We’re speaking different languages

JMJ1

mg_7449-2.jpg

Have you ever read about the five love languages? When I was in my first courtship, I purchased the bestselling book and tried reading it . . . and I was totally not impressed. Granted, even now that I can see that the concept is an important one, this theory still can’t be the sole saving grace of a relationship (especially in the context of marriage), since a successful and holy marriage has to be built on even more than simply keeping one’s emotional or “love tank” full. It can’t always be about preserving happy feelings, which is (if my memory is correct) the predominate focus of the book. (But hey, in today’s dysfunctional culture, you’ve got to start somewhere . . .)

But at nineteen years old, I didn’t like the book at all. It didn’t seem to relate to me and my ongoing experiences, and I was confused and suspicious. All of these “languages” are important to me. I’m supposed to have one I “speak”?

In retrospect, I lacked self-knowledge, and had a pile of growing and learning to wade through before I could come to a place where I was better equipped for a relationship. God, of course, allowed that all to happen in His own good time. Over the upcoming few years, I learned about the four temperaments from the Catholic perspective (a vastly important key, thanks in good part to The Dash <3) and, eventually, I mentally revisited the concept of the five love languages.

Ahh . . . this is starting to make more sense to me now.

Since the basic information is readily available in other places, I’m not going to dive into explaining Dr. Gary Chapman’s theories, but rather, I want to ramble about how important my own self-knowledge of the way love is (emotionally speaking) most effectively communicated to me became, and how this works in The Dash and I’s courtship.

* * *

Baptismanniv
Two weeks ago, on my baptism anniversary 😉

Yesterday, The Dash and I celebrated 14 months of courtship . . . and in the grand scope of our beautiful courtship, we’ve talked many times about how our love languages match and contrast. We’ve gradually become more aware of instances where one of us is trying to show affection in the way most natural to us . . . and yet it doesn’t quite cause the heartmelting reaction we would desire. We’ve learned how, if we rely solely on our natural inclinations of how to express affection, we’re speaking different languages. We have a long way left to go–but we’re learning!

Just for fun, I took the official love languages “quiz” (you can find it here) yesterday, and it entirely confirmed everything I’ve suspected about myself for a year or two. At the highest level, I am a “words of affirmation” person. Reading the site’s description makes me grin: “Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important – hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward . . . Kind, encouraging, and positive words are truly life-giving.”

That is completely me! And my next-highest languages are a tie between “physical touch” and “quality time,” which I already knew . . .

However . . . I’ve very slowly learned that The Dash has a different highest love language. In the past, when I’ve really wanted to show him how much I love him, I was most inclined to write a suuuuper long letter/email/text, thinking of all the words of affirmation possible that might boost his spirits, as his words of affirmation invariably boost mine. (Because a few loving words from him transform my whole day!) But over time, I’ve learned that, to The Dash, words aren’t his thing.

(I’m thinking . . . How is that possible?! How could he NOT want words of affirmation?! A long letter?! Me telling him how amazing he is?! Isn’t that just what he wants?!) Noooo, dear blind Mary . . . it isn’t . . .

This reality has taken quite a long time for me to ingest, and even now, fourteen months in, I feel as though I’m at the very beginning of learning how to channel my desire to show him affection into one of his predominate love languages, “acts of service,” or just being helpful in some way. Hilariously enough, “acts of service” are towards the bottom of my natural emotional register when it comes to love languages (although, of course, I’m not blind to them and I truly think they’re sweet!). And yet those are things that, emotionally, speak to his heart, and they are what he naturally defaults to in an effort to express his commitment and love. (By the way, he is such a serving person . . . that was evident from the very, very beginning, but it continues to blow me away now. I just had to brag.)

Learning these truths about one another, and making an effort to turn my expressions of love away from my default, towards things that make him happier (which is harder), has been such a beautiful thing for me. Inherently, it is a practice of selflessness, and what better soil for love to grow in? And it has also been an opportunity for me to mentally translate actions that I might have not initially realized were loving ones.

Thankfully, we do share similar languages that both rank high on our emotional registers, so we aren’t entirely polar opposites! However, our strongest shared love language is probably physical touch, which at this point in our courtship is kept to bare minimum and lies dormant for now. I consider this a blessing in disguise; Our Lord arranged things to where we’re having to spend our courtship learning how to give of ourselves and speak only in the languages morally allowed to us . . . in which we find ourselves quite different!

