We’re speaking different languages

JMJ1

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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.

* * *

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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

 

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Rooted & Grounded in Charity, Vol. 9: Unity of mind

Charity

JMJ1

Unity of mind: that deeply peaceful place where two people hold the same virtues as necessary, the same principles as foundational for living, the same Faith as the only truth.

It doesn’t mean they agree on absolutely everything (whether the Christian chick flick I watched last week has any value whatsoever; whether film soundtrack tunes can double for exercise music . . .); but they agree on every absolute.

If there were one thing I could pick as being that one thing I hold most highly in our courtship, it would be unity of mind.

Courtship is a journey

In certain sense, courtship is, at first, precisely a journey to discover if you have solid unity of mind with another person. If you can’t find enough of it, then it’s inestimably better that you move on.

You can have everything else: mutual love and attraction, happiness with one another . . . but if you aren’t continually discovering (or able to healthily achieve) a natural unity of mind, then there’s no lasting foundation, and this lack of foundation will only hurt both people later on.

If and once you discover this unity of mind, though, then courtship transforms into a journey of deepening and developing it: filling it with your complementary but usually very different perspectives and experiences, and strengthening it through the willingness to have constructive conversations through disagreement, and, in the words of Jordan Peterson, to “assume the person you’re talking to knows something you don’t.” It’s a challenging but beautiful journey, and so very rewarding!

Answering a few questions . . .

Sometimes I get the question of how The Dash and I hold one another accountable in our courtship, or how we work on differences in communication skills. There are so many miniature answers and all sorts of details we could both expound on. The main answer to both, however, could possibly boil down to We act in our unity of mind, or we seek to strengthen it in some way.

Unity in accountability

Take accountability, for example. If this kind of question is focused on things such as our physical boundaries, I usually have to pause and think… Accountable?

Of course, because of concupiscence, purity and chastity are a struggle for every human being to some extent. So I would never deny that I have my own temptations to struggle against and pray for grace to overcome in relation to our courtship!

However, one of the very first things The Dash and I established together in our courtship were our physical boundaries–so, really, these boundaries are one of our oldest expressions of unity of mind as a courting couple. We set them, not trying to please others, but simply trying to do the right thing. We mentally and heartfeltly agreed that it was so.

Later on, our understanding of what we’d chosen would be buoyed by Fr. Ripperger, but our unity of mind concerning our physical boundaries has been there from the beginning. Our mutual choice for chaperones (who help us to not be too intimately alone together without some kind of accountability) also arose from our unity of mind. But even regardless of our chaperones, more than anything else, that’s what holds us accountable to our boundaries: our belief that they’re right; our unity of mind.

After all, the alternative is just for me to go to The Dash and say, “I’m so tired of this! Why can’t we just go ahead and [hold hands, or something similar]?” (Which, naturally, I don’t plan on doing! 🙂 ) To which he would probably ask something like, “Well, how can that potential change still align with our principle?”

At this point, neither of us can find a good rational and moral reason to alter our physical boundaries; we possess unity of mind in them. Neither of us drags our heels against what we’ve decided to do. The necessity of a stronger presence of accountability measures between us would probably indicate that we weren’t so unified in mind.

Unity in communication

And in terms of working on our ever-present differences in communication skills, what helps is that we have (you guessed it!) unity of mind in that we should listen, be honest, and ensure our communication is always a means to the end of better harmony of mind and of good decision-making. It’s often a challenge, but we both know an imperfect try is far better than no try at all!

Whether one of us is really wanting to have some set-aside time to talk about heavier stuff, or one of us is tired and doesn’t feel equipped to talk a bunch; whether we’re having a day that keeps us laughing, or one/both of us are feeling low and are trying to figure out how to talk about something potentially confrontational or disappointing . . . every day is different, but it is such a help to have unity of mind in that we need to be honest with each other, we need to talk about the hard stuff if it’s there, and we need to pray together and try and find joy in things. That is our mutual expectation with one another in trying to communicate, and I think it helps more than anything.

