Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Courting for the 21st Century Catholic

As some of you may know I am a single Catholic gentleman. So being of this species sometimes I am discerning the vocation of marriage. With this in the back of my mind I come across all types of advice from friends and colleagues. Of course I take my lead from God via the Church in discernment. Sometimes though I come across a witty post that hits the nail on the head. I'm not saying that what follows is something set in stone, but what my separated brother in Christ, Anthony Esolen of Mere Comments posted caught my eye and struck a chord, a funny bone, and put a smile on my face. He dubs them the "Esolen Rules" [with my thoughts in bold & bracketed]*. 1. Don't marry a woman who likes cats but does not like dogs. You may marry a woman who doesn't like either, or whose reason for not liking dogs is that one of them bit her when she was a toddler. But a woman who likes cats but does not like dogs will be a Joan Crawford or Jane Wyman. Ronald Reagan married Jane Wyman, and look how sorry he was about that. 2. Don't marry a man who is neater than you are. You may, however, marry a man who polishes his tools and puts them away after use.... 3. Don't marry anybody, man or woman, who says, "I'm going to call you at eight," and then leaves you waiting by the phone for an hour. Exceptions can be made for people who are kidnapped by Arabs, or who have epileptic seizures. 4. Don't marry anybody who insists on a separate bank account, bed, bathroom, vacation, or zip code. It makes no sense to be one flesh and two wallets. 5. Don't marry a woman who spends more on makeup than she does on food. In general, don't marry a woman who engages in the sin of reverse gluttony. 6. Don't marry a man who does not like dogs. Such men do not like children. Don't marry a man who does not like children. On the other hand, I have known at least one excellent man who thought he didn't like children, until he had some; seven, I think, at last count. Perhaps the rule may be rephrased: Don't marry a man whom you cannot imagine rolling on the ground in a wrestling hold, with a Labrador retriever or three children, or hollering on a ferris wheel, with a Labrador retriever or three children. 7. Don't marry a woman who exercises so frequently that you cannot tell if she is a woman or a very strange looking 13-year-old boy. I'm going out on a line here, but the real purpose of the rule is to determine whether she will mind getting fat, as happens when you are going to have a child. In other words, don't marry a woman whom you cannot imagine having a child. Do not marry a woman who does not like children. 8. Do not marry a man who treats his mother or his sisters discourteously. As he treats his mother, so will he treat you. But by all means do not marry a man who takes his direction from his mother, or who is ruled by his mother's ambitions. Mama's boys are unhappy, and they make their wives unhappy too. So are the mothers of mama's boys, come to think of it. Unhappy days are here again. [I agree on this one. If the guy doesn't treat his mother well, forget about him treating you well] 9. Do not marry a woman who sneers at innocent male pastimes, such as football. Such women do not really enjoy the company of men, and after a period soon reached, do not enjoy the company of their own husbands. They are also the most ignorant of what men are really like. You may marry a tomboy, so long as she's a girlish tomboy and doesn't take the sport with dreadful seriousness. You may marry a Daddy's girl, so long as she is not spoiled when it comes to money. 10. Never marry anyone who is secretive about money. Such people are also secretive about sex. 11. Never marry a man who lets you take the initiative in everything. You want a jellyfish, maybe? You want Burt Lancaster instead. 12. Never marry a woman who never lets you take the initiative in anything. You want a porcupine, maybe? You want Maureen O'Hara instead. 13. Never marry a woman who does not laugh at your jokes or your buffoonery. That is one of the nicest ways in which men "serve" women, and women respond by taking delight in the antics. That is why God made impersonators of Marlon Brando, Sean Connery, and Homer Simpson. It may in fact be the principal justification for the existence of Marlon Brando, Sean Connery, and Homer Simpson. This rule is simply an instance of the more general rule that you should never marry a woman who does not genuinely admire you, nor should a woman marry a man whom she does not admire. [This is one of the big ones for me, she needs to have a sense of humor and laugh with me (or at me)] 14. Never marry anyone who delights in "exposing" you in public. Teasing does not count; in fact, never marry a man who cannot be teased. You can marry a woman who cannot be teased. 15. Never marry a man who is not admired by respectable male friends. The people in the world who know a man best are the men he works and plays with. They know well if he is a cheat, a thug, a loser. You may marry a man who does not have female friends. If anything, you should be suspicious of a man whose friends are principally female. The men may be avoiding him, and there is a reason for that. 16. Never marry anyone who is not interested in looking at your fourth-grade yearbook. This means: never marry anyone who seems unaware that he or she is marrying also a family, a hometown, a past, silly friends, comedies and tragedies. Never marry anyone who does not want to meet your father and mother. If your sister doesn't like him, dump him. If your sister doesn't like her, dump her. That is why God created sisters. Their approval, however, is not a sufficient condition; they will occasionally like losers, but they almost never detest good marrying material. 17. Never marry a feminist of either sex. That would be as bad as marrying someone with the soul (not the occupation, but the soul) of a lawyer. [that eliminates most Vox Nova bloggers] 18. Never marry anyone whom you catch in a lie, even a little one. Trust us on this one. People in love are about the most gullible creatures on God's green earth. In fact, beside the dictionary entry on "gullible" there's a picture of a woman in love, eyes looking dreamily upward, hands holding her chin; and a picture of an indignant young man defending the honor of his beloved, who would never do such a thing, no sir! 19. Never marry a woman who does not like to feed people, or a man who does not like to help out with the removal of a junked car, regardless of how much he knows about junked cars. By all means marry a woman who enjoys seeing men eat, or a man who looks at a mudslide and says, "I can make a really fine wall out of that." 20. Never marry anyone, man or woman, who scoffs at virtue, who reduces "good" and "evil" to arbitrary counters in the war of all