My Dear “Kindred Spirit,”
A post with a part two! Woohoo! I’m really gettin’ carried away with this one, aren’t I?
Ok, so you definitely need to read part one before you read this one, if you haven’t yet you can find the link here.
In part one, I explained how courtship is a reaction to the societal norm of uncommitted, immoral relationships we see so often in today’s day in age.
Courtship reacts to those issues, and attempts to “fix” two relational issues: lack of commitment and loss of (physical) purity. In part one, I talked about lack of commitment, in this post I’d like to discuss how courtship addresses loss of purity, and why the courtship approach to this problem is not ideal.
Loss of purity is addressed in the courtship model mainly by preventing the couple from spending time alone. Group settings are the holy grail of the courtship mindset, and when the holy group setting is unavailable, chaperones are provided to the couple.
Physical boundaries (no kissing, “side hugs” or a time limit on hugs) are also established in an attempt to protect purity. Long courtships and engagements are discouraged, the general attitude seems to be one of “y’all ain’t gonna be able to keep your hands off each other, so you’d better get married quick!”
These rules may work somewhat successfully in getting couples to keep their hands off each other while they’re courting, but I think they add to the other problem – encouraging people to marry someone they don’t really know. And making it extremely difficult to get to know another person enough that you could make an informed decision as to whether you would like to be in a romantic relationship or married to them.
And, honestly, I’m not convinced that they even work as well as we think to do what they’re supposed to – keep the couple’s hands off each other.
So, problem #1: Group settings.
As far as physical purity goes, I suppose this does work to some extent. Most couples (I say most, not all, but definitely most, especially of those who believe in courtship) will not be as physically affectionate in public/group settings as they would be in private. However, the group setting is a great example of adding to the first problem – not getting to know the person before you commit to them.
For outgoing, extroverted people, group settings are great. They’re comfortable, in their element, they rule the conversation and you can easily get to know them in a group setting.
Unfortunately for those of us (such as myself) who prefer to be the person hiding in a corner rather than the person in the center of the group telling all the stories and jokes and entertaining the crowd, getting to know someone in a group setting poses a bit of a problem. About the most you’ll get to know about me in a group setting is which corner I prefer to stand in, and how quickly I can vanish from the room when it looks like there’s a possibility I could become the center of attention. You sure aren’t gonna get to know me well enough to want to marry me simply from interacting with me in a group setting, because folks, I don’t interact in group settings! I sit back and watch and listen and avoid speaking as much as possible.
My brother has a very plausible theory that the people who seem to use the courtship model successfully, and actually end up happily married after courting are those outgoing folks who are in their element in a group setting. They can get to know one another well in that setting, and are able to get to know someone and have a healthy romantic relationship even with interacting mostly in group settings.
There may or may not be any truth to that theory, but like I said, it sounds extremely plausible to me.
Other strategies for protecting purity, such as chaperones or short courtships and engagements have the same issue. They make it even more difficult to get to know the person you are committing to, so you end up in a serious relationship or married to someone you don’t really know.
But I’d go even further than just those issues.
I don’t think all those rules are even effective to protect the physical purity of the people in the relationship.
There is a huge amount of attention given to the importance of staying physically pure in a relationship, and yet the fact that the very nature of courtship, and the early commitment that goes with it, creates a strong emotional connection is just about completely ignored.
Hugging, kissing and other forms of physical affection, all the way up to sex, include a certain amount of emotional connection and attraction. This may be more true for women than men, but it seems to me that you generally don’t have a overpoweringly strong desire to kiss or touch people whom you have no emotional connection to.
So in courtship, we encourage the commitment and strong emotional connection from the very beginning, but physical affection is frowned upon and in some cases absolutely forbidden until marriage. It’s no wonder this is such a big issue! When you have that emotional connection, of course physical attraction and desire naturally follow – that’s just the way the good Lord designed us. When we encourage the courting couples to commit to each other and get super emotionally connected, is it any wonder we practically have to mount armed guards to make sure they keep their hands off each other??
Wouldn’t the better approach be to discourage the early commitment and emotional connection so that the physical desire isn’t quite so strong from the beginning?
And here’s the other thing. We’re talking about adults here. If you’re old enough to get married, you’re gonna do what you’re gonna do. If you want to bad enough, you’ll find a way to escape your armed guard and go kiss your beloved when no one is watching anyway. The armed guards may discourage the physical affection, but if you think they’re going to prevent it from ever happening, you’re just being stupid.
And being so committed and emotionally attached will make this easier to excuse to yourself, if you’re the one getting “physical” in a relationship. When you can honestly say to yourself “well, we’re gonna get married anyway. We are committed to each other, we’re just not actually married yet, but we will be…”
It makes it way easier to excuse starting down that path to yourself, and makes it way harder to stop your journey down that path, or to say no if you’re not the instigator but are the other person involved…
And then that will add even more to feelings of being “trapped” and hesitation to slow down or walk away if or when red flags arise.
I’m very much afraid that a whole lot of people in the courtship mindset and environment get married simply so they can sleep with each other without feeling guilty and ashamed.
I’m sorry, but if that’s your only reason for marrying someone, don’t. Just don’t. I almost want to say it would be better to just sleep with them without the commitment and be done with it, but I won’t shock and horrify you by going that far.
But, seriously. Marriage should be so much more than physical – or even emotional – attraction and attachment! A healthy relationship should be able to not just survive, but actually thrive even without physical affection. The physical stuff should be the icing on the cake for a marriage, not the basis on which it is founded!
Ok. I think this super long rant is finally winding down, and I’m about done for now.
I know I got way carried away with this post, and it’s a lot to read.
Please don’t misunderstand me: I am a huge believer in long-term committed relationships (aka marriage). I’m a fan of being emotionally and physically attracted to someone.
I just think that the time to commit is not before you even get to know the person. The time to get emotionally attached is not as soon as they make eye contact with you.
It’s worth trying to be friends first and getting to know someone as a person a bit before deciding to pursue a romantic relationship with them.
But maybe I’m just crazy. What do you think?