Again, I see myself only at the very beginning of this journey in learning how to love The Dash selflessly and well; to be intuitive to his heart and to be able to mature into actions and ways of loving that bring him joy. I know it will be a process involving time, patience, and learning curves, but I’m praying for the grace to grow in that process a little every day!

Sig

 

Advertisements

Rooted & Grounded in Charity, Vol. 5: Answering more questions

Charity

JMJ1

What are your best tips for someone about to enter into a courtship?

Wow, what a good question! Sigh . . . as I’ve said before, I’m only half of the courtship equation here, and who knows, maybe one day The Dash and I can write a post together that will be immensely more helpful and enlightening than anything I can write on my own! The Dash is my better half here . . . which means you all are missing out on my better half . . . for which I apologize . . .

But in the meantime, these are things I personally feel someone about to enter into a courtship should be prepared to do:

1. Make time for daily prayer together. Pick a patron saint (or multiple patron saints), and pray to them that God’s Will is done in your relationship. It sets the tone, right from the beginning. Pray for specific graces; obviously for chastity and purity, but also for graces to be truthful and wise, and to be able to seek the other person’s good as you discern your compatibility as potential spouses.

2. Make sure your intentions are clear and mutually expressed. It’s a simple thing, but courtship is fundamentally about discerning marriage with a specific person. The pacing of the relationship is up to prudence and God’s timing, but that presence of mutual interest and the solid intention of discerning whether or not to marry one another should definitely be clear and mutually expressed, because it gives direction, purpose, and exclusivity to the relationship. These elements are just, and should absolutely be present. If it seems too much to enter into something so serious, then the couple should really consider extending their friendship and waiting on courtship until they both are ready.

3. Take it slow when advancing in romance/emotional intimacy. I realize this can sound like advice straight from Johnny Raincloud . . . but it’s so important! Whether the courtship is going to last three months or eighteen months, it doesn’t need to start off heavy on the emotions; it honestly needs to be the opposite to ensure that you’re thinking clearly while discerning your compatibility. Every couple’s journey is different, but The Dash and I’s courtship lasted 3-4 months before we started using endearments or telling one another “I love you;” that was the pacing that seemed appropriate for us and how our relationship was progressing.

But with that being said, trust me when I speak from experience as the (sanguine, emotional) girl in this courtship . . . a little goes a long way! You will be so happy even if things are emotionally low-key to begin with. Having experienced both sides of the fence (rapid and slow emotional progressions in two different courtships), I can truly say that a slow, discerned progression of emotional intimacy is so much healthier and brings much more peace and long-term stability for both the man and woman. And it’s still fun and exciting! You’re still a couple and you’re growing together!

The very fact that a good man is exclusively pursuing you with the thought of marriage brings so much happiness and excitement already. The better you get to know one another, something so small as a little compliment, a smile, or a shared joke enriches the bond you’re forming more than you might guess at first. When the time is right and more significant amounts of romance and emotional intimacy start emerging in their proper order, they will be infinitely worth the wait.

4. Talk about important things as well as small things. Try to be intentional in keeping conversations well-rounded early on; make sure that you’re investing time to get to know one another’s thoughts and convictions on anything that could potentially impact you as a married couple . . . finances, children, child-raising, homeschooling/public schooling, family backgrounds, family mindsets, family differences, liturgy, healthcare, balancing work and home life, technology in the home, etc. etc. The list goes ever on and on. These should take front-seat early on in the courtship (because otherwise, to be frank, what’s the point?) while still leaving time for laid-back conversations about little things that still help you to get to know one another better.

There are lots of other things I could expound upon (such as spending time with one another’s families, etc.), but I feel those are the most important things to start out knowing.

Did you ever have a list of necessary requirements for/in a future spouse?

Oh . . . you bet I did! 😉 Often I wrote them in conjunction with Lena and we had endless conversations about our lists . . .

While I can’t remember every detail from every list I made, I do remember recurring elements like Catholic (naturally), mature, has a hard work ethic, humble, chivalrous, manly, intelligent, good with kids, someone I find attractive, someone who makes me laugh, someone I can be myself around, someone virtuous who upholds and respects the Faith, and who is open to life, homeschooling and the traditional lifestyle. Things like that 🙂

If only I knew who I would be getting! ❤ Do I need to mention The Dash checks every box? Plus he cooks and dances . . .

