Some Monday mornings are more welcome than others; this one was definitely more than welcome! Getting up around 6:45 gave me over half an hour of spiritual reading after morning prayers/chores, before breakfast. The quiet, rainy atmosphere made it so calm and peaceful. Just recently, The Dash bought a used copy of St. Francis de Sales’ An Introduction to the Devout Life, and when he was over here on Saturday for a football game, supper, a little dancing practice (in which we finally got to try out the moves from his dance class I’d visited last Wednesday!), and haircuts, he brought it and kindly let me start reading it first. (One of the endless perks of courtship! The sharing of books!) I’m trying to take it slowly and absorb it little by little . . . I have so much to learn.
Providentially, the book came with an old miniature prayer pamphlet for the Holy Souls tucked inside; it was printed back in the ’50s, with a prayer for each day of the week for certain souls in Purgatory, such as “the soul most destitute of spiritual aid” and “the soul nearest to entering Heaven.” Beautiful and so timely, it being November and all! I’ll try and share them on this blog somehow . . .
On a similar note, this morning I also had time to read a little bit of Hungry Souls.
After breakfast, I folded some towels, but found myself strangely compelled to grab my long-neglected camera, tiptoe outside in the 40-degree rain and take some pictures from our back deck (see my previous post), although they’ll never do justice to what it was actually like . . . something about this morning was enchantingly beautiful! (I gracefully planted the arm of my sweatshirt in a puddle of water when crouching on my stomach for one shot, but oh, well . . .)
Over the past hour, I’ve been be planning for my co-op class; tomorrow is our last class before we break for Thanksgiving week, and after that, I only have two more classes before we break for the rest of the year. How has it gone by so fast?!
Our chorus is doing “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” and “Beyond the Moon and Stars” for the upcoming Advent presentations. My own little class is doing an Advent song from Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, “Sitting with My Brothers”; and they are just impossibly cute when they sing it!
Also, I just realized that today is six weeks until Christmas Eve! I’m already looking forward to Advent and Christmas so much, and can hardly fathom that it’s been a whole year since last Advent! 😉
Other plans for today are laundry, cleaning up the girl’s bathroom, catching up on emails (a constant process with me), reading, and whatever else it is I realize I’ve been forgetting to do. I keep having to re-calculate, but I believe today is 33 days until The Dash’s graduation! It’s getting so close now!!! I’m so proud of him and prayerfully excited for him to be able to finally transition into working full-time and having a more normalized schedule.
Speaking of The Dash (my favorite thing to do!) . . . I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this here, but he and I have a daily tradition, sometimes forgotten but eventually resumed, of always making it a point to ask one another, “What were your highs and lows today?”
It’s just a small thing, and yet it really facilitates our being able to talk about the things that made us happiest that day, alongside the things that were hardest, no matter insignificant the reasons might seem.
Personally, it can be hard for me to spontaneously divulge (without prompting) if I’ve had a hard spot in the day. A more general question, such as, “So, how was your day?” makes me just want to share the good parts in cheerful sanguine fashion and smooth over the trying parts.
However, having The Dash ask me, “What were your highs and your lows today?” specifically asks me to share the best and hardest parts with him, talking about the reasons why, and visa versa. On a smaller scale, I think it’s been a hugely useful key in growing our communication skills and keeping them honest, healthy and intimate.
A random fact: I realized the other day that Benedic has over 200 posts now, has been around for two years, and has received just over 25,000 visits. That is definitely a testament to the good-will of people who visit and aren’t driven away by my incessant ramblings! God is good!
A pictorial demonstration of my Sunday outfit: it was the first time I’d worn the jacket and boots either separately or together, and they’re the sharpest clothes I own, apparently . . . 😉
A quote I read recently that made me smile:
Now I’m not saying all women must marry and all women must have children. God’s plans, and the working of natural laws, not to speak of social influences by the dozen, make marriage and children just “out” for many women. But I do emphatically say: We must acknowledge and teach others to acknowledge that home-making should be considered woman’s most important job.
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.
Openness to life
Marriage/healthy family structure/traditional spousal roles
The spiritual life
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
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.
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 😉