How did you discern your spouse? Especially for those who did very chastely/courtship


#1

Hi, all. I originally posted these words in the Vocations forum, but I figured I’d get specific answers here.

Hello. I’m new, so forgive me if this is long. At 25, I have been feeling the attraction to marriage, and not just because I don’t want to be lonely or want to have kids. I truly believe it’s the best way I can serve God using the gifts He’s given me.

I’ve had a few short-term (about 6-8 weeks) “relationships” that went nowhere and now I’m praying for the right way to find who God intends for me. Lately, I’ve been attracted to the idea of courtship, and my roommate’s book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” made so much sense and diagnosed what went wrong in previous attempts at relationships.

Courtship preserves chastity, which I’ll admit was a struggle (but not abstinence. gotta love Catholics-only dating sites) in previous attempts at relationship, despite limiting myself to Catholics on reputable dating sites. But the process characterizes the way I envisioned dating: talking, laughing, praying and learning about each other without pressure for anything.

But I have two huge doubts I need help overcoming.

  1. Some modes recommend not spending any time alone together or even when going out in groups to not focus on each other too much. I get what that recommendation protects people from, but I keep thinking that that process hinders deep communication that will be necessary for the long haul and doesn’t prepare you for the realities of a decades-long marriage (communicating about life-changing issues, overcoming the rough patches, and seeing people’s true, private behaviors/emotional responses and not just what they show in public). So what behaviors or signs did you get from your spouse that you could trust you could make it through?

2)My best relationships have been with guys who are friends, but in modern terms, we’ve “friend-zoned” each other, meaning there’s no romantic desire or interest in pursuing a potential spousal relationship. A lot of definitions of courtship sound like you have a guy friend or, even worse, treat the guy like your brother (Grad school has forever tainted my mind with all the Greek psychosis that can cause). So how do you make sure that when you’re acting just like friends, you don’t inevitably “friend-zone” each other, especially when (most likely) both people have only known conventional dating?

Thanks for reading and any commentary you can provide!


#2

Hello Siena_Avila.

Some thoughts. I have not read the book you reference so I am shooting from the hip.

I am happily married almost 10 years.

I am not, per se, attracted to the “courtship” model, provided that I am interpreting correctly exactly what the “courtship” model is. I believe you may be referring to a very traditional setting, i.e., something diametrically opposed to the modern view that a woman can ask out a guy rather than the other way around, etc. I will answer as if I am correct in my understanding. If not, please correct me.

As to why I don’t like the “courtship” model, there are lots of reasons:

  1. It is very hard to find a quality spouse, as it is…let alone if you are trying to find that spouse through some particular model of ‘how it ought to happen.’ You will artificially limit yourself to who you will meet.

  2. You write, ‘but the process characterizes the way I envisioned dating: talking, laughing, praying and learning about each other without pressure for anything.’

–The problem with this view is that there is always, always some pressure in dating --as well there should be! Dating without any pressure at all – even if just the pressure to look nice, put your best foot forward, etc. – is not dating, it’s being friends. In fact, to anybody of real substance, the ‘pressure of dating’ ratchets up enormously as soon as you find someone who you begin to think might be someone you can marry – and that’s a good thing, since you want that person to bring out the best in you.

  1. You write, ‘some modes recommend not spending any time alone together or even when going out in groups to not focus on each other too much. I get what that recommendation protects people from…’

–The problem is that you will most likely never really get to know someone if you appear to be afraid to be alone with them. You’ve got to trust yourself, and them. Someone who won’t be alone with someone else is going to once again so artificially limit who they meet that they may be single for a LONG time.

  1. You write, ‘I keep thinking that that [courtship] process hinders deep communication that will be necessary for the long haul and doesn’t prepare you for the realities of a decades-long marriage (communicating about life-changing issues, overcoming the rough patches, and seeing people’s true, private behaviors/emotional responses and not just what they show in public).’

–You are correct IMHO.

