courtship

Routine! A beautiful and necessary aspect of an ordered life in general, I really didn’t expect how much routines would factor into the healthiness and growth of our relationship.

Most specifically, our normal routines are: attending Mass every Sunday together; attending Adoration usually once a month together; talking on the phone every day; praying specific daily prayers together; seeing one another one or more times a week; setting aside time for at least one in-depth talk per month; making a point to acknowledge and celebrate each new month of courtship . . . these are the prime examples of the routine The Dash and I have built our courtship around.

Yes, spontaneity is beautiful, too (and we have definitely had our share of fun, spontaneous moments!). But routine becomes the skeleton around which you can contribute to the order of your courtship. And sometime, spontaneity gives birth to a new routine, like when The Dash, on a whim, invited Lena and I over to his apartment for lunch after First Saturday Mass and choir practice a few months ago. That quickly became a tradition ❤

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4. My biggest struggle has been patience

No, my biggest struggle hasn’t been waiting to do things like holding hands (although that’s hard sometimes, too…). It hasn’t even been learning how to communicate well (although that was and is a huge learning curve!).

Rather, it’s been patience, and humbly surrendering to God’s timeline for our courtship.

The intentionality of courtship, in its traditional sense, means that it’s going to be a relatively streamlined relationship that won’t last long as a courtship, either way. Because, after all, it isn’t appropriate to simply linger in a romantic relationship that either 1) isn’t right, or 2) has all the earmarks of a potential successful marriage, but without pressing forward to betrothal and marriage, if you don’t have a valid reason for waiting.

However, at the same time, I’ve learned that courtship isn’t a race to see how little time you can spend discerning marriage and preparing for betrothal, either. It’s important to have a workable timeline for your courtship (“by around this {reasonable} time, we should plan to decide if we think we’re ready to get betrothed, if we need more time, or if this isn’t working”).

The Dash and I set such a timeline from the beginning, and it gave us the purpose and sense of direction we knew was important. But at one point, Our Lord saw fit to show us we needed to extend our original timeline for our courtship. And so, I learned it’s important to have a healthy and humble attitude of surrender to God’s Will as to when you’ll actually move forward to betrothal–especially if you’re of the naturally impatient type. (I believe sanguines are numbered among these. Ahem.)

When confronted with the need to extend our timeline, I quickly realized how interiorly possessive I’d become over what I thought would be the “end times” of our courtship. But when I was reminded that The Dash and I’s courtship was God’s possession, not mine, then things grew spiritually clearer.

However, I will note that, for a woman, patience is very difficult (really, nearly impossible) if you don’t have clear and consistent communication about your timeline and where you both are in regards to it. Especially as a female, I think it’s far easier sometimes to be patient about a “known” than an “unknown.”

5. Expecting him to always make me happy equates to turning him into an object

Now, there hasn’t been a decisive “learning moment” for me in relation to this, but rather, there have been numerous small realizations of this truth along the way. I didn’t necessarily expect to have to learn this.

But while you should rightly expect emotional health out of your relationship, and a caring reciprocity of love and selflessness between one another, that still doesn’t mean you should look to the other person to always make you happy and at peace. The Dash, as miraculous a creation as he is, can’t make me happy and at peace all the time.

He wasn’t made to do that. Only God can do that.

I have seen how I have needs The Dash can satisfy, and needs that God alone can satisfy. I must approach The Dash with selflessness. Now, this doesn’t mean that I refrain from being honest about if I’m feeling upset, blue, sick, or what have you, and accepting his compassion . . . quite the opposite!

Rather, this means that I resolve to be honest with him about my needs, accepting of his love and help, but always turned towards God to reach the places only He can penetrate within me.

It’s a real womanly temptation to expect a man to know how she’s feeling and to feel resentful if he doesn’t pick on things. Now, if he’s the right man for her, he’s often intuitive and can pick up on the fact that something’s not right (The Dash is great at this, by the way). But this doesn’t always happen. Or it does, and perhaps he doesn’t know the best way to probe deeper. For my part, I’ve learned that if I interiorly expect The Dash to know how I feel, but avoid telling him, it always tempts me towards resentment that he doesn’t know how I’m feeling and, therefore, isn’t helping me. (Nonsensical Award, anyone?) While I’ve never done this consciously, I have noticed it as a recurring female tendency I have to combat.

This kind of irrational, instinctive expectation on my part demands that The Dash be a “Make-Me-Happy-At-All-Times” object . . . but even more deceptively, it also demands that he somehow be omniscient. Hmm, that sounds like God, doesn’t it?