However, a pitfall I sometimes fell into with these lists was overthinking personalities and temperaments and making some sweeping generalizations for myself that just weren’t necessary. Of course, you’re not going to have chemistry with every person. But for a while, I assumed that I would not be inclined to be in a relationship with anyone quieter than I. (Insane. How would we function??) This came from a profound lack of self-knowledge of just how chatty I am. Sigh.

So while I would certainly encourage others to make lists of requirements for a potential future spouse, I would also encourage open-mindedness when it comes to the potential temperament or personality of their future spouse. This isn’t to say that you are just as likely to get along well with two wildly different people. But rather, it’s just to be open to the possibility that all the necessary qualities and virtues you’ve listed can be present inside a temperament you would never have guessed you would find so attractive; one that enchants and completes you in a way you didn’t think was possible. Ask me how I know.

Do you have a “true love waits” (or similar) ring?

Yes! I received one for my 16th birthday from my dad, so I’ve had one for six years now. In fact, Lena and I both do. The funny thing is, we switched our rings a few years ago, because due to a fluke of nature, we discovered each other’s rings fit our hand better than the one we had 😀 Mine says, “True Love Waits” and I’ve usually worn it on the fourth finger of my right hand. It’s been blessed as well.

ring

Ironically, it’s reminded me just as much of the necessity of overall patience as well as chastity in our courtship! “True love patiently waits until it’s the right time to get engaged . . . true love patiently waits until I get to see The Dash again . . . true love patiently waits until we get to talk on the phone in approximately four hours . . .” Yeah.

Do you have a favorite future spouse prayer?

St. Raphael to the rescue!!!

Dear St. Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings, lead me by the hand towards those I am waiting for, and those who are waiting for me. May all my movements, all their movements be guided by thy light and transfigured by thy joy. Angel guide of Tobias, lay the request I now address to thee at the feet of Him on Whose unveiled Face thou art privileged to gaze. (Mention your request.) Lonely and weary, deeply grieved by the separation and sorrows of earth, I feel the need of calling out to thee and of pleading for the protection of thy wings so that we may not be as strangers in the province of joy.

Remember the weak, thou who art strong, whose home lies beyond the region of thunder, in a land that is always peaceful, always serene and bright with the resplendent glory of God. Amen.

And . . .

St. Raphael, loving patron of those seeking a spouse, assist me in this supreme decision of my life. Find for me as a helpmate in life the man whose character reflects many of the traits of Jesus and Mary. May he be upright, loyal, pure, sincere and noble, so that with united efforts and with chaste and unselfish love, we both may strive to perfect ourselves in soul and body, as well as the children entrusted to our care.

St. Raphael, angel of chaste courtship, bless our friendship and our love that sin may have no part in it. May our mutual love bind us so closely that our future home may ever be most like the home of the holy family of Nazareth.  Offer thy prayers to God for the both of us, and obtain the blessing of God upon our marriage, as thou wert the herald of blessing for the marriage of Tobais and Sara.

St. Raphael, friend of the young, be a friend to me, for I shall always be thine. I desire ever to invoke thee in my needs. To thy special care I entrust the decision I am to make as to my future husband. Direct me to the man with whom I can best cooperate in doing God’s holy will; with whom I can live in peace, charity and fidelity in this life, and attain to eternal joy in the next. Amen.

These prayers brought me so much consolation back when I was wanting so much to meet my future spouse. And through them, St. Raphael brought me The Dash. The timing was inarguable and beyond wonderful.

Sig

Rooted & Grounded in Charity, Vol. 4: Musings after a year

Charity

JMJ1

I didn’t mean to be gone for quite so long . . . things have been so busy, and having been sick for the past few days also means that I’m just now getting onto the blog again! 😉 But let’s delay no longer!

Last Saturday (on the Nativity of Our Lady) was The Dash and I’s one-year courting anniversary!!! And what a lovely day it was! ❤ We occupied ourselves with going to the football game (the tickets for which I got on my birthday . . . we brought Lena and my youngest sister; it was blazing hot [all of us girls had to roll up our sleeves by the end, not for style!] but so much fun!), doing a little on-campus sightseeing, plus lots of driving and talking and listening to all our special music, and being so grateful and overjoyed that God has blessed us with a whole year together!

He brought me roses, too . . .

roses

Happy sigh.

A year of courtship leaves me realizing just how much I’m at the very beginning of my journey towards virtuous womanhood. While I entered into our relationship already fairly certain that marriage was my vocation, the process of courting The Dash and seeking to grow in unity of mind and heart with him, while encountering all the things I must change and improve in myself in order to do so, confirmed it in my heart . . . it’s drawn me to be a better woman, but simultaneously, I’ve needed so much grace. And often failed to pray for it. (The results of which should be obvious!)

