It’s hard for me to imagine I could write authoritatively on the subject of relationships, as there is a lot for me to learn, though I’ll start compiling a list of notes and develop it as my own from there. The initial skeleton of notes came from Jackie Francois years ago at one of her talks, yet the majority of the content here now is from my own experiences and from my own learning.
Discerning God’s will is not a dichotomy of choosing either marriage or religious life. Dying to me means choosing to surrender to God not once but repeatedly, every day. Discerning to me means dying and sacrificing in Love, carrying our cross, awaiting with the Holy Spirit to see if it produces any fruit – not just in choosing our vocation, but in every decision in our life. Sometimes this means just being content right now that we are growing in love and not needing to pursue anything but the love and honor of God, giving unreservedly all.
How does discerning God’s will relate to relationships? Each relationship e.g. friendship does not have to be some soul-wrenching experience, simply enjoying the presence of another and having fun is sufficient for friendship. I’m referring to relationships in the context of prospective marriage. Obviously (or not), one has to know oneself and have done at least some serious discernment to know their vocation to enter into a commitment, a relationship with another. Human beings [on a certain level] are mysteries, there isn’t an exact science to relationships (and this is a good thing that people are mysteries, that our relationships can grow on an infinite scale). At the same time there are certain immutable truths to help us navigate the amazingly complex world of relationships between men and women. It seems absurd to believe that the creation of the universe to be without purpose and when we look at this in the context of marriage we see that when we understand the purpose of marriage, many complexities in relationships are dispelled.
God created marriage. The Goal is Heaven. Each other should bring each other to heaven:
- St Thomas (I’m paraphrasing) says to love is to want the best good for the beloved. Upon some meditation we realize that the best good is God (love is in the will)
- Each person should be leading each other to God:
- Marriage is not the ultimate satisfaction of your deepest desires
- In a marriage, one should not be a pseudo parent to the spouse otherwise there would not be a real husband-wife relationship
- Your sole source of happiness cannot be in marriage, in this sense you can not find happiness in marriage, if the marriage is working, you can only be happier (you have to take responsibility of your own happiness)
- God created sex; it is good! Sex is holy!
- Sex should be celebrating intimacy (in-to-me-see, seeing, truly knowing the soul of the beloved) and its purpose is to bring the miracle of children into the world, to raise them up to be healthy, independent, adults, baptized in Love i.e. in God to be who God created them to be, gifts to the world
- Sex in marriage is supposed to be an image of heaven, a foretaste of heaven
- Sex is the renewal of the marriage vows, and marriage should be an example of God’s love in the world:
- a free love (one made by deliberate choice e.g. not forced nor through co-dependency)
- a total love (not promiscuous, uncommitted relationships, exclusive)
- a faithful love (loyal, constant, and with faith, supernatural love)
- a fruitful love (one that through intensity, births life)
- Chastity does not take away from sex (it is not abstinence), it is the power to love:
- As part of being a free love, one has command over his passions, such that he can give love as a gift (as a free person not enslaved; true freedom is choosing what is right, not being enslaved to sin)
- Having command over the passions, one can truly give a free, total, faithful, fruitful love
- Chastity is about purifying love that one may be truly intimate:
- it is not co-dependency i.e. using each other to satisfy a deep void e.g. contraception
- when both individuals are independent i.e. have a self identity, they can have a real “in-to-me-see”
Marriage is a gift from God. It seems to me we have to admit that there is much outside of our realm of control and we have to trust this to God. In some sense it isn’t something that is earned. In the heartache of relationships or the lack thereof, it seems an invitation for us to make progress to grow into a deeper relationship with God. And that is where our affections is supposed to be first anyway. Even in a marriage your spouse isn’t going to fulfill your deepest desire – only God can do that. So instead of focusing on things you cannot control i.e. waste energy in being anxious, focus on being present to God, attending to him. Secondarily (or concurrently) we can focus on becoming a healthy person, who can then be a good spouse either to God or another person, or to be a good parent to oneself, such that one may be a good parent to others.
Marriage is a sacrament. Both man and woman consecrate the love to Christ to invite him to be the center of the relationship and give them supernatural grace to grow and experience divine love and be able to model this love to their children and thus society.
