For Part VI, I’m going to dive into some new stuff, and then comment on some old stuff, okk?
I highly recommend How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk. Sound judgmental? Chill out. You’re not trying to determine if the person is a good or bad person per se; rather, the question is, are they good for you or bad for you?
I’ve a number of perfectly wonderful friends who wouldn’t be any good for me in the context of something beyond friendship.
What I’d specifically like to zone in on is actually a revisiting of that topic which I have previously had such trouble explaining to my American friends, and that is the concept of Filipino courtship, and why I am so sold on it.
In How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk, John Van Epp speaks of the importance of getting to know a person in circles which represent three different levels of relationships. The first circle is that of family, the second circle is that of friends, and the third is what Van Epp calls “peripheral” relationships, meaning strangers.
The general rule is that as the comfort level goes up, the acting goes down. One should distinguish between comfort level and feeling comfortable. For example, if you have a relatively bad relationship with a sibling or parent, you may not feel comfortable around them, but it is indicative of your comfort level if you belittle them, speaking and acting to their face as you would never do to a friend with whom you feel comfortable, but on whose ‘good side’ you are always consciously striving to stay.
Circle #1 ~ Family
How does an individual relate to their family?
In a ‘normal’ family, the same-sex parent is the role model – whether consciously or unconsciously – and the opposite-sex parent will exhibit the qualities that the child will look for in a partner.
In what we might label a ‘dysfunctional’ family, where the parents are split, or are unevenly burdened, or nonexistent, one looks at what the child strives to cope with in attempting to function healthily as an individual. If roles are reversed – the child has to look out for the parent – or the child learns to parent the younger children, or the child becomes a doormat, any and all of these can give clues as to patterns that may resurface in a marriage.
If the child learns that the only way to be secure while growing up is taking control of a situation, they may not like it and may not want to repeat that pattern when they have their own family, but in marriage, what one may find is that that person then needs to take control of a situation to be able to feel secure, and feel is if they are functioning properly. They may not necessarily want to do so, and may want to learn to sit back and let someone else take the reins from time to time, but unless a conscious effort has been made to recognize this pattern and break it, those patterns will resurface in a relationship.
How does a person act around their family while at home? Are they cognizant of the needs of their parents and siblings, are they helpful, are they quick to and comfortable with showing affection? [Are these things you would value in a future spouse?] Is this manner genuine? How does an individual speak of their family when away from the home? Does their manner of speaking match up with their manner in the home? If a person is sweet at home and a backstabber outside of it, what makes you think that you won’t be on the receiving end of it in a long-term relationship? [Are you ok with that? I’m not, but you might be able to handle it. Maybe you expect no less. Maybe you take it and dish it out in kind and expect them to be cool with it, too.]
If you haven’t the opportunity to observe the person within the confines of their home, then note if they make an effort to visit their family regularly. Do they call home, or stay connected via the internet? Is the effort – if existent – mutual? Are they anxious to share stories of their family with you? Do they want to hear about your family? Do they want to get to know your family? Do they react positively or negatively to how you relate to your family?
Circle #2 ~ Friends
The questions to be asked and the patterns to be observed here are much along the same lines as those within the family circle. Is the individual the same person to their friends’ faces as they are behind their backs? Are the friendships one sided, and if so, weighted which way? Are they stingy with their time? Generous? Too generous? What kind of company do they keep? What kind of company do their friends keep? Do they have a significant amount of influence over their friends, or vice versa? Positive, negative?
Circle #3 ~ Peripheral (Strangers)
Circles indicate a ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ increase or decrease of intimacy, depending on which way they’re listed, but their numbers do not indicate importance, which is specific to the individual being evaluated.
At any rate, how does the individual in question treat perfect strangers? Is the person a considerate and patient driver without being a pushover, do they tip well, do they hold doors open, are they calm and collected in unnecessarily long or slow lines… You get the idea.
What all of this has to do with Filipino courtship:
The stages of traditional Filipino courtship pay very special attention to these three circles.
Courtship would ideally begin by getting to know each other in the comfort – or discomfort – of the home, specifically the girl’s.
