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 . . .
Lately 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.
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.
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 😉