Here’s something that’s been bothering me these past few weeks – a brief swipe through Catholic blogs/dating websites and the like will probably lead you to encountering the word “pursuit” in some form.
It is, of course, used to refer to how good, holy men (and husbands-to-be) should exhibit commitment by pursuing their dates/beloveds. I’ve read countless ‘success stories’ on dating websites which mention how the man travelled miles to see a woman, or indeed persisted to contact her, fought the brave fight etc. This is all lovely – and is embedded in our Western culture, regardless of religion, that the man should not only be the instigator of romantic contact, but also sacrifice more – in short, he should prove himself to be worthy – not dissimilar to medieval knights having to complete quests or win tournaments to impress the lady who had caught his eye.
I’m not here to complain. Actually, I quite like the idea – it’s rather fitting that as fellas, we should be held to account to be gentlemen and respect the women we like, date and marry. Further still, as Catholics, we should be looking to St. Joseph for inspiration.
What I am here to complain about is the never-talked about part of this – this expectation creates an unfair balance from the get-go. It means that men (like me, at least) carefully select women they see as respectable, attractive etc. whilst women can tag along more frivolously. In yonder days, this didn’t matter as when marriage was more practical and involved status and wealth, the man’s pursuit showed him to be a worthwhile person. But in our current, more equal, more feminist-driven society, these are no longer a woman’s greatest needs. And yet, we’ve not dispensed with the expectation. So, just like I experienced earlier this year: a man can devote himself to a woman (and thus increase his own emotional link to her) whilst she simply acknowledges this pursuit in a feminine way – smiles, pleasantries, a kiss on the cheek etc. All fine.
Random rejection time! This is the other new expectation from modern-day situations. Now, being a gentleman includes being respectful of a woman’s wishes including rejection/consent etc. Big-picture style, this absolutely makes sense. But in a more personal experience this doesn’t fit. Basically, the knight routine, still used by some to decide if you’re worthy, almost guarantees, that as a man, you will begin to give your heart to your beloved without much reciprocation. And that, in turn, makes for unsteady foundations which makes a modern woman question ‘what’ the two of you are. So I’m not sure what I think modern Catholic women need to do – when they say they’re looking for marriage, what do they think they mean?
To use a personal anecdote: when I was dating the only beloved of my life earlier this year, I did the usual things like book restaurants and pay for meals etc. (despite her being older and likely earning more). That didn’t bother me and it seemed to trigger the feminine reaction I mentioned above (a blushing, hushed smile). Then, there was the time I bought her a single rose. At the time, I remember trying to judge her reaction and thought I’d misjudged it and it had been a silly ‘knightly’ thing to do. That same evening she sent me a photo of said rose in a glass bottle on a table taking place of precedence – when I teased her about it, she explained that she had yet to ever receive a rose in her life! Those sort of moments and actions made my heart swell – I was clearly ‘pursuing’ her and she appeared to be reciprocal.
Fast-forward a month or so. My head was in the clouds. She, however, had come down to earth with a bump, for no solid reason – a plethora of maybes and ponderances had caused her to end us. The nearest I obtained to a reason “I can’t see me marrying you” and yet she also complained that she didn’t know whether to treat me as friend/more. I tried to respect that rejection but after such high-levels of devotion, with seemingly contented acceptance, I still communicated with her on occasion.
When I received that final statement, stopping short of accusing me of full-on harassment, I backed off fully. I couldn’t help but wonder is this the issue with modern Catholic women? (Or at least, the ones I’ve met). They seek husbands who are devoted to them, but when this comes along, the devotion seems weird as it’s ‘friendly love’ to begin with – something at odd angles with our modern culture of instant sexual love for romantic partners.
As a final afterthought – I must’ve read/seen hundreds of Catholic women online bemoaning the lack of proactive men and how they never message first. Perhaps, many of us are exhausted. Exhausted from this merry-go-round. That we do our very best to pour everything into dating, only to never know when our world could be smashed to smithereens by a very human Eve. All I can do is continue – I am fed-up of hearing how I’m a ‘gentleman’ from women who berate exes for being the opposite. I hate to break it to you ladies, but that’s your human choice. If you have the choice between attractive, disrespectful hunk and less attractive more honourable man, and you opt for option 1 – I don’t know why you declare yourself to be seeking a Catholic husband.
Blimey – rant over- I’m not sexist or chauvinistic even if it sounds like I am here – just needed to offload some less-than-healthy thoughts is all!
‘Til the next one.