against all, whose humor is flippancy, who looks down upon janitors and maids, who cannot delight in making simple things (like a batting T or a thank-you note), who thinks tradition is old and shopworn (such people are followers of every fad that comes), and who is never, ever, just relaxed, grateful for a shady seat under the maple tree in fall. That is another way of saying that you should never marry anyone who does not know who God is. And those are the Esolen Rules. Now reading through the comments section of the above posting came another set of rules to marry by, again with [my thoughts in bold & bracketed]*.: For men: 1) Always apologize. If there’s friction, it’s 99.9% likely that you did something wrong. So apologize for it. Do not be so proud as to think you are without fault. Word of warning: know what you’re apologizing for! [I'd have to agree on this one, it's a no-win situation] 2) (This rule omitted out of habit. It is "guy-exclusive"; in other words, it isn't supposed to be shared with women...go figure.) 3) Christ must be first in her life. 4) No close girlfriends. You will not associate exclusively and intimately with another female. It leads to suspicion and demeans your exclusivity with her. If you profess to be hers, then you better be able to be with her the same way you’re with another girl, and more. 5) Never lie. Really not complicated. 6) Give her an adventure. You will not be boring, you will have direction in life. You will give her something to support and enjoy. 7) Have a life. Get out with friends. She is not the sole reason for your existence. Never will be. Moreover, she may suck for you, no matter that you think differently. Your loving friends, objective third parties, will tell you as much. 8) You can’t both love and protect. This is a two-way rule. You can’t love and protect her because love is about freedom, and you can’t lock her up so she’ll never be hurt. On top of that, you cannot protect yourself, because love is about vulnerability. You might get hurt. Get over it. [huh?] 9) She must be your equal. Think your smarter, more attractive, cooler? If you don’t respect her as your peer, you will not foster a healthy relationship. Not to mention it means you don’t love her anyway. 10) Don’t be a wimp. Step up. Be bold. Embrace your male instincts to do things for her. Don’t let her whip you, et cetera, et cetera. 11) Take walks. Do not go anywhere. Do not intend to go anywhere. Just take a walk. This is time with her that fosters conversation and deeper intimacy. 12) Be a gentleman. Open doors, pull out chairs, say excuse me, put a napkin on your lap. It may seem archaic, but it shows you respect her enough to act with courtesy, even if it is a bit over-the-top. [this can never be underestimated] 13) Don’t strut. The desire to establish your "alpha" position with other males only reveals your own insecurity. Be secure with who you are, in life, in Christ, and in her. 14) Use poetry. Or songs. Or something. Be romantic, show that art matters and that you take the time to learn (or write) something beautiful for her. [being sensitive is what I think this guy is going for, not necessarily being effeminate] For girls: 1) Do not expect or complain without first verbally communicating a desire. Yes, this seems wordy, but let's be frank: men do not read your mind, no matter how well they know you. They want to please you, so help them out. [my thoughts indeed] 2) Forgive and forget. Do not bring up an old mistake or fault during a disagreement three weeks later as emotional blackmail. Men aren't perfect; we never will be. So when we are genuinely sorry, know that we are genuinely sorry. [we mean it when we say it the first time] 3) (I do not know this rule. As number 2 is guy-exclusive, number 3 is apparently girl-exclusive.) 4) No close guy friends. 5) Never lie. 6) Christ must be first in his life. 7) Have a life. 8) Your relationship is between two people. You and him. Do not gossip with your friends about what you did. Share, have a life, yes. But the point of intimacy is also privacy. 9) Be proactive. Just as men want to please you (cf. #1), they also want to pursue you. But a gentleman will not court without permission--let him know, somehow, how you feel. 10) Do not attempt to control the relationship. Relationships evolve on their own time; to push something before it is time forces people into things they are not ready for. In the words of Solomon, "do not awaken love before it so desires." 11) Let him ride to your rescue. You ought not to be a damsel in distress, but when you need help with something, let him be that help. He wants to be your white knight--if he is in anyway worth it, he better be noble--give him a chance to do so. 12) Don't nag. Not every task is about the value of the relationship. When you ask him to do something, and he says he will, trust him. He will do it on his time. If it is important, tell him, but do not continually press an issue that is non-essential; it says you don't value you what he is doing for you. 13) Clothing communicates. So consider what you are wearing. An outfit doesn't just show him you're beautiful, but everyone else--what are you sharing with the passers-by that is exclusively his? 14) You cannot change a man. So don't try. [I hear this is common among some of the girls that my friends date, fortunately I haven't, and hope, not to date a girl such as this one] * this coming from a gentleman who isn't married (Biretta Tip: Mere Comments)


Mary B said...

I am going to share this with my teens!

Ben said...

My discoveries:

1. You don't shop for BBQ at the library. Go where BBQ may be found. Similarly, you don't look for moms at the club.

2. You're marrying a wife for yourself, a daughter for your parents, and a sister for your siblings.

3. Ask yourself of a potential woman: If I had a daughter just like her, how would I feel about that?

4. Would the world be better with more copies of this woman?

5. If I died, would I trust her to raise the kids right?

The most important points I read here were the ones dealing with communication (do it) and realizing a person is a whole package, which includes history, family, friends, and the like.

My wife and I married earlier this year. We'd been engaged for a year and a half, and had been dating for two years prior to that. It is amazing what you can learn about each other in that amount of time, and it is amazing what you can still discover.

My biggest advice is: don't be afraid of arguing. Sara and I argue all the time, and it helps us quite a bit. We each learn each other's feelings, and if we delve deep enough, we learn history and how that has brought us to our current conclusions. (It especially helps me in learning where I'm wrong, conceited, or various other conditions that are far from flattering.)

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