I’ve learned so many things I didn’t know before: one of which is, of course, the importance of good communication and of acknowledging that you must be purposeful about pursuing it if you want to get anywhere. Accordingly, I’m already convinced that our journey towards better communication will never cease; the work will never stop!

And that was one highly important realization for me–if you can accept that your relationship (healthy and happy as it is!) is always going to be a work in progress, no matter what stage you’re in, you’ll stop feeling perturbed out of proportion when there’s a difficulty, and instead acknowledge that there will always be things to work through and improve upon, and so it’s time to get back to work once again. We’re both human, and while there won’t be perfection this side of Heaven, there will be as much beauty and grace as we’re willing to put in work and prayer for. That has been one of the largest lessons I’ve learned, a year in.

rose1

I see more and more how Our Lord has been using our courtship to guide me into greater awareness of my failings. This is a great treasure, one I’m so undeserving of. I did not realize so clearly how much I struggle with patience and humility towards God’s Will until my relationship with The Dash, in which I’ve wanted so much, so often, to happen exactly as I was hoping for. I’ve experienced much interior frustration (that is, pride) on all sorts of levels whenever my hopes or plans have been forced to change, and I’ve realized with increasing clarity my lack of humility, patience and docility towards God’s Will and His timing for things. Prior to our courtship, I really thought I was better in these areas than I actually am, and it truly took our relationship for this fact to make itself evident.

Across this past year, The Dash and I have had to surrender of a lot of plans, everything from little plans such as to go to a hoped-for event; all the way to more cherished plans, such as to move on to the next level of our relationship and be betrothed. Each time, on different levels, it’s been a struggle for me to surrender and give the Fiat asked of me. In these instances, I have been blessed so incredibly much by The Dash’s leadership and prayerful attitude. It has taken teamwork to encourage one another and allow these surrenders to happen, and I trust that this necessity of our mutual assistance was in the mind of God from the very beginning.

It’s been humbling to realize these areas of my weakness; and yet there have been times when I’ve been amazed and deeply grateful to God that very difficult things have been made easier through His grace.

But perhaps the most important lesson of all I’ve learned over the past year is that I have the capacity to take everything for granted. When you’re first starting out, I think it’s natural to feel that this is impossible. “I’ll never take him and our relationship for granted! I’m going to be the best I can be, every day!” I was certainly there. I was never going to take The Dash or our courtship for granted!

rose2

Nevertheless, you grow used to having someone in your life. This, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing; in many ways, The Dash and I are still getting to know one another, but there’s a beautiful comfort and ease of companionship that descends, the longer you know and cherish a person and the more time you spend with them. The Dash and I’ve experienced much of this and it’s been so enriching!

But there’s the accompanying trap of growing so comfortable that you take what you’ve been given for granted . . . and consequently start asking less of yourself (in terms of your relationship), and more of your loved one. I’ve been guilty of this at various times. This mentality of “what am I getting?” saps peace away quicker than anything, because it becomes selfishness instead of love. If selfishness becomes my prime motivator, I am constantly restless and rarely satisfied.

The Dash has an amazing capacity to make me feel deeply loved and cherished, but he is not, because of this, simply “my reward” who can fix my emotions if I’ve had a bad day. He is a person, a soul, a heart that’s been entrusted to me for a time; he isn’t God. Instead of focusing primarily on my desire to be uplifted, I should be endeavoring to be his reward. How can I uplift, inspire, comfort, encourage him? To preserve this mentality is to preserve peace and joy in my soul, even if I’ve had a bad day.

This doesn’t mean I should ignore the places I’m legitimately hurting, troubled or stressed, and not allow The Dash to do what he can to comfort and help, or vice versa; neither does it mean either of us should avoid talking about any problem areas in our relationship. This isn’t healthy at all. But rather, it’s viewing the times we’ll spend together (whether in person or on the phone) not as times to primarily make myself happy, but rather, as opportunities to practice selfless love towards him, wherein my prime motivation is to please God and to contribute to The Dash’s happiness and well-being. True selfless love doesn’t compromise one’s own emotional and spiritual health; accordingly, these times of mutual joy can only occur if we’re being healthy, selfless, truthful and virtuous in our relationship. If all these things are acting in concert together, though, this is where we find the greatest peace and deepest happiness in our courtship. When you’re striving to make the other person happy out of love, you’ll find more joy than you thought was possible!