It’s irrational but very real, and it can become a vice if I’m not careful. However, if I commit to communicate to The Dash whenever I’m not feeling right, and receive whatever love and help he can give, that opens my heart to loving him selflessly and valuing his compassion as a treasure: because I’m no longer expecting him to be God.

6. Maintaining our physical boundaries is both easy and hard

It sounds contradictory, I know . . . but I really didn’t expect how easy it would be to maintain our physical boundaries . . . and I didn’t expect how hard it would be, either!

I’ve mentioned our guidelines for physical boundaries here and here, but suffice it to say that any exclusive physical expressions of affection shouldn’t be a part of Catholic courtship (for surprisingly coherent moral reasons listed in those aforementioned posts). The Dash and I have brief hi/bye/thank-you hugs like we would with family members. But as long as our courtship lasts, we’ll refrain from anything else.

I didn’t expect how easy it would be, but I attribute this to several things:

1. Courting a virtuous man who is loving but self-controlled. I have to brag on The Dash here. There is a deep, mutual agreement between the two of us as to these boundaries; I’ve never been in doubt for a moment that The Dash is leading us both in these commitments, simply because of how he conducts himself. The security and peace that comes from that is beyond words. He’s amazing!

2. Regular prayer and special consecrations, as a couple, to Our Lady and St. Joseph. We pray every day to Our Lady to “keep our courtship pure and chaste.”

3. We both belong to the Angelic Warfare Confraternity and without a doubt receive huge graces from it.

4. We maintain the use of chaperones, and we keep to our commitment of not being completely alone together for more than brief, unavoidable moments of time (like Chaperone has to go to the bathroom when it’s just the three of us . . .) — although, again, this doesn’t preclude private conversations.

And on the opposite side of the coin . . . well, it’s still hard. Concupiscence means you have to keep custody of your thoughts and desires whether you’re in a relationship or not. When you are in a relationship, the responsibility to take care is doubled (at least)! And I couldn’t have expected how hard it is, sometimes, to abide by our boundaries, because of the natural affection that’s there. You want to express your love for the other person physically; and one day, in God’s good time, you’ll be able to. In the meantime, the waiting is beautiful, because sacrificing for something good is beautiful.

Anyway . . . I think that’s enough of my rambling for one post. (My wordcount informs me that I’m at nearly 3000 words. Yikes.) But it’s not every day that you get to celebrate ten months of courtship with your best friend, so I think that warrants something . . . well . . . rambling 😉 I have the feeling I delivered!

In reflecting on all the beautiful and unexpected things that happened to bring The Dash and I together into our courtship (which I do quite a lot), I think my favorite quote from Pride and Prejudice sums up my side of it quite eloquently. Although The Dash is my Mr. Darcy (though he never seemed pompous and he did dance with me at our first meeting) . . . Mr. Darcy’s words are my words.

Elizabeth’s spirits soon rising to playfulness again, she wanted Mr. Darcy to account for his having ever fallen in love with her.

“I cannot fix on the hour,” he said, “or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”

-Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

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God bless, and a very happy feast of the Seven Holy Brothers, Martyrs!


Eight Thoughts (after eight months, naturally)


Above: I got inspired to put together an image for the Holy Names and pin it to the top of my posts from now on! The lovely floral wreath kindly came from http://www.karenswhimsy.com/public_domain_images

Wow, I hate to have been gone for so long! Right now, life is hopping . . . but today, a post must happen because it’s The Dash and I’s eight-month courting milestone! And, needless to say, one doesn’t have to twist my arm very much in order to coerce a courtship post out of me . . .

8monthsLately I’ve been thinking back to the kind of person I was, shortly before I met The Dash . . . the events that led up to our meeting one another for the first time . . . it’s mesmerizing how things can change–most especially, how I can change, particularly in my perspective! God has been so merciful and good to help me grow throughout this courtship.

With all this having been said, I thought it would be fun to put together a post describing eight lessons I’ve learned in these last 240-ish days/ 5,760 hours of courting the wonderful, amazing Dash. And then I’ll get back to working on the things I need to be doing 😉

1. God knows who you really need

Exactly this time last year, I was on my knees before St. Raphael every day, begging for him to guide my future husband into my life and to inspire him to deliberately pursue me. (Be careful what you pray for . . .)

In the realm of relationships, I had been spending several years knowing what I wanted . . . and then realizing it wasn’t what God wanted for me and that it wasn’t bringing me peace, or was even subtly damaging myself and others. This process repeated itself multiple times, and in various situations.

