Christmas Presents, Catholic Presence, and Dating
Mr. Chemistry Lips
Choo-choo, Cha-cha, and Childish: Part Two
Choo-choo, Cha-cha, and Childish: Part One
Okay, I Admit It. I'm Desperate! Part Two
Okay, I Admit It. I'm Desperate! Part One
Why Am I Still Single? Part Two
Why Am I Still Single? Part One
Survive or Thrive?
How Open Is Your Marriage Window?
Angels, Demons, and Dating
|Choo-choo, Cha-cha, and Childish:
Three Tactics for a Remote Relationship
(Part One of Two)
Written by Thomas P. Schmierer
August 27, 2007
|Have you ever been in a long-term dating relationship? If it would not have ended, were you on the track towards the ideal Christian marriage? Or was your relationship more of a Choo-choo, Cha-cha, or Childish one? Investigating these three types of long-term relationship patterns can help you to identify what went wrong and how to get into a courtship that leads to marriage with another quality Catholic single. All three of these patterns typically stem from a fear of intimacy.
Fear of Intimacy
Call it emotional unavailability or call it fear of intimacy, sometimes we just get into relationship patterns that do not stand a chance of leading to marriage.
When I was younger and much less spiritually mature, I once dated a young lady from Germany who did not speak English. In my immaturity, I thought it was the perfect relationship because I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted since we did not live in the same country and, if we ever argued, I could claim that there was an error in the translation.
Now I can reflect on that long distance relationship and realize that there was something inside me that must have been afraid of a real relationship √ something that was emotionally closed and afraid of authentic intimacy. Even if we think we are looking for a good relationship, we sometimes sabotage relationships without realizing what we are doing.
Rather than claim that it was the Holy Spirit that led me into my relationship with the FrДulein, I choose to accept some responsibility. There were plenty of available quality women locally, but it was ultimately me who chose to commit to someone who lived overseas.
Why I was emotionally unavailable is complicated and perhaps impossible to understand with certitude, as is usually the case. One thing that helped to eventually lead me to an authentically intimate courtship was going through the process of identifying my past relationship patterns and making a firm resolution to improve my future dating habits.
If we have been in multiple long-term relationships that have not led to marriage, at some point we must make an examination of conscience to lead us towards a relationship that is marriage bound. Identifying the patterns that I call the Choo-choo, Cha-cha, and Childish may aid you as you reflect on your unfruitful past patterns. (1) In this month's article, I discuss the Choo-choo and next month I will present the Cha-cha and Childish patterns.
The Choo-choo pattern refers to trains and tracks. There are two ways of thinking of it. One way is to think of you and the person you are dating as traveling each on your own rails down the same train track. Whether the tracks go left or right, up or down, the rails are always perfectly equidistant from one another, unlike a healthy relationship where they would gradually come closer to one another over time. Perfect equidistance feels pleasant for two people who are emotionally unavailable because this way they can stay in their own emotional comfort zone, but comfort is not always a sign of goodness.
The awareness and respectful expression of feelings, even fear, anger, and sadness, are necessary to achieve an authentic intimate connection. If a woman does not know what makes her boyfriend sad or afraid because he hides these feelings from her, does she truly know him or is she only seeing a fuzzy image of the real man? How can she have a chance to love him if she knows all of him, minus his emotions? Emotions are an essential part of every human person.
It is understandable that it takes time to come to the level of trust where we feel comfortable revealing all of our emotions, but the process should not remain stagnant. Those who are emotionally available have worked through emotionally-charged relationship issues guided by an undying hope for a more intimate future.
A second way of thinking of the Choo-choo is to think of two sets of tracks going through mountainous foothills. They swerve up, down, and around the hillside, sometimes closer and sometimes further, but never touching one another.
The metaphor of never touching could be applied in a broad way to true emotional connection or in a more specific way pertaining to physical touch. In the physical sense, pure affection is one of the most important parts of a Christian courtship and true love is incomplete without it. (2) Of course, physical affection is not possible if you are in a courtship with someone who is not physically there.
Were you the cause of emotional or physical distance in any of your past relationships? If so, you may wish to reflect on how you can change this pattern in yourself. If it was your boyfriend/girlfriend that was distant, then you may wish to reflect on why you chose to stay in a long-term relationship without seeing progress.