  1. As to what behaviors or signs did you get from your spouse that you could trust you could make it through, hmmm…Lots of things. LOTS. Do they seem to have some spiritual values? Do they attend church? How do they treat their parents? Their co-workers? Do they save money? Or are they a spendthrift? Can they hold a job? For how long? Do they swear a lot? Can they have a ‘clean’ conversation? What do they watch on TV? Is it mindless? (we are allowed to watch junk once in a while…but how often do they do it?)? Do they seem to value kindness in themselves? In others? Do they yell a lot? Flip the bird to other drivers? How do they spend their off time? Do they cheat on their taxes? All sorts of stuff.

–And note also that, IMHO, if you follow some sort of ‘courtship ritual,’ it becomes almost impossible to find out almost all of the above.

  1. You write, "So how do you make sure that when you’re acting just like friends, you don’t inevitably “friend-zone” each other, especially when (most likely) both people have only known conventional dating?’

–I can only offer this: When I met my wife, she went home & told her mother, “I’m going to marry that guy!” Mom said, “so what are you going to do about it?” YAY MOM! Point is, if you like him, you gotta show it. You can do that without taking your clothes off…but you can show it other ways, b/c we all can, and we all (in our hearts) know how. But that’s a much longer post, and I gotta run!

–VdT


#3

Thanks for the info VonDerTann!

The pressure of dating that you call so good, actually brings out the worst in me. I lose the spirit I share so easily with friends.

I guess my new question is, Guys, if a woman told you she wanted too see you, consider you for a relationship, but wanted to ease into dating by first hanging out at a pub/going bowling, etc., would you accept that, as long as she was clear it was to be more than friends eventually?


#4

Remember, people have had lasting, successful, loving relationships for centuries. It is only in the past few decades that the western world got this idea that marriage was based on dating and the young person picking a spouse, look at the divorce stats how well that model is working.

Find someone who comes from a similar background, someone who shares your faith and your values. Court them in a chaste way, spend time with their family, see how they treat strangers. That is the best way to find a good spouse.


#5

"I guess my new question is, Guys, if a woman told you she wanted too see you, consider you for a relationship, but wanted to ease into dating by first hanging out at a pub/going bowling, etc., would you accept that, as long as she was clear it was to be more than friends eventually"

--I would. I would however add a question: How long is 'eventually'? It's not a rhetorical question.

--I ask, for this reason: If someone is really, really serious about wanting to find a quality spouse, they can usually figure out, within just a few "dates," whether the person they are dating is going to be "in the ballpark" or not. For example, you can figure out, after just a few bowling/pub/whatever sessions, whether or not the person basically seems to have a good heart...or lies...or has other obvious traits, etc., which weigh your decision. If you really want to find a spouse, and you know in your gut that your date this evening isn't the one, then later dates are, IMHO, sort of a waste of time -- yours, theirs, and the time of you eventual spouse, who you aren't looking for. That doesn't mean you can't hang out with friends. But it just means, what I said -- if someone is discerning and serious, they will know, pretty soon, if their "date on Saturday" is someone who might be worth getting more serious with.

--It is much, much harder to really know/investigate the other person if you follow some 'courtship ritual' where you need a chaperone, can't be alone with the other person, etc.

--I also ask, as to your question, b/c I suspect that lots of people delay making the decision out of fear of being alone, or keeping options open, etc. IMHO, the trick is twofold: Recognizing someone who will be a quality spouse one day -- then, when you find them, and you know it, you have to act, so they don't become someone else's quality spouse! God sends people to us..but he also gave us eyes to see them when they walk by, and a voice to call them up & say, "want to go out Saturday evening?" when we do!


#6

Well, I’m not sure I am much help here, but I’ll tell you what happened with me.

I was raised atheist and was not given any moral guidance at all about choosing dating partners. No surprise that they went from bad to worse.

I became a Christian at the age of 24, and really struggled with HOW I was going to date with all the “new rules.” Fortunately for me, I didn’t have much opportunity. The first guy I dated after I became a Christian called it quits after the second date when he found out I wouldn’t sleep with him until marriage. I went running with a guy every Saturday morning for months, getting to know him and growing to like him…until I found out he was just using me as a decoy while another lady at our church was going through a divorce. After she was “free,” I got dumped. They’ve been happily married for 17 years now.