I desperately wanted to do things right: to meet the right person, and to go about a future relationship the right way. I wrote multiple journal entries, made lists of traits and temperaments, and had long conversations with my parents and siblings. Many of those listed traits were and are indispensable: mature, hardworking, devout, reliable, respectful, pure.

But apart from these, I also became ridiculously convinced that I was best compatible with certain temperament types, and equally convinced that I could never be as genuinely myself (in the way that’s necessary for courtship) around others of a different kind. I found a face-value security in this determination and embedded myself in this mindset for months.

And then . . . I met The Dash.

He was amazing. During the first full day we spent with him and his family, I was increasingly attracted to his admirable traits (all the ones listed above, and more!). And yet . . . he was an entirely different temperament than what I was convinced I needed in order to be complemented and to be myself.

How was it that my hair was a horrible mess from swimming and air-drying; how was it that my makeup was mostly washed off, and yet none of these things bothered me? I liked him, I wanted to talk to him, and he had a maturity and intentness that guided our conversations and made me feel both engaged and respected.

As time went on, and my admiration grew, I was naturally a little shy and nervous around him–but also, I was myself. I was able to talk easily, and it eventually grew to flat-out rambling (Heaven help him). We started courting, and we grew increasingly more adept at laughing and teasing and conversing and understanding one another. I know it’s a journey we’ll always be on, but it started out on such a solid foundation, the beauty of it was undeniable to me.

So, Lesson #1: I learned how to be surprised by God. I learned He knows who I need. And I am so incredibly grateful for the way He chose to show me this!

2. Courtship takes time

You know . . . it really does.

Of course, it’s so important to have a plan for growth, especially in your initial intellectual and spiritual understanding of one another, and to follow that plan — in The Dash and I’s case, it meant spending the first few months going through a list of vital conversation topics, like finances, family structure, tradition, healthcare, corporal punishment, etc. — but at the same time . . . courtship is something that needs cultivation and patience as you discern.

Even if you are the two best people in the world, you are still going to run into snags and tricky situations in your courtship. Even though you are both striving for virtue and having frequent recourse to the Sacraments, you are still going to encounter one another’s imperfect humanity. Courtship doesn’t prevent this. In fact, it most likely enables this more sharply than a dating-style relationship would. This happens because the underpinning principles of Catholic courtship seek to cultivate a healthy realism between the young man and woman that will imitate how they will communicate and work together during a future married life. If you adhere to refraining from exclusive physical signs of affection during courtship, communication comes to the foreground, with all its fun and inherent challenges.

There will be times when, as a courting couple, a weakness will be exposed and you feel unequipped, afraid or frustrated. Maybe you don’t communicate as well in a given situation as you hoped you would. Maybe your feelings have been hurt. Maybe scheduling time together becomes difficult for a spell and things feel stagnant.

Each courtship is unique, and each couple who’s courted possesses their own story and timeline. One thing I’ve learned, however, is with courtship being so counter-cultural and so marriage-focused, in the face of so many modern relationships that sadly avoid commitment . . . the temptation can arise to where you want to figure out if you’re meant to be married, and to achieve it, as quickly as possible.

There is a lot of good behind this intention. However, there is also so much value in a courtship taking a prudent amount of time. You see, there are the kinds of problems that are red-flags and should stop a courtship from continuing. But there are also the (more numerous) kinds of problems that are merely yellow-flags, and simply mean, take your time and work it out. While you should be discerning a potential marriage with this person from day one of your courtship, if you feel too rushed, you might inhibit the very foundation you are trying to build together.

This doesn’t mean you should be trying to find and resolve every potential problem before you get married. (That would be impossible and would surely drive you insane!) Rather, it means discerning the fertile middle ground between too fast and too slow, and letting your relationship flourish there, with the help of God’s grace.

3. Laugh

Courtship should be taken seriously . . . most of the time. It’s a time of purposeful discernment, and intentional conversations. But . . . having fun is so very necessary. Levity is necessary.

I’ve learned that shared laughter (over good and wholesome things) builds joy, as well as a pure fondness for one another. Whether it’s come from an expertly aimed splash while washing dishes, or just playing a game with a little kid, memories of The Dash and I laughing are some of my favorite memories of all.

If God intends your relationship to bloom into the kind of friendship that dwells in a marriage, you have to be able to laugh together, both over the funny things, as well as the hard. Laughter refines your perspective. It shrinks your problems to their legitimate size, and it elevates your gratitude to where it should be.

Even yesterday, The Dash and I were on the phone at the end of long, somewhat frustrating days. And even as we communicated the frustrations and our mutual drained-ness to one another, we just started laughing. (I’m sanguine . . . I may have started it . . . ) We came away a little more energized, and certainly much happier.

