My Courtship Story ~ Part 8: Courtship Is Not The Answer

by Young Mom @ Permission to Live

Looking back, I like many things about our story. I love that we were very honest about our needs and desires as we understood them at the time. I can imagine it would be more difficult to fall in love with someone and then find out afterwards they don’t want children and you do. I can see the benefits of being straightforward and asking the tough questions right away.

On the other hand, there were things that we could not talk about as well. Religious questions weren’t really that relevant, because we were so enmeshed in our families, we hardly had any beliefs that were truly ours, they were all dictated by our families. There are other tough issues that cannot come up when you have intense levels of parental control. Whatever is not safe to talk about in your family of origin, does not feel safe to bring up in the new relationship either.

I think that seeing our relationship as marriage focused was healthy. We weren’t dating just to date, we were discovering each other and searching each other to see if we could see ourselves together. (However I do feel that the marriage focus was taken to an extreme.) I also think that waiting to get involved in relationships until being old enough to start considering marriage makes sense.

I think that spending time together as families is a great idea. You have the opportunity to observe the persons interactions with their own family members and as well as yours. It helps you to learn how to interact with other people as a couple.

Respect for our bodies and sexuality was a good thing. I think it is healthy to have good boundaries in a relationship. Good communication about expectations and mutual respect for each other is pivotal.

The problem is, all of those things could have been implemented by my husband and I as adults in our own relationship. We could have (probably would have) been serious about marriage, boundaries and family relationships and involvement, without the parental control that the idea of Courtship is founded on.

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Actually I can’t think of a single benefit from the parental control and pressure we had throughout our relationship. Even after we were married, it took several years for us to truly “leave and cleave”. We had never been allowed to be our own persons, and old habits died very hard. We would consult our parents and make decisions (trivial or important) based on what they told us. Eventually we progressed to where we would make our own decisions and fret about how to tell our parents what we had decided. It took four years to get to the point that we made decisions and didn’t bother to tell them at all! We were both nearly twenty years old when we started our Courtship, and every decision was taken out of our hands as though we were fourteen year olds. I can only be grateful that my parents were not as extreme as some in the same mindset, such as this girl who was betrothed against her will and ran away from home to escape. Read her story in this order. ONE, TWO, THREE, and FOUR.)

My parents had a long set of rules we were expected to keep during our courtship. Looking back, it strikes me as pretty creepy. My parents were obsessed with controlling a fully grown child’s sex life. I was expected to ask them permission to do anything, and abide by their decision. It was none of their business what my boyfriend/fiancé and I were doing or not doing. The job of a parent entails teaching their children to respect their bodies and even passing on their religious beliefs if they wish too, NOT being the sexual purity police in another adult’s relationship.

In the end, every boundary I had wanted, stayed in place.

My fiancé and I respected the boundaries that each of us had set in place through evaluating our own values and convictions at the time. My parents rules simply did not stick. I was on my way out of their house and their control, and I had no incentive to follow their dictations any longer. (Other than attempting to keep them happy until the wedding day so that we could get married without having to elope.) I had broken out of the mind control enough to realize I would rather get married to my fiancé than live at home, and we did everything in our power to get that to happen smoothly. Other couples were not so lucky.
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My Courtship Story ~ Part 7: I Do

by Young Mom @ Permission to Live

We spent most of our time together at our family homes, so we also spent a lot of our time together trying to evade family. Since we were engaged we were allowed to go on short excursions alone to public places. So we ran errands for the wedding, like picking up my wedding dress after the alterations were finished, or running to the mall to pick out “Hunk”’s wedding band. When we were around my house, we went for lots of walks together, and I even took him up to my secret spot on the garage roof where we could be alone.

At the end of June (about 3 weeks out from the wedding) I went on another trip with “Hunk” and his family. We all flew out to spend a week with his extended family and introduce me to his grandma. Again, time together was wonderful! Like the weekend early that same month, we ended up getting a lot closer on this trip. His family mostly left us alone when there were no planned events, so we had days of uninterrupted time to wander around the parks in the area.

Up until this point, we had been able to keep my parents rules for the most part. My Dad still hadn’t approved hugging, and we did hug when we were out of his eyesight. But other than that we were being very careful. The emphasis on no physical touch just seemed to heighten the desire for it all the more. I was torn between really wanting to get closer to My Love, but still feeling an incredible burden to obey my parents and give a good example for my siblings. My parents always explained the reasons for their rules being that “kissing would inevitably lead to other stuff”. On this trip, it became apparent to “Hunk” and I that you could get around to “other stuff” even if you never technically kissed. The whole thing started to feel ridiculous, and “Hunk” was getting frustrated. We both knew that the no kissing rule was silly, and we both wanted to kiss, but I was still saying no each time he asked me, and he respected that no.

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After we returned from the trip, I was getting fed up. We had all this pressure to be a wonderful example of what finding your spouse “the Christian way” meant, and I didn’t want to pretend that meant we hadn’t gone beyond holding hands. Maybe it was possible to go through courtship and engagement without any physical connection, but it didn’t feel like as big a deal as I was supposed to think it was and our relationship wasn’t turning out that way.