The "End of the Line"
I know of one woman (we'll call her "Janet") who said that her boyfriend is sporadically available for a connection, time-wise, but even when he has time, he still does not make a true emotional and/or affectionate connection. She wants to know if this is the end of the line for this Choo-choo pattern relationship. It is always an option to stay in a courtship with a person who does this, but it may be wise for her to modify her current relationship status to something less exclusive.
Of course if Janet's boyfriend is unaware of his behavior, it is only fair for her to make him aware of his behavior several times when he seems distant and to give him a chance to improve. If over time, there is no progress, she may wish to investigate other opportunities for potential courtship with someone who is already emotionally available. The same advice applies to you, if you are currently in a Choo-choo pattern.
Appropriate Amount of Time
Being emotionally available and truly seeking intimacy does not mean that we consume the life of another. To do this is like when there are two trains coming towards each other at full speed on the same tracks. The inevitable head-on collision results in gross emotional wreckage. As mentioned earlier, in a healthy courtship the rails of the track gradually travel closer to one another over time, ideally for about two years before getting married.
Yet the growth in intimacy before marriage has bounds. One example of these bounds is tongue-kissing, which is morally inappropriate before marriage. We are to grow closer in intimacy, but this intimacy must always be pure and proper to our single state of life. Whereas pure affection and spending quality time together are good, spending too much time together before marriage can turn into a sort of pseudo-marriage that does not respect the dignity of marriage. If our actions reveal that we do not respect the dignity of marriage, then our tracks are leading us towards an undignified marriage.
Father T. G. Morrow's book, Christian Courtship in an Oversexed World, provides a moral approach to friendship dating and courtship:
You might just get together once a week [before exclusive courtship] and talk on the phone twice a week at most. If the friendship gets deeper you can move into a more exclusive arrangement. Agree to not date others, and get together twice a week and speak on the phone a bit more. But until you both agree to move into courtship, it's still a friendship, even if an exclusive one.
If you are courting someone and getting together with him/her more than twice a week, you may wish to reconsider. My girlfriend and I have been dating for over a year and have been steadily growing in intimacy without seeing one another generally more than twice a week. Our train might be moving at a slow, steady pace, but we are both enjoying the trip. We are not planning on getting off at any of the stops (even though it is always an option in courtship) and we are excited about what seems to be our destination.
Even though I just used a train analogy to describe my current relationship, we are not following the Choo-choo pattern as described in this article. If you are in a courtship now, what is your pattern? Are you traveling using a Choo-choo pattern? If so, you may want to get off at the next stop. Ending the courtship also may help you to change your own unfruitful pattern. It will allow you to prove to yourself that you did not "subconsciously" choose to stay in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable person because you are emotionally unavailable yourself.
Being in a pure courtship that grows in intimacy is a very desirable pattern as is obvious in the way Fr. Morrow describes it:
There is another delightful way to share affection. She sits on the couch and he lies next to her with his head in her lap. Then they can talk the night away as he holds or plays with her hand. It's a great way to talk and talk and talk. It is in such situations that a man and woman will have the opportunity to develop real spiritual intimacy, which is so essential to a good marriage. And, it's delightful, because it has the added spice of closeness.
The quote shows in a concrete way how there are some necessary bounds to the expression of physical intimacy in a Christian courtship, but by respecting these bounds, a couple actually increases their chance of experiencing true intimacy.
In a Christian courtship, both members are seriously committed to finding out if they are compatible for the type of marriage that will lead them to Heaven. By consistently spending an appropriate amount of time together, being emotionally available, and growing in pure affectionate love, the rails of your tracks can slowly merge together until finally becoming a monorail on your wedding day. As the scriptures say, "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).
(1) The three patterns have been adapted from a book called Emotional Unavailability by Bryn Collins. Collins also uses the term "cha-cha."
(2) For those wishing to learn more about what is meant by "pure affection," please listen to the audio file The Pacing of Intimacy for Adult Catholic Singles by clicking on the "Listen for free!" link at http://www.vaticanvalues.com/singlesadviceaudiorecordings.html.
Thomas Schmierer is a Catholic counselor, writer, and evangelizer for V2C®. Visit www.vaticanvalues.com to learn more about Mr. Schmierer▓s work.