That was it for around 5 years. There were times I was really, really lonely. My friend Ruth used to call them, “Man-Dog-Baby Days,” when you just wanted a man, a dog or a baby and it didn’t matter which. Ruth used to encourage me to just write down everything I wanted in a husband, pray over it, “give it to God” and then throw the list away. Invariably, my list would say things like, “Somebody who will listen to me and try to understand where I’m coming from…” and “Somebody who will be a good dad…” and stuff like that, and it would generally end with, “Somebody like H., only older.”

H. was a young man whom I met because we were both volunteering with the youth program at church. I thought he was far too young for me, but there were a lot of qualities I liked about him.

There was no “crush” stuff going on – no trying to pretty up for him, no acting interested in X, Y or Z just because he was so I’d be making a good impression. We were just honest. We had common interests, but also differences. We shared some goals and values, but we also had different goals and values.

I’m sure you’ve guessed that I’m Mrs. H. now. I joke around that it took five years because I kept telling God, “Somebody like H, only older,” so the Lord waited until H was older. One day, I just turned around and realized that I was madly in love with him. I was completely panicked, because I was pretty sure he wasn’t in love with me, since I was so much older than he was. But then we met a bunch of people at the movies, and afterwards, he offered to give me a ride home, and somehow by the time we got to my apartment, he was professing his love for me, and there it was. We started dating December 4, got engaged March 4 and got married June 4, when I was almost 29 and he was 23. I remember all the raised eyebrows that we were going “too fast,” but really, our relationship was more than 5 years in the making.

I guess what I am trying to say is that a relationship really can grow from just friends to romance.

But I also want to add that the vocation of marriage isn’t a “given,” even if you feel drawn to it. My friend Ruth is still single, but she’s serving the Church and Her people in fabulous ways, and her life is ever bit as fulfilling as mine is. But possibly less annoying because she doesn’t have to share her household with a bunch of other people. :wink:


#7

Actually, Sparki, that’s a GREAT point – don’t rule out younger guys!

Seriously, I know some single women who actually will not consider dating a younger guy. I don’t mean 10 years younger, I mean 10 days younger…they just won’t hear of it, and it’s an absolute mystery to me.

I think “a few years” either way is not a problem, simply b/c if we go further afield, i.e., 10 years, we run into situations where one party is at a very different stage of life than the other at some point in the relationship, and that IMHO is where problems can arise.


#8

Von, even at six years age difference, there are things that come up. When I turned 30, he laughed at me and said it was no big deal. Six years later, he was in a funk himself, and I said "See??!?!?!?!?"

The issue of parenting was difficult at first, because we had trouble conceiving a child. I was in a panic because of the ole biological clock, and he was thinking we had all the time in the world...

Then there is just funny stuff, like I might talk about watching a program on TV in high school, and him admitting that he wasn't allowed to watch it. Of course, he was only in the 4th grade then, so of course!


#9

First, ditch the idea that there is only one person that God has in mind for you. Not only is that not Catholic belief, but it also can lead to complaicence (sp?) and manipulation by others, as well as unhealthy second-guessing that could lead to indecisiveness. You will need to get out, make some decisions, and stand by them in the choices you make concerning the people you accept dates and marriage proposals from.

The above is the best base to start with.


#10

Just as long as you don’t take it to be the only one right morality that’s fine. Basically, I mean just one model of courtship (strictly speaking, all spouse-getting mating rituals are courtship by definition)

BTW, dating *is *a broken concept. Victorian revival is one too.

  1. Some modes recommend not spending any time alone together

Oh yes and wonder how they own up to it when someone comes back and says, “I followed your advice and never learnt anything important about my spouse and I ignored a lot of easy red flags because of it, and now I’m in an unhappy marriage with a jerk!”

or even when going out in groups to not focus on each other too much.

Why not let us just draw lots anyway? I’m not attacking you, I’m attacking their ideas.