[I’m beginning to realize this page needs a lot of reformatting and editing; perhaps breaking the page into more digestible portions]
Need to elaborate on:
- the right of children to have a mother and father
- the effects of divorce – a death experience
- non-religious reasons against same-sex marriage
- Each relationship is unique; it is not a science (it does not mean there aren’t universal truths to guide us)
- Some stuff I’ve come across that seems to make some sense though I don’t know its epistemological origin:
- “If a man cannot see a woman’s worth then he is not for her” (how can he see her worth if he doesn’t respect her?)
- “If she’s not interested, she’s probably not worth pursuing, but if she doesn’t know you, she can’t be interested”
- “If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you won’t give up. If you give up, you’re not worthy” (yet I think it’s important to not put the woman on a pedestal to the point she implicitly thinks she can trample on the man or use him for more than she ought, is not the man supposed to lead or at least the relationship be on the same level?)
- A woman’s heart should be so lost in God that a man needs to seek Him in order to find her (women should set the standard for men yet unfortunately in this “modern” world, other women [often through no fault of their own i.e. ignorance] lower the standard among women and make it harder for decent women to set the standard)
- Optimism and trust are the soul of intimacy
- We must risk being vulnerable if we want to be intimate. However since we can never gather enough data to trust anyone absolutely, we must take the risk of trusting them at some point. We also need optimism in our lives; with it we see all reality as ultimately having positive value
HOW TO DATE
- Let God set up the relationship
- Learn, get feedback from confidants/mentors e.g.:
- Let ladies earn your love
- You want a lady that’s actually interested in you, if she’s not that’s actually interested in you, she’s not worth it
- You are your own man with strong conviction; you will not compromise nor be controlled by her; you can love her because you love yourself
- Have detachment
- Don’t be trying to earn people’s love
- Dating, start with friendship, your goal is to get them to heaven
- Friendship is not always necessary but there needs to be good potential.
- Dating is getting to know somebody
- Ask women on a date
- Girls, give guys a chance
- Give girl time to think
- It girls say no, respect it
- If you cant remain friends after an interest in a girl that said no then it’s use i.e. you’re not being authentic
- Don’t lead other people on
- Don’t have “non-date” dates
- Be clear to say if it’s a date or not
- Have detachment in dating
- You can have dates with a few people since you are not being physical.
- When you think it could really work make it exclusive
- You will have peace and joy when you have found your vocation. Anxiety otherwise.
- Affection is good but arousing another is a sin.
- Both people have to be on the same page. Don’t have only one person be the chastity cop.
- Questions before getting Serious? (link)
- Ideas/sample questions to ask
EXAMPLE PREPARED RESPONSES
- “I had a great time, maybe we can have lunch another time.”
- “You know, i had a great time, but i wont be asking you out on any more dates.”
- “Thank you for being honest”
- My own personal examples:
- I’ve always been honest with you and I really enjoy our friendship
- I want the best for you
- Unless God wills or unless you stop me, I will never abandon you
- I really enjoy our friendship, but I don’t know if it is just me, but I feel that there is kind of an akwardness; I don’t want anything to get in the way of our friendship
- I have to be honest and say I am attracted to you and your beauty.. yet I will be glad to have our friendship to be totally platonic
- Again, I want the best for you and I know we are both healing; I want to give the space you need to heal
- I feel like I can read your soul sometimes and I think I know how you feel. I’m here for you if you want us to heal together
- Don’t just wait around; prepare
- Don’t be so picky that you don’t end up with anybody
- Don’t be self-seeking
- It’s more about them
- “how am I going to affirm them?”
- “how do I make the other person happy?”
- Don’t sin
- Don’t lose heart
- Have faith in God and trust He cares
- Do follow God’s laws; God will bless you through obedience
- Do talk about your relationships with God
- Be totally honest with yourself
- Do communicate with the other person the whole time
- Get your life in order, you can’t give what you don’t have. No one is perfect, at the same time, would you date you if you knew yourself?