… a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh… Gn 2:24
The courtship would then progress to include group dates. Only after some time of getting to know a person around their family and friends would one move to exclusive one-on-one dates.
When you become involved with someone, you’re not becoming involved with just that person, you’re getting involved with every person that has ever interacted with that person to make them who they are. You’re becoming involved with their present, but also with everything in their past that has led up to the moment that you first interact with them on any significant level.
I hope that the definition of a date still includes some attempt to impress a person. I really hope it still means putting your best foot forward to make that date the best part of that person’s day – or week, or month, or life. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are patterns to a person’s relationships, specific to their personality, and the best environment in which to evaluate a person that you know absolutely nothing about is not while you’re alone with them, when they can manipulate and maneuver their own self and their surroundings to give a sweep-you-off-your-feet impression.
Don’t you want to be impressed with not only who they want you to think that they are, but with who they really are?
On Parts I & II… The two lists thing is still mostly true, but there are countless females who are beginning to exhibit that same mindest. It is part of the spreading of the culture of Death. Men, if your subconscious warns that females are failing to be women and failing to exhibit and uphold authentic femininity, try to pay attention. [Unless, of course, you go for that sort of thing, I guess.]
Joshua Harris was on to something, but he was a) young (21), and b) dealing with wounds and prejudices – both against others and against himself – that influenced his opinion on how to find and maintain a healthy and holy relationship. His method is a perfectly legitimate one which may work for some. There are others, however, who have different strengths and different weaknesses from Joshua Harris, and for whom saving the first kiss for marriage is actually more harmful than helpful. Two persons can grow together in intimacy without breaking the laws of God; it just depends on the individuals in question. It is not a commandment to save one’s first kiss for marriage, or to avoid long hugs, or to not go beyond holding hands. These are suggestions for people who have significant issues with self control or accountability. Again, it depends on the person.
And so, I correct myself. GO SHOPPING [if your personality and faith life can handle it]. But, you know, shop safe, and shop smart.
Here’s a great article which asks, “Where can our young people go to have innocent fun, not just alongside the other sex, but specifically for mingling with them, meeting them, flirting with them, searching for one of them to love? Where are we nudging them gently along toward marriage and the sweetness of that life?”
On Part III… It occurs to me now that experience can refer to experience in every kind of relationship, filial, paternal, peripheral… In the sense that all other relationships reveal patterns which will likely repeat in a significant relationship, perhaps another way of looking at it is that we all do have experience – a lot of it – that can and will define every consequent relationship, ‘significant’ or otherwise.
On Part V… I stand by everything I said, and I still believe that it is perfectly possible to maintain a healthy brother/sister relationship with someone to whom you are attracted. 15 was seven years ago for me. I think seven years is a decent amount of time to successfully prove that to myself. But there are other factors.
I believe it is perfectly within a parent’s right to forbid dating before a certain age, especially in this day and age. Recreational dating is something that I would hope parents would want to protect their kids from. Note, however, that if the child has been brought up with a correct understanding of the purpose of dating, and the families of both children are both close and on the same page, then allowing dating before eighteen is certainly not out of the question. The search for one’s forever-boy/girl can begin as early as the gravity of that search is internalized. Seriously, why not? Circles, circles, circles and patterns, dears. And if that gravity is understood, then the child should obviously be capable of exercising prudence with regards to the practicality of dating at their own age, as well as the age of their respective love interest.
I said earlier that I’ve recognized a number of friends that are awesome, and are awesome as my friends, but that wouldn’t be any good for me as something more than friends. There are and will be friendships that are worthy of preserving just as they are, and that are simply not worth risking. Don’t waste good friendships. But don’t be overprotective of yourself, either. Look for those patterns and take it case-by-case. Shop smart =)
One Last Caveat
Patterns can be changed. So don’t just throw your hands up and groan in helplessness. Evaluate the significance, depth, and gravity of a specific pattern. Talk about it. Be up front about your concerns. If you both want to change it, then work on it together, consciously and consistently, and if necessary, work with a counselor. Know when help is possible and worth seeking.