I keep thinking that that process hinders deep communication that will be necessary for the long haul

It does.

and doesn’t prepare you for the realities of a decades-long marriage (communicating about life-changing issues, overcoming the rough patches, and seeing people’s true, private behaviors/emotional responses and not just what they show in public).

Yes, but being prepared for life-long marriage of sticking together despite all is done home, in upbringing by parents, as well as in catachesis. Basically, it’s character formation. No amount of match-making and discerning will replace this.

A lot of definitions of courtship sound like you have a guy friend or, even worse, treat the guy like your brother

And what’s the difference between friend and brother anyway? If there is no romantic or sexual interest, there is no incentive to do things that one wouldn’t do with a sibling.

**

So how do you make sure that when you’re acting just like friends, you don’t inevitably “friend-zone” each other, especially when (most likely) both people have only known conventional dating?

**

Well, lots of people think it’s either sexual or platonic. Thing is, “platonic” is actually a form of love between a man and a woman, which technically makes it sexual in a spiritual sense. Second thing is, there’s the whole romantic dimension that doesn’t need to come to sexual fruition before marriage. Butterflies, anyone?

Apart from that dimension, there isn’t that much difference because a premarital relationship does not entitle to sexual contact (things that are meant to cause or resolve sexual arousal are off-limits, wouldn’t like to get too technical with examples). This doesn’t mean writing poems is bad!

Have you read the Lord of the Rings? Gorn surely didn’t friend-zone Wennie.

Thanks for reading and any commentary you can provide!

'Twas a pleasure really. I love every opportunity to take a jab at dating or at Victorian revival. :wink:


#11

[quote="chevalier, post:10, topic:183728"]

Well, lots of people think it's either sexual or platonic. Thing is, "platonic" is actually a form of love between a man and a woman, which technically makes it sexual in a spiritual sense.

[/quote]

Can you explain? My feeble brain needs enlightening. IMHO; bad: seeing everything through sexually-tinted glasses. Good: explaining one's position. :shrug:


#12

The latter 75% of your post eludes me. :wink:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platonic_love

Platonic love, in its modern popular sense, is a non-sexual affectionate relationship.[1] A simple example of Platonic relationships is a deep, non-sexual friendship, not subject to gender pairings and including close relatives.
At the same time, this interpretation is a misunderstanding of the nature of the Platonic ideal of love which, from its origin, was that of a chaste but passionate love, based not on lack of erotic interest but on spiritual transmutation of the sex force, opening up vast expanses of subtler enjoyments than sex.

(emphasis mine)

I’m obviously not a big fan of seeing male-female friendships as either sexual or transmutatedly sexual.


#13

Thanks for all the responses!

Quite clearly, by my questions that I’m coming to the conclusion that Victorian revival/courtship is not for me. It’s good to hear all these opinions.

@VDT: I guess “eventually” for me means whenever I feel comfortable to not let the artificial trappings of dating change the way I interact with people. Which is sometimes as little as three “dates.” But in the past, there have been guys “in the ballpark” because I only date nice, good guys. So initially I think they have potential, but it’s not till several weeks in that differences appear. One went to the Jesuit novitiate and the other was not spiritually compatible.

@ Sparki. Congrats! and thanks for your story. I, too, am feeling fulfilled enough without a man in my life. But just like those who feel drawn to the religious life and start doing preparations, i want to do so, too.

@ chevalier: transmutatedly? Oh, and there is a difference between a friend and brother. Because I can and have had romantic/sexual :blush: (but chaste!) interest in guy friends who sadly do not reciprocate. But if you meant that line to challenge the courtship model, then fine.

Is it all just a matter of "you’ll know when it’s right?

I’m still young. For now, I’m focusing on something from Proverbs I just came across last night:

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” (31:25)


#14

With that one, I actually meant to ask you. I don’t get the whole point with regarding someone like a brother as opposed to a friend and all of it while deciding about marriage with that person. It sounds like a lot of “fine” distinctions about nothing. Basically, sexual interest is normal. Sexual acts before marriage are wrong. So what point is there wondering whether it’s like a brother or like a friend? It’s a guy you are interested in, you want to marry if he has what it takes and what you need (which you are about to find out chastely) and there’s no point mounting analogies to brothers or friends.