STAGES OF RELATIONSHIP
- Love proclaimed
- Proven love
- 5 Questions to ask before you say ‘I do’:
1. Are You and Your Fiancé Willing to Work at Premarital Education?
2. Are You and Your Fiancé Willing to Hear From Your Relational Community?
3. Are You Willing to Look Honestly at the “Red Flags”?
4. Are You Willing to be Ruthlessly Honest About Your Own Brokenness?
5. Are You Ready for Unconditional Commitment?
- How to make the most of a bad breakup?:
1. Reinvent Yourself
2. Deal With Your Junk
3. Forge a New Path
4. Outgrow Loneliness
- 6 ways to avoid Toxic Relationships (link):
- Recognize the Rebound
- Avoid Controlling and Possessive People
- Don’t Tolerate a Flake
- Abolish the Myth That Physical Chemistry is Everything
- Unmatched Values and Priorities are a Recipe for a Broken Heart
- How to Know You’re Ready for Marriage (link) – This is from Dr Laura, I’m not entirely endorsing her though a lot of stuff she says makes sense; she has a lot of real world experience and I think it is more important than some [fluffy i.e. “academic”] degrees
- You share similar goals.
- If you and your guy have different priorities, you’re going to end up being disappointed. For example, a woman called my show the other day complaining that her husband had moved their family 13 times in as many years to satisfy his appetite for wanderlust (which is a HORRIBLE thing for kids). Before you consider marriage, ask yourself and your partner about where you want to live, if you want to have kids, and religious views. Find out what the deal breakers are.
- You don’t want to change him.
- Similar to buying a dress from the store, when you get married, you take your man “as-is”. Sure, you might be able to tweak him a little bit, but you can’t fundamentally change him. If you don’t accept that, you’re going to end up frustrated and bitchy. You don’t have to adore everything about him, but you do have to make peace with the fact that on Sunday afternoons it’s him and ESPN, and you’re not going to change that. (I don’t agree on the ESPN part though)
- You connect on more than just a physical level.
- A very small percentage of marriage is spent in passionate lovemaking. You need to know that you can have fun together and enjoy each other when your clothes are ON.
- You can see past your wedding day.
- Many women are bridezillas: They are so focused on their wedding and being the center of the universe in their stunning white gown that they lose sight of their fiancé and the whole concept of marriage.
- You can talk to each other.
- You know you’re ready to get married when you can talk things out rationally (without yelling or screaming) and not let issues get pushed under the rug without being resolved.
- Everyone you know says your guy is fab.
- It’s fine if a few family members or friends aren’t huge fans (you can’t please everybody), but if everyone you know hates this guy, they might be on to something. Your family and friends know you, and they can look at the situation objectivity. If they’re reasonably nice people, pay attention to them, otherwise your marriage is going to be a constant acid drip.
- How to go on an actual date (link)
- 7 Ground Rules for a proper date:
- Is inspired: Art is original, not copied nor recycled. Going through the motions is cheap and disrespectful.
- Is asked by name: Be open to getting to know someone as friends outside of a proper date, but reject the “sneak-a-date,” which is the lowest form of pursuit.
- Is asked in person: If you are not ready to ask in person, then you aren’t ready for anything that follows anyway.
- Is asked well in advance: You have no obligation to respond to last minute hang out requests and lazy nondescript invitations. See #2.
- Is asked one at a time: No good can come from trying to cultivate romantic feelings for more than one person at a time.
- Is a three part date: This means “coffee” is not a proper date and never was. Sorry. If there is no plan the date is void. See #2.
- Is followed up the next day: The rest is up to you, but let nothing stop you from at least thanking the person for their time, no matter how the date went.
- Secular info – I don’t necessarily endorse all the secular information though I’ll put references to links that I largely agree with:
- 3 things all women want in a real man (link)
- taking initiative
- having my own life in control
- show that you can take care of them
- man of your word
- follow through
- Personal responsibility
- reliable demonstrated through actions
- Fun side:
- Risk taker
- wild sexy side – not boring
- be, do, or have something they would enjoy spending their precious time with
- Key things to make a relationship sucessful (link)
- Self Love: The happiest couples always consisted of two (sometimes more) emotionally healthy and independently happy individuals. These people practiced self-love. They treated themselves with the same type of care that they treated their partner… or at least they tried to.
- Emotionally healthy people know how to forgive, they are able to acknowledge their part in any disagreement or conflict and take responsibility for it. They are self-aware enough to be assertive, to pull their weight, and to give love when it’s most difficult.