At church everyone was so impressed with our Courtship (aside from the pregnancy rumours that continued to circulate), many parents in the church saw us as a wonderful example of a “pure” relationship, and used it to bolster their own opinions of their authoritative role as parents in their own children’s lives. I even heard from one Quiverfull mom who was planning on bringing her 6 children (all under the age of ten) to the wedding because she wanted them to see how we had “saved our first kiss”. It felt hypocritical to stand up at our wedding and kiss for the first time, thereby implying that we had zero physical connection throughout our engagement. So 8 days before the wedding I decided that the charade was over and on a walk to the park near my house, I kissed him (or should I say attacked him!).

It was such a relief to have it over with and not have to think about it anymore! Later that day, I informed my Mom that the kissing ban was officially over since I had kissed “Hunk”. She was disappointed, but fairly understanding. She said it was good that we had held out against temptation as long as we did, and that one day I would be grateful we hadn’t kissed. When my Dad heard, his just made the tight-lipped look that he gets when he isn’t happy, but I guess since the wedding was so close, he decided to let it slide.

At some point in that week before the wedding, my Mom decided to talk with me about sex, for the first time since I got the bare bones basics “where babies come from” talk at 11 years old. She basically asked if I had any questions about the wedding night. I asked her if losing your virginity was painful, and she replied that she didn’t really remember, but that she didn’t think so. And that was it. A few months after the wedding, she pulled me aside and asked if I knew that women could have orgasms. I have to admit I laughed when I told her that thankfully I had figured out a few things on my own thanks to books and the internet.

“Hunk” and I never had any pre-marital counselling. I guess the idea was that since we were both Christians and had extensive involvement of our parents who had determined that we were compatible, it was unnecessary. Plus “Hunk”’s Dad was a Pastor, so we had some chats with him that I guess were supposed to be a substitute for counselling. We never talked about Family systems or background or boundaries, or conflict resolution, or finances, or anything much really. He gave us a book on sex and told us what we’d been hearing since we were young, “sex is great, but only when you are married”.
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My Courtship Story ~ Part 6: The Countdown

by Permission to Live

Hunk and I and our parents set the wedding date that same night. He was going to graduate school (3 hours away) that August, and we both knew that we did not want to risk our parents nixing a wedding before next summer. A wedding over Christmas or spring break sounded complicated, and we both knew that he would be distracted from his schoolwork driving down to see me. Secretly I felt that I would go insane if I had to go days and days without seeing him. After a few calls to family members who lived some distance away, we settled on a date in July, eight short weeks away.

I now had a ring on my finger, and people who knew me at violin classes were shocked, they hadn’t even known I was dating anybody, and now I was engaged? I was getting married that summer? Who was this guy? Even at our conservative church there were similar reactions, and rumours started circulating that we were pregnant. One of my acquaintances in the church told me that I was being risky, that I “didn’t know that “Hunk” had been after pretty much every girl in the church.” That bothered me some, why would someone say that about him? I didn’t remember seeing that aspect of him over the year I had been in the church. I even talked to my Dad about it, wondering if I should ask “Hunk” what that girl had been talking about. My Dad said that peers opinions were pointless, the real people that mattered were “Hunks” parents, did they have good things to say about their son? Then everything must be fine. In the end I considered the source of the negative comments and decided to ignore it.

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I stressed alot about leaving my family. As the oldest sibling I had so many responsibilities, would my mom be able to do it all without me? I knew my leaving meant that the sisters next down in the birth order would be taking on my chores, and I felt guilty for leaving them with that burden. I felt a burden to be a protector and encourager of my siblings, and even though I failed miserably at times, I loved them all so much. Someone else would be fixing their hair, practicing violin with them, and baking with them. Would any of them even remember me once I moved out? I tried to make time to connect with each sibling by taking each of them out on a date with me in the weeks before the wedding.

I felt the worst about leaving my six year old sister. This was the sister that I had cared for since my mom had put in my bedroom as an infant. I had been almost exclusively responsible for dressing her, grooming and bathing her, feeding her and correcting her. In recent years I had been homeschooling her as well, and she was making good progress in reading and writing and violin. Would she get the attention she needed after I was gone? She was very angry about my getting married, and told me that I couldn’t do it because “then I would have to move in with ‘him’”. I tried to explain to her that I wanted to live with “Hunk”, but that I still loved her and I would miss her so much. She didn’t take it well, and would hardly talk to me over the next six months or so. It was very hard for me to leave her.
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My Courtship Story ~ Part 5: Will You Marry Me?

by Young Mom @ Permission to Live

Two days later, I was allowed to drive over to “Hunk’s” house for the first time (with a sister along) and when I got there we went for a walk around the block alone (his family was a bit more liberal than mine). I had explained to my Dad that it felt very awkward to not be able to touch at all, and he had approved of us holding hands and promised to give “Hunk” a call to give him permission to do so.

So we held hands as we walked, and I told “Hunk” about a dream I’d had where he had told me “well, this has been nice, but you’re not the one for me.” He replied with a shocked look “How could those words come out of my mouth!?” We walked in silence for a few moments, and then he said quietly “That’s actually one of my biggest fears, is that you will say