Sig

 

Rooted & Grounded in Charity, Vol. 3: Answering some questions!

Charity

JMJ1

Answering some questions!

I have to point out that I’m writing about these courtship topics as best as I can, from my point of view . . . but I’m only half of the actual courtship 😉 Hopefully one day I’ll be able to insert The Dash’s wise observations into any current or previous posts about courtship! He has a special talent for providing clarifying thoughts to my often rambling brain . . .

Best/favorite marriage prep books?

So far, my favorite marriage prep books have undoubtedly been The Wife Desired by Fr. Leo Kinsella and By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride by Alice von Hildebrand. I highly recommend them!

From the titles, one would draw the obvious conclusion that these are both geared towards the woman, but that’s no bad thing. Marriage is, of course, a profoundly beautiful partnership, but neither is it a 50/50 reality! As a woman, I need to be learning how to give 100% of myself in a future marriage by training my heart and mind now in selfless, virtuous, feminine love.

Each book opened my mind to the true role of a wife in ways I consider absolutely necessary. They are simple, profound, insightful, humorous, and easy to read.

A more serious intellectual read would be The Family Under Attack: A Philosophical and Theological Defense of Human Society by Don Pietro Leone. It’s been a few years since I read it, but it’s a masterpiece in many ways, and its chapters on marriage from a traditional Catholic viewpoint are highly worthy of reading.

How did The Dash know that you wanted a courtship kind of relationship?

The Dash and I both grew up in families that cultivated a different approach to romantic relationships than that of dating. Taking into account that we grew up mostly on different ends of the country, and that our families didn’t meet until around a year before our courtship, we were definitely spoiled by Providence (well, not that one can be “spoiled” by Providence, but still . . .)

This similarity gave us a much easier start than if only one of us had been familiar with the idea and were trying to convince the other! It really was a tremendous blessing from God that I know we’re both thankful for.

However (to the best of my memory), we didn’t concretely find this out about one another (at least not in direct conversation) until we began emailing as friends. This was due to the fact that The Dash had lent me a book called How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk and it sparked conversation between us, in which I mentioned how many of its points coincided with the value of a courtship kind of relationship.

He agreed, and went on to ask how I’d even come across the idea of courtship, since in his experience, his family rather stood apart in that mindset. I explained and poof! we both knew that we were on similar ground when it came to romantic relationships. Of course . . . this was all safely in the realm of abstract conversation 😉

How did you first discuss rules/relationship ideas?

We first discussed rules and relationship ideas, as they pertained to us, the day after we started courting. We were driving up to his family’s house with my sisters in the backseat. It was my first time in his car and I was exhilarated 😉

In my memory, it was a pretty simple exchange; initially, I think we both took the time to ask one another about our expectations (or something to that effect) for the relationship, and made that a springboard for discussion.

We agreed we wanted to have chaperones . . . we agreed we weren’t going to hold hands, or anything similar, during our courtship . . . I can’t remember if we explicitly talked about holding back on terms of affection until our relationship matured, or whether that was more of an implied reality . . . maybe The Dash remembers . . . oh, yes, and both of us communicated that we’d been saving our first kisses for our spouses and that was going to remain a priority–it sounds slightly awkward to talk about, and it was, but it was also like music to exchange that simple truth! You wouldn’t believe what a treasure it is to know something like that.

It really was our first intentional conversation in which we knew we were starting out in a relationship, discerning marriage. It’s a unique memory to me because, at that point, we had so much to get to know about one another (a never-ending journey!), and it really was the start of “us.”

Have you found that your prayer routine has changed now that you are in a courtship? If so, how?

Hmm . . . that’s a really good question! Speaking just for myself, I would say that my prayer routine has morphed and changed somewhat, although maybe not specifically because of our courtship, as much as an indirect result.

The Dash and I have a special set of prayers we pray together every day (and a few we pray after every time we’ve been to Mass together), and we weren’t doing that before courtship 😉 Also, there are prayers I pray specifically for him each day that weren’t present in my routine before I knew him.

Different events and intentions that have arisen throughout our past year of courtship have often taken me to prayer and altered my prayer life in ways that might not have happened, had I not been courting. I doubt that the 54-day Rosary novena to Our Lady of Pompeii would have come into my life had we not been courting, and that was a significant alteration to my prayer life, one entirely for the better!