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This is one of my favorite-ever pictures of  us 😀


4. You will never regret telling the truth

Truth can be given with charity and tact–but it needs to be true nonetheless. Especially if something is genuinely (and not pettily) wrong . . . don’t hide it. It may make things more difficult momentarily, but truth has to be your courtship’s foundation because Our Lord, Who Is Truth, has to be your foundation. Otherwise everything will crumble to ruin. The Dash and I are both conflict avoiders by nature, and this resolution has been so important for me to embrace.

Because, after all, there is a difference between complaining about everything and simply being truthful when necessary. The latter makes a courtship succeed. It builds a precedent of truth, and truth builds trust; trust builds openness; openness builds love and being cherished.

5. Pray, pray, and then pray some more

Masses, Novenas, Rosaries, Adoration, patron saints, special daily prayers you pick out together . . .  because marriage is forever. Marriage is also under attack and in many places has been destroyed. By seeking to go about a relationship in a pure and noble manner, you are under attack. Satan hates what you are doing; the spirit of the world hates what you are doing; the flesh hates what you are doing.

Pray! Go to Our Blessed Mother. Go to St. Joseph. Go to patron saints who are special to your courtship. Depending on how things are going, you may not feel like you need protection. But you always, always do!

6. Waiting is worth it

Again, if you wait to engage in exclusive physical expressions of affection during your courtship (as is just), I’ve learned that these things become enshrined in your mind and heart as incredibly special. Think The Princess and the Kiss.

Once you become betrothed and moderated expressions are licit, and of course once you’re married, these exclusive expressions of affection are, no doubt, an amazing privilege.

I can say with all honesty that to be on the threshold of a not-yet-enjoyed privilege brings incomparable feelings of excitement and peace. To be able to look forward to doing something like holding hands in conjunction with the unity and blessed promise of betrothal is deeply heartwarming . . . and undeniably just. I have never been happier that we have waited on expressions like these than now, when we are eight months in, and have more love and affection for one another than we ever did previously.

7. Don’t try to do it alone

Everyone’s courting situation is going to be a little different; I’ve mentioned before that The Dash and I have been blessed to have a courtship that is deeply family-oriented. But I’ve learned that even if a courtship can’t be quite so family-oriented for whatever reason: in some way, shape, or fashion, and depending on the people God has surrounded you with, it isn’t wise to try to make your courtship work alone.

Of course, after God, the two of you are the essential elements of your courtship . . . but God has placed others in your lives for a reason. They often have a wisdom you don’t yet possess. At this point, you are a fledgling couple and you aren’t on a metaphorical island–in fact, it would be dangerous on multiple levels if you were. If you are blessed with wonderful parents and siblings/ married couples/ priests/ friends you trust . . . listen to their intuitions (with prudence, depending on how much trust they’ve merited. Parents are always at the top of the list).

If they offer you advice and guidance, consider it humbly. If you are blessed with good parents, it will be a very rare occurrence–indeed, if it ever happens–that you know better than they do. If they sense something is off-kilter in you . . . it probably is. If they suggest you talk about something in your courtship . . . you most likely should.

To this day, my parents have never been wrong 🙂

8. Finally, count the months

Because you’re doing something really special, and every new month is worthy of celebration and gratitude! If God intends your courtship to flourish and eventually turn into something greater, you will be amazed at how quickly time goes by and how much you have been blessed . . . just as I am amazed today 😉



On Drama and Direction (yet another courting post)

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The young man who’d just arrived wore slacks and a blue button-up shirt; the young woman waiting for him wore jeans, a black t-shirt and a hastily tugged-on blue sweater. (The man’s visit was a near-total surprise, which explained the disconnect of wardrobes.)

As he stepped into the living room, he was carrying numerous lilies (which hadn’t unfolded yet) and one red rose. He gave them all to the young woman, sat next to her on the living room couch, and, in front of her whole family but remaining intent on her, explained that the lilies represented purity, while the rose represented the vocation of marriage. It was his sincerest hope for the courtship to remain pure, and for more roses to be added overtime. He asked the girl if she would do him the honor of courting him. The girl (flushed and ecstatic and bashful and delighted) said yes.

That young man was The Dash, and the girl was me, almost eight months ago . . . although I’m sure you saw that coming. 😉

* * *

Courtship: the subjective and objective

Occasionally, it’s difficult to me to articulate my thoughts surrounding courtship, especially in real-time conversation. (Blogging is somewhat easier 😉 ) But when you consider that courtship is simultaneously an overarching (and counter-cultural) principle, a unique path for a specific couple, a toolbox, and an assortment of actions (or lack thereof) based upon beliefs, it does get a little complicated, even though it is wholly simple in nature.