Is it all just a matter of "you’ll know when it’s right?

Pretty much yes, though no one’s telling you to make guesses (notwithstanding that marriage always requires a huge leap of faith if contemplated seriously). But there’s quite a lot of difference between being in love and not being in love with someone, even if sexual acts before marriage are immoral and prohibited. One just needs to get over the idea that acting sexually is necessary for proving love or interest, something which might be difficult for young people in today’s generation to get over. One needs to stop thinking in physical terms too (e.g. how much is allowed). The thing is not in the degree (asking how much is too much generally is the wrong question from start), but in the kind. One simply is not supposed to concern himself with sexual interaction before marriage. That doesn’t kill love.

For the record, there is a lot of friend-zoning for people to experience if they won’t have sex before marriage (especially if they won’t go half-way, either). However, this doesn’t mean that love can’t be researched or expressed in other ways before the marital commitment is sealed and sexual relations become licit. As I said, need to get rid of the false presumption that some sexual activity must take place or it’s just friends. That’s not true.


#15

Chevalier, the brother analogy was all the courtship talk, not my own.

“This doesn’t mean that love can’t be researched or expressed in other ways before the marital commitment”

I completely agree with you. That’s what I’m trying to figure out, how to research/express love. And the other posters have done that well. So, thank you. :thumbsup:


#16

[quote="siena_avila, post:1, topic:183728"]
Lately, I've been attracted to the idea of courtship, and my roommate's book "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" made so much sense and diagnosed what went wrong in previous attempts at relationships.

[/quote]

I don't have anything else to add, but I'd like to point out that the author of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" was unmarried when he wrote the book...and when he did later get married, he did not follow his own system! He realized that the "Victorian revival" model of courtship wasn't that practical after all. (Although it is worth noting that he did approach courtship from a much more godly perspective than the secular world does.)


#17

Try going through the books by Jason Evert INSTEAD of Joshua Harris… Though I do respect Harris for his Christian background, He’s Not Catholic. While Evert is a Professional Catholic Theological Psychiatric Coundelor.
Also, it might help you to get T.G. Morrow’s Book Christian Courtship in an Oversexed World. (Father Morrow puts everything out on the table) and since the day I bought my copy, I would NEVER Part with it for anything… (PS, I Bought it to learn what Courtship is supposed to be and How it should be experienced(from the young lady’s perspective)–since I had & Still have a really nice guy-- who actually asked me to consider be open to the idea of Being “Courted” by him. It was definitely Shocking to me.
The Covenant of Love (by Pope John Paul II) as well as His, “Love & Responsibility” are also Excellent insight to how to progress in learning about Christian dating/Catholic Courtship, and Marriage. Hope this helps.


#18

Thanks for the updated response! Many, many friends love all the books you mentioned LeAnne. One of my new friends is going to lead a talk on dating for our Pure in Heart group. Spending time with them in Bible study, adoration, and PIH is definitely a good way to start finding a potential spouse to discern. Many respectful men. :thumbsup:


#19

Hi Norsemean,

I know this is an old thread, but could you elaborate a bit on your comment above? Why is this not a Catholic belief? What is the Catholic belief?


#20

Norsemean - was that a typo, or are you trying to tell me something? :smiley:

We are Catholics, not Calvinists; we believe in free will, and so must recognize that in all our decisions, including dating/discerning a spouse. We can’t say “oh, well, God’s will” if it is in fact our own wrong decisions that lead to misfortune, such as marrying outside the Church because the spouse is ineligible due to divorce w/o annulment when we have the Bible and the Church warning us against it.

Also, the Catechism refers to people’s right to choose their spouses in the section about honoring mother and father, which would pose a contradiction if our spouses were pre-picked for us.

Karl Keating also addressed this in a recent issue of This Rock; I do not have an online link for it yet, though.


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