- Commitment: After that emotional health came an unquestioning level of commitment. The happiest couples knew that if shit got real, their significant other wasn’t going to walk out on them. They knew that even if things got hard – no, especially if things got hard — they were better off together. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole.
- Establish that foundation, and you’re in good shape.
- Intentionality: This is the icing on the cake. There’s a difference between the couple who drives through the rainstorm and the couple who pulls their car to the side of the road to make out in the rain. (Yes, that’s a true story.) There’s a difference between the couple who kisses for 10 seconds or longer when they say goodbye to each other rather than just giving each other a peck… or nothing at all. There’s a difference between the couples who encourage each other to pursue their personal goals at the expense of their own discomfort or inconvenience… even if it means their partner has to stage kiss another woman.
- The couples who try on a daily basis to experience some sort of meaningful connection, or create a fun memory are the couples who shattered my perception of what was possible in a loving relationship.”
- Gottman seems pretty secular to me though since it is “evidence-based”, concepts or conclusions here may suggest deeper supernatural phenomena:
- 10 Ways To Know You’re Dating A True Gentleman (link) – warning: this is from a secular humanist and not a Christian; the ideas on surface seem good though remember not to love the ideas and philosophies more than he who created them i.e. Jesus; don’t disregard his teaching i.e. the teaching of the Catholic Church
- A true gentleman values more than just your looks.
- A true gentleman will never be intimidated by your motivation.
- A true gentleman will have more interests than just you.
- A true gentleman will give you answers.
- A true gentleman is direct.
- A true gentleman will trust you.
- A true gentleman is cool, calm, and collected.
- A true gentleman will show you respect.
- A true gentleman will put effort into your relationship.
- A true gentleman will make you want to be the best version of yourself, without changing who you really are.
- We need to redeem dating
- Chastity = whole
- Stages of interior life (not exclusive):
- Illumitive – do things out of love for God – be light for people
- Unity – mystic – see God in everything
- You can’t love anybody you don’t know
- What does “Equally yoked” mean?
- What should I look for? In my experience I didn’t know what to look for at first, it now seems like you will know when you know, when God lets you know
- To me it seems like relationships should be more about what you can give, than what you can receive
- Who am I and who should I be? What duties does a man in a relationship have?
- What have I initiated? How am I leading?
- Build friendships:
- Develop trust
- Don’t try too hard
- Listen more talk less
- Meet friends like old high school friends
- Put God first, don’t even worry about getting in a relationship
- Know people’s love languages e.g.:
- People who love scripture may have affirmation as their love language.
- Quality time – these people may rather spend time with a few people, not a bunch of surface conversations
- Know your worth. If they can’t respect you, they don’t deserve you
- Daily Examination
- How did i love and how did i fail?
- I need to love myself more and really believe in my worth
- Create a non-negotional list e.g.:
- must be Catholic
- must be honest and open
- must be pro-life not because I said so, but because they truly are
- must love God first
- must be willing to learn and change
- I cannot change her and she needs to realize she can’t change me either, but we both want and do change to grow in love of each other for God
- I cannot not expect anything from her that I don’t expect from myself for her
- I must be able to and do make her happier
- if she’s not fully happy, she must be at least content without being in a relationship with someone
- she must be independent enough to be secure in herself
- she takes care of herself spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally
- she must understand the challenges in the world and the Church; if not she must naturally want to learn about it and do something about it
- she has high standards but recognizes she is not perfect and thus able to love me with my imperfections
- I must be compatible with her family, if not there must be some strong alternative support structure for her and me
- we have compatible love languages
- be equal in the relationship
- mutual respect
- mutually help each other get to heaven
- someone I can laugh and play with; best friends
- someone who wishes to be a mother
- healthy relationships will have conflicts; must be able to resolve conflicts without totally warping each others sense of self-worth; i.e. there is inherent trust each other has each others’ best interests
- Be passionate
- if you are with the most amazing person in the world, i.e. Jesus, Mary, or your wife/girlfriend, why not be passionate?
- Allow for intimacy: respect, trust, communication, no yelling
- Protect her emotionally
- Make her feel safe
- In a relationship, spiritual journey needs to be together
- Add communication to decision making process
- Reflective Listening
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