Being in a courtship means that I have a growing pile of experiences and convictions, but a lack of well-rounded objectivity because I am still a part of the process, as opposed to a product of it. Courtship, as The Dash and I are doing it, is somewhat rare. But of course, that doesn’t make it the only kind of courtship that can be done . . . in a way, it is our courtship, specific to us, to our circumstances, to our stories, to our temperaments, to our families. In a way, it is subjective. But in another sense, it is simply courtship. It is objectively so. Our courtship is unique to us, and yet also a representative of a system, a group of principles, greater than ourselves.

What are these principles? Well, chastity, for one: restricting physical expressions of affection, and for us, involving the presence of chaperones. Building a relationship through prayer, holiness, and sacrifice would be another. So would embracing the family atmosphere and pursuing an honest, intellectual intimacy of mind and heart.

But for me, one especially important principle of courtship in general, and our courtship in particular, is one I haven’t talked about much. It’s the principle of direction. I will get to that below, but first . . .

Why the drama?

That seems to be the question begged by some who are confused or just mesmerized by the concept of courtship. And on the outside, quite honestly, it really does appear to be a lot of drama.

Some people (like yours truly) might think the scenario of The Dash asking me to court him totally charming and perfect; others might think it sweet, but a little too much drama when contrasted with something like how a first date might go. Why begin a relationship with something like a toned-down proposal? Again, why the drama?

After all, at first, it’s simple and casual. The young man and woman meet for the first time–maybe there is immediate chemistry, maybe not. Usually, they build a friendship in group settings through a variety of experiences; their families get together; maybe the young man and woman correspond as friends, gaining a clearer understanding of their respective mindsets and beliefs.

But eventually . . . there comes a point.

The Dash and I met at a combined birthday party/church dance. We danced one time, we didn’t really talk, and so there wasn’t time to form a solid first impression on either end. But then our families got together the next month. We spent a good portion of that day conversing. (Okay, maybe most of the day.) (By that point, I totally liked him, but I digress . . .) We exchanged email addresses and it turned into a friendly correspondence of weekly exchanges. Since he was in school and living in town, our family invited him over for dinner. Shortly afterwards, he made it to Catholic young adult group that my sister and I attended one night, and he drove us home. (I took the front seat…) He came to another dance. We spent more time talking (over very loud music speakers, which I suppose is wonderful training for having conversations over very loud children). Our families got together again. And on it went. It was all casual, polite, and friendly, and yet it hovered in that impenetrable limbo that resides between Guarded and Obvious. (Well, at least he wasn’t obvious. Let me remind you that I took the front seat.)

The feminine heart that is desirous of marriage has a propensity to be constantly curious. Does he like me? Does (this action/word/look) mean he likes me? Would he still be emailing me if he didn’t like me? So on and so forth.

Despite all these interior sighs, I was really determined to guard myself and not assume anything on The Dash’s end. I knew I liked him, but refused to read into him. I believed it was right and intrinsically ordered for a woman to be pursued. I wanted to be pursued. And maybe legitimate pursuit requires a little “drama,” especially when contrasted with the casual, non-committing relationship culture we are surrounded by in our modern age.

And so, as I said . . . there comes a point, for every couple, when you traverse from Guarded to Obvious. In the context of courtship, it does start with permission.

* * *

Seeking permission

In this instance, it was nearing my 21st birthday. We had a small party at home with music and old-fashioned dancing. He and his family were there. Throughout that night, there were a lot of conversations taking place between various family members. Our two families eventually disclosed to each other, and then to us (separately) the existence of mutual attraction between The Dash and I. (He and I didn’t talk about it, however.)

At that point, The Dash made the decision to ask my dad out to dinner, for the purposes of asking his permission to court me. Two weeks later, they met, and that same night, The Dash came to my family’s house with lilies and a rose.

When reading about relationship structures, or about dating/courtship stories I’ve encountered a defense mechanism built in when it comes to girls describing how guys asked their dad’s permission to date or court them.

It wasn’t because I didn’t think I was my own person; it wasn’t because my dad controlled my life, etc. etc.

I find it so sad that these sweet girls have been given cause to feel as if they need to defend their (God-given) instinct to look for approval and permission from their fathers in the context of relationships. These days, an awareness of the concept of spiritual headship in families has been greatly lost. If fathers are the heads of their families, and husbands are the heads of their wives (both of which statements are true), then it stands to reasons that fathers have the duty and role of spiritual headship over their daughters, up until it passes over to their new husbands. (Hence why it makes so much spiritual sense for the father to walk his daughter down the aisle and give her to her husband-to-be; so much is symbolized here. Nor does it contradict that both groom and bride still come of their own free will to the marriage, as some might argue.)