Why is unity of mind so important in courtship?

Well, courtship is hopeful discernment and early preparation for marriage. Marriage is one of the most beautiful and holy mysteries of unity Our Lord ordained for mankind. To intentionally focus on seeking out and, God-willing, growing in unity of mind as you walk down the path of courtship towards betrothal and marriage–well, it brings peace, order, life and joy to your relationship, and surely prepares you better for marriage than the opposite would!

How do you discover whether or not you have unity of mind? Now, needless to say, this discovery should certainly begin in friendship, before courtship comes into the mix (in other words, you should have some solid reasons to be hopeful about the person you’re wanting to court!!), but courtship, by its very nature, puts a much stronger focus on exploring and developing unity of mind. How to do this? A sanguine’s response: Talk! Talk about the important topics and issues of marriage and family life, and of life in general. Read or listen to related materials; share your honest opinions on them. Be honest and open; listen. Observe one another and see if your spoken beliefs translates into your actions.

A while back, I posted a “topic list” that The Dash and I hit during the first month or two of our courtship . . . it’s in no particular order and isn’t exhaustive, but it was very helpful and laid out an initial path for us to explore where we were unified.

  • Handling finances
  • Openness to life
  • Marriage/healthy family structure/traditional spousal roles
  • Homeschooling styles
  • Healthcare views
  • The spiritual life
  • Liturgy
  • Corporal punishment/raising children
  • Our past experiences of family/relationships
  • Our temperaments and how we react to things
  • What makes us angry
  • What makes us happy
  • Family traditions
  • Our interests
  • Communication skills and weaknesses

Praise God, we had good results 😉

In closing, don’t underestimate the beauty and necessity of an ever-growing unity of mind during courtship . . . it’s the surest way to obtaining unity of heart, and it brings a particular peace, strength and joy that no other aspect of one’s relationship can provide.

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity. Like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron, Which ran down to the skirt of his garment: As the dew of Hermon, which descendeth upon mount Sion. For there the Lord hath commandeth blessing, and life for evermore.

PSALM 132

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Sig

Rooted & Grounded in Charity, Vol. 8: What I wish I’d done earlier in courtship

Charity

JMJ1

Perfection.

It’s a beautiful thing . . .

Unfortunately, it’s not me.

One distinct lesson I’ve absorbed over the past few years is that, to varying degrees, most people (including me) care about what other people think of them . . . and yet caring too much is a recipe for nothing other than interior pain and confusion.

Holiness, in fact, lies along the path of losing one’s inordinate fear of human respect. It lies along the path of humble honesty and charity; a lack of duplicity.

And yet I’ve grown up a people pleaser. I’ve liked to be thought well of. Of course, I’ve tried not to be egotistical and to cultivate humility instead, but my temperament in particular is one that likes to entertain and cheer, and yet is non-confrontational; one that is more naturally supportive and doesn’t like to ask much; one that likes to please others, if possible, just for the sake of pleasing them.

I like to be liked. I like to be thought of as sweet-tempered and generous. Certain people may relate more strongly to this than others, but for me, it’s entirely true.

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In the kitchen, back in fall 2016

For my temperament, I’m aware these tendencies can sprout beautiful virtues if I use them correctly. If they become inordinate, however, they choke my abilities to be honest.

Which is not good . . . and has happened plenty of times. Including (or should I say, especially) in courtship.

Being a woman means . . .

. . . being miraculously, mysteriously complicated. Especially when you’re courting.

I know that, for myself, it’s been so very tempting, so many times, to want to be “that perfect girl” who is an angel to her Prince Charming, as if somehow this can be only accomplished by never really expressing that I’m upset, hurt, anxious, or confused because of something he or someone else has said or done, or of a situation we find ourselves in. I think it’s part temperamental weakness, part pride.