Overall, though, I would say that while there have been significant and special additions to my prayer routine, there hasn’t been a whole new routine that’s arisen because of courtship. Rather, I can look back and see how Our Lord has been gently using the reality of our courtship and the presence of The Dash’s heart to guide me towards making improvements in my prayer life.

How do you guys make decisions about each other together?

In my opinion, this has definitely been a large factor in our pursuing better communication skills. If there’s a development, difficulty, or potential change that’s in direct relation to us, we’ve almost always made time to talk about it intentionally (ideally face-to-face, but if not, on the phone) in as much privacy as possible, while we seek to clearly understand one another and arrive at a reasonable and positive outcome, based on that understanding.

Also, we try to remember to pray first (if not first, then during or after 😉 ). We are both peacemakers by nature and so, at least for me, it’s very difficult for me to walk away from such a conversation without feeling secure that I understand The Dash, that I’ve presented myself as honestly as possible, and that we are both peaceful (at least rationally) with the decision, even if we’ve both had to give a little (sometimes, more than that) to make it happen.

How have you let him take the lead?

I love this question! However, it’s tough to answer. The Dash and I have talked about this, actually, and how it’s difficult to quantify specific details . . .

Of course, The Dash took the lead right off the bat by intentionally pursuing me and asking me to court him, and perhaps that’s the most important thing of all! He’s responsible for me when we’re out, he’s chivalrous, he buys me my food, etc. . . . everything you would expect.

But delving a little deeper . . . By God’s design, a married woman is meant to support and assist her husband however she can, influencing and preserving the moral order in their home through her feminine virtues. This interaction can begin in courtship in a smaller sense, although it can’t really be full-fledged.

As a young woman being courted, I’ve made it my object to keep in mind my own femininity, and the role I’ll one day be called to live in marriage as helpmate to my husband: the man who will be my head and the head of our family. I try to let the anticipation of this role inform my current behavior as much as it can.

For now, I naturally seek out and respect The Dash’s thoughts and opinions; I respect his manhood and look to him for an often clearer and more logical perspective than my emotional female brain can achieve . . . but I will give him my thoughts and opinions first if he’s actively seeking them as a means of gathering information . . . it’s a fluid interchange, and one that’s based also on our temperaments and how we naturally approach decision making. We’re still working on a daily basis to achieve a smooth complementarity of communication and decision-making in our courtship.

We both firmly believe in the ordered roles of manhood and womanhood, but in courtship,  rather than the man being the official leader and the woman his helpmate, the man is technically the pursuer, and the woman the one being won. (Say that fast five times . . . 😉 ) So, in a certain sense, by pursuing, he is leading in courtship. But the leading/helpmate roles are still growing in courtship and aren’t full-fledged yet; they become more established in betrothal and beautifully finalized in the Sacrament of Marriage.

As an aside . . .

Although it’s not the main element, I do believe that The Dash’s regular small acts of chivalry have extended into other aspects of our relationship and influenced its proper order. The Dash is amazing at this, and while I have loved receiving his acts of chivalry, I’ve also had to grow more intuitive in letting them happen. (I’ll explain in a moment.) He regularly:

  • Opens and closes the car door for me
  • Pulls back my chair if I’m going to sit at the table
  • Puts down the kneeler for me at Mass
  • Takes things out of my arms if they’re full
  • Asks me if I need something to drink
  • Looks out for my general comfort
  • (a tiny but, I feel, important detail) Is the one who calls me for our daily conversation

I realize it may be harder for some women to accept these acts (especially if you have a more independent or assertive temperament than I, sanguine/phlegmatic).

But even if you’re a woman who can naturally appreciate and desire chivalry (like me) with great ease, I’ve still found it’s very easy to automatically resist, not out of direct I-can-do-it-myself-pride, but because I don’t want to be any trouble. (Which is still pride, but a subtler form 😉 )

Classic examples of wrong responses:

The Dash: Do you need anything to drink?
Me: Oh, thank you, I’m fine!

The Dash: Is the air too cold?
Me: Oh, make yourself comfortable!

I am still learning to notice the presence of The Dash’s servant’s heart, and his offers of chivalry, and to accept them, because these small acts do enrich his courtship-sized role of pursuer/leader and mine of receiver/follower. It’s so beautiful every time it happens!

Sig

I didn’t expect . . .

_MG_7335 (2)

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

-C. S. LEWIS

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 ❤

_MG_7422 (2)

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

_MG_7413 (2)

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

Sig