Courtship almost always has a built-in step that looks at this reality for what it is: if a man is looking to court, he first seeks permission from the girl’s father (or father figure), before he approaches her. Yes, it has somewhat more drama than does simply asking the girl on a date. And yet it points to something greater than the young man, greater than the young woman: the reality of family order. And in our day and age, it is a step towards restoring this order.

When the young man swallows his nerves, approaches the father, and acknowledges his headship over the young woman in question by asking permission to court her, a truth is acknowledged. Relationships live or die by truth or the lack thereof. The young man takes a step towards growing into a man who can assume spiritual headship, by humbly acknowledging he does not yet have it. This young woman he admires doesn’t live in a vacuum; she is part of a family, and even if she is out of the home, she is still under her father in a special way. No father is perfect, no family is perfect . . . and yet, apart from extraordinary cases that might prevent this action, this step is so important, and it works. A good father is always going to be impressed when a young man has the courage to ask his permission first.

Needless to say, my dad gave his permission 😉

* * *

And so The Dash asked me to court him. I said yes; and after that have followed the (nearly) eight best months of my life! And this brings me back to one of the most important principles of courtship, one that I am daily learning to appreciate more and more: that of direction.

When The Dash came and asked me to court him that night, I immediately and clearly was reassured of the direction we would be going in. If our courtship was intended by God to progress, it would end in betrothal and culminate in marriage. If not, we would end it as friends. There was no in-between; no uncertainty. He and I both knew, with no doubts, what we were going to be looking towards.

The Dash submitted himself to the drama both of asking my dad’s permission, and of coming to my house, giving me flowers, and asking me, with an eloquence borne of manliness and maturity, to court him–he honored me, and gave me the gift of direction. He wasn’t going to toy with my heart, and he made sure I knew it. He wanted to discern marriage with me. He firmly pointed me in that direction from Day One of our courtship, and has walked alongside with me in it for these past months. We have always been open to the possibility that marriage would not be our end; like any couple, we have had to navigate differences, stressful and painful situations, and imperfect communication; and yet there has never been aimlessness.

For a woman’s heart, such direction is reassurance beyond price.

A Catholic couple who are dating with right intentions can, of course, establish experience the same sense of direction, depending on how they do it. I guess the thing about courtship is that this sense of direction is built into its very framework. If The Dash had asked me to go out on a date with him, we might or might not have achieved that same sense of mutual direction; maybe on the third, fourth, or tenth date, he would have conveyed to me that he wanted to discern marriage exclusively with me. I don’t doubt we would have gotten to this point, because to be marriage-minded brooks no unnecessary delay, and no lack of commitment; and we are both marriage-minded people! However, dating in itself doesn’t provide the direction, as much as the couples themselves can bring that direction to it, if they so choose. And so this reveals an intrinsic good to be found in courtship: the direction is already there.

The direction that grounded The Dash and I’s courtship from the beginning continues to flower, seven-and-a-half months in. Through the many good times and the various trials and rough patches that The Dash and I have navigated, that sense of direction has, well, directed us. 🙂 We are at the point now where this promise of direction is even more reassuring to me than it was at the beginning (as it should be!). Courtship is not meant to last forever. The direction we embarked on is very grave, because it opens up the possibility of vowing to spend a lifetime with with one another, should we arrive at the end having discerned God’s Will in that. And yet even that gravity holds no fear; the closer we approach it, the more beautiful it is!

* * *

Yesterday, The Dash and I were blessed to attend the wedding of a beautiful young Catholic couple; it was in the Old Rite of Marriage, followed by Missa Cantata in the Extraordinary Form! To witness their joy together was a joy for us. To listen to the Admonition, to see to their exchange of vows, was not something awkward or nebulous for the two of us. Since Day One of our courtship, I have never once had to wonder if The Dash was thinking about marriage–about marrying me. He has never had to wonder if I would be open to the same. Thanks to the initial “drama” of courtship, we have always had our answer to Quo Vadis? If God so wills (and that comes above everything!), we know where we are going.

And in a very substantial way, that knowing gives us the strength to be chaste, and to pursue both better communication and more wholehearted sacrifice. If you aim high, you grow less and less afraid to climb high. The clearer you begin, the clearer you end. This is why I am so grateful for having been introduced to the concept of courtship as a young girl, and eventually given the chance to participate in it with someone so wonderful as The Dash. Through God’s goodness, courtship gives far more than it takes!