Earlier on in our courtship, nearly every time I found myself feeling upset, anxious or disappointed about something in the context of our relationship, I convinced myself (because of my fear of confrontation itself) that I was supposed to ignore those feelings and “be selfless.” This was never demanded of me (quite the opposite!)–rather, I was demanding it of myself. I was loath, LOATH to talk about these kinds of emotions. I was downright afraid of disagreeing or expressing the fact I didn’t like a particular decision or overall situation. I wasn’t terrified of The Dash. I was just terrified of being honest about unpleasant things. The Dash would sometimes have to literally pry it out of me, poor guy.

The only problem was that I would convince myself out of feeling a certain way, communicate that I was fine, and then later on usually have to go and cry somewhere without really understanding why.

In The Privilege of Being a Woman, Alice von Hildebrand writes quite truthfully:

Because of “the meld of heart and mind” which characterizes women, they are more likely to be wounded than men, whose power of abstraction often shields them from negative feelings. Women have much less control over their emotions; they usually have a greater sensitivity, they are more intuitive. Their bodies are mirrors of their psyche and seem to be more closely connected than in men.

In any relationship, there is a difference between being mature and being a machine. Of course, you don’t want to be the one who’s self-centered, always complaining, always crying, always voicing their opinion without any filter whatsoever. You want to be a virtuous and strong woman! But there is a real difference between calmly, honestly expressing and discerning one’s emotions (by which I mean negative emotions), and just stifling them for the sake of being “selfless,” “humble,” or “liked.”

A serious error I’ve made time and again in both of my courtships, but one I’m working to slowly grow out of, is that of emotional dishonesty, because of my fear of possible conflict, disagreement, or even hurt. It’s caused me more distress and anxiety than I needed to bear. It’s caused communication difficulties that need not have happened. It’s possibly extended painful and confusing situations in our courtship. And no one has made me do it other than myself and, when it comes to it, my lack of courage and my fear of human respect.

In courtship, emotional honesty is essential. It sounds so dumb and basic to say, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s very hard for some temperaments and personalities, depending on the situation.

At the start of a courtship, I think it’s hard to fully realize (although you intellectually acknowledge it) that both you and your young man are imperfect, are very different (just by being a man and woman! Men are so different!!!), are going to have misunderstandings and miscommunications, etc. and that you’re going to have grit your teeth a little (or a lot) and work through these things.

(I hear married couples laughing everywhere.)

But it happens.

Women need men whose mission is to help them channel their emotions, to distinguish between those that are valid and those that are tainted by irrationality, those which are legitimate and those which are illegitimate.

The Privilege of Being a Woman

Let’s be honest; sometimes I really, really don’t like to be the one with a legitimate negative emotion. It’s embarrassing. It makes me feel weak to feel upset, confused, or stressed when The Dash is cruising along more or less calmly, considerably less emotional than I, in large part because he’s a man and that’s part of his nature. This is where the rubber meets the road of me humbly accepting my feminine identity: my meld of mind and heart that makes me more emotional than The Dash.

The Dash, of course, isn’t playing the role of a counselor, but he is my loyal companion and friend–not to mention, God-willing, my future spouse and the future head of our family. His essential masculine gifts are intended to bless our courtship, to bless my womanhood. I have never once been disappointed when I’ve swallowed my pride and brought my current emotions into the open air, however afraid I am of just saying them. Simply telling him makes them clearer. Having him listen to how I truthfully feel is calming. He presents a willingness to listen (even if I’m just crying and baffling him) and talk about it. If I’m honest, we pursue a better understanding of one another that would be impossible without such honesty. And it brings such peace and strength to our relationship.

So I wish I would have had the courage to be emotionally honest earlier on in courtship, especially in the times when it proved hardest for whatever reason. But then again, I have a feeling God knew it would take a courtship to teach me how to step past my fears and start tilling the very rocky soil around my little plant of honesty. So I’m very grateful for that!

Sig

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.

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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.

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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!

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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