Happy Sunday! 😉



Children of the Saints . . . or, a glimpse into Catholic courtship :: Part 2

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3. The emotional & temperamental

The Dash and I met for the very first time at a mutual friend’s surprise birthday dance. We still love to talk about that night and laugh at our first impressions of each other, because they give strong evidence to our contrasting temperaments and emotional makeup.

I’m sanguine with a touch of phlegmatic; he’s phlegmatic with a touch of melancholic. I can be a social butterfly and an energizer bunny rolled into one (a dance is a perfect place for me!); he jokes that he needs sleep in order to recover from his sleep (one of the last things he wanted to do that night was dance!). We are beautifully similar in our beliefs and in many of our tastes for things; but our temperaments and emotional makeup, while they harmonize well and are the source of much mutual humor, are very different indeed!

And, in fact, some of our very first conversations when we were first becoming friends had to do with the temperaments. For my 21st birthday, he bought me The Temperament God Gave You. And earlier, he had lent me the book How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk (no hint intended, of course). Both of these books, read in tandem with The Wife Desired, were a huge learning experience for me. Huge! They opened my eyes and mind to the great importance of understanding one’s emotional makeup, and how identifying these differences in a relationship is crucial to having a healthy courtship! They took my understanding of a relationship as something that must be holy and spiritual (which is most important), and grounded it in an understanding that it must also be emotionally healthy.

If I didn’t understand that The Dash needed to become like a hermit every now and again to recover his energy, my feelings would often be hurt. If he didn’t understand that I thrive in chatting with people and that I can fold towels at 11pm after an exhausting day because they need to be done, he would most likely be driven out of his mind in following me around. Because there is understanding between us, there is honesty and growth. Because we have learned, and continue to learn, these things about one another, we can begin to learn how to sacrifice our tastes sometimes for the good of the other person. The courting couple needs to learn and frequently discuss their innate differences of temperament.

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Because these differences affect one’s ability to communicate. Some people are conflict bravers, while others are conflict avoiders. Any combination of these calls for purposeful navigation. Like any other couple, The Dash and I continue to work on our communication system because of how we innately tend to deal with conflict. The courting couple has to commit to being truthful towards one another (always in a spirit of charity), even when it’s uncomfortable, painful, embarrassing, tears-inducing, or frightening. If they can’t build their relationship on truthful communication, the whole thing will come tumbling down. Christ is Truth; if the couple wants to have a Christ-centered relationship, then it must be truth-centered.

Also falling into the emotional arena is the pace of attachment. While physical expressions of love in courtship are almost nonexistent, they obviously aren’t the only way that the couple becomes attached to one another.

Moderate sweet-talking and endearments eventually have their place in a courtship (of course!). After the first several months of getting to know one another in the exclusivity of courtship, The Dash and I started discerning when these things would became appropriate for us; and, as it was in our situation, I think it’s very, very important that the man be the initiator and leader in this regard, desiring to make his girl feel beautiful and special to him, but respecting whatever his young lady feels comfortable with. I was so reassured and moved when The Dash initiated these conversations, because it accentuated his masculine gifts of leadership in our relationship, as well as his protectiveness and gentle consideration towards me.

So all of this should be a natural, genuine progression as the love flowers, one that is prudently discerned and kept appropriate for this phase of the relationship. Once betrothal comes, then under the sacred bond it can progress a little further. But . . . if these things are commenced too early in the relationship, it will most likely stunt the couple’s ability to come to know one another intellectually and spiritually, because they will become caught up too quickly in the emotional aspect of their relationship, as opposed to the rational. And we don’t want that! 🙂

4. The intellectual

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The first few months of courtship have the capability of being intense; you’re trying to get to know one another, you’re trying to discuss important topics and test the waters of how you think, act, and relate together. You’re excited, nervous, shy. For the initial months of our courtship, The Dash and I went down a rather long list of conversation topics (drafted by me, unsurprisingly, but with the invaluable help of Lena), and every time we were in the car we hit a new topic. Finances, familial differences, morality, liturgy, and dozens more. It was a largely intellectual time of coming to know one another. Yes, there was attraction and there was fun; he would often bring me flowers or buy me a treat; but we were mainly focused on discerning our complementarity, and building our intellectual friendship.

_MG_7332 (2)And even once endearments and sweet-talking have made their appearance in the relationship, it is so important for the courting couple to maintain a strong focus on fostering their intellectual friendship. Listening to talks together, reading books, discussing different topics, asking questions about one another’s interests and pursuits . . . the opportunities to do this are numerous and mesmerizing.

This intellectual friendship is what will greatly contribute to the man and woman building a happy and contented home and family life together as a wedded couple. It is what will shape and dictate the atmosphere of their family table, of their evenings at home with their children; it is one of the main features that their children will notice about them as they grow up. It is what will help cultivate peace, fun and interest between the husband and wife, even as they grow to old age: the ability to engage, to discuss, and to learn together.

Already, I have learned so much from courting The Dash! And it has been so wonderful that God arranged our courtship to fall during his senior year of college. There have been so many times where he has generously explained his studies and projects to me, pulling up code on his computer and describing how it all works. The fact that I have never been to college has only heightened my interest in his work and in his interests. These are just some small examples. He has such a knack for bringing up any kind of topic of interest and making it something we can discuss together. He calls it useless knowledge, but it’s not, because it is keeping our intellectual friendship alive and well!

5. The familial

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And finally, we come to the familial aspect of courtship! The Dash and I both come from two beautiful, beautiful families who love us and have provided so well for us, all of our lives. Our families are great friends, are united in the one, true Faith and are similar in many respects, but of course are also very different. The differences in our families, from the minor to the major, have shaped who The Dash and I are as individuals . . . and who we are as a couple. How we grew up, how we learned to think and perceive the world; it all comes from our families. We are similar, because they are similar; we are different, because they are different.

Half a year into courtship, it is very likely The Dash and I will have a family of our own one day (God willing!). One of the most important aspects of our courtship has been recognizing and discussing how we would take what we have been given from our families, and proceed to make a family of our own. What things will remain the same? What things would be different? Everything from the serious topics, all the way down to, My family has sandwiches and leftovers after Mass, while your family goes home and cooks a full-blown meal. What would this look like in our future family? is deeply important to talk about. The little things that we assume can become the little things that will one day annoy, confuse or upset.

It isn’t that the courting couple needs to plan out the entire functioning of their potential future family (which would be impossible, even if they tried!). Rather, the more the differences are acknowledged and discussed up-front, the more that unity can blossom afterwards. It is such an exciting thing to have the prospect of building a future family life together! The courting couple can embrace that hope and that excitement by rationally discussing what things might look like, down the road._MG_7267 (3)

One of the most paramount things for any courting couple to learn about and discuss is healthy family structure. Much of this has been lost in today’s culture. The husband, in his masculinity, is meant to be the head of the home: the provider, protector, leader, both spiritually and materially. The wife’s heart, in her femininity and maternal nature, should be rooted in the home, with her children, in as many ways as possible. Fr. Ripperger talks about how, in marriage, just as the wife has the right to expect that her husband will go out and provide for her and their children, so does the husband have the right to expect that his wife will remain in and care for his home and his children. This is how God ordained the family to be.

Openness to life, and initial convictions for how your future children are going to be raised, disciplined and instructed, are all topics that must be discussed thoroughly and often. They are deeply interesting subjects, and in talking over these things, I have come to respect The Dash’s wisdom so much, while at the same time able to communicate some of the deepest wishes of my own heart to him. It has been a beautiful thing indeed, exploring the familial aspect of our courtship: it’s a beauty that every courting couple should experience!

Children of the Saints . . .

At the beginning of this two-part post, I quoted Tobias’ words to Sarah from the night of their wedding. I quoted them for a specific reason, in their relationship to the idea of courtship as a whole.

The Dash and I do not have an inflated sense of ourselves because we are doing something counter-cultural. While some aspects of courtship are challenging, so much of it is fun, enchanting and deeply rewarding, to where we wouldn’t want to do anything else. So, technically speaking, we don’t have a whole bunch of merit from doing this 😉

I titled this two-part post “Children of the Saints,” not because our choice to embrace courtship is making us “children of the saints” in some sanctimonious way; but rather, because we have been children of the saints ever since we were baptized, and courtship highlights this reality, this dignity.

Discerning marriage together makes The Dash and I jointly children, or understudies, of the holy spouses in heaven, from St. Joseph and Our Lady, to St. Louis and St. Elizabeth, to St. Louis and St. Zelie. Every baptized couple discerning marriage together are children of the saints in this way.

“To whom much has been given, much is expected.” The Dash and I have been given so very much, that the least we can return to God is our attempting to adhere to a kind of relationship that has some aspects of self-sacrifice and virtue to it. We don’t do it perfectly; but we try to do it wholeheartedly. However, the huge smiles on our faces truly do speak to the reality that we are still children. We are joyful, excited, delightful children who have been given so very much from our loving God.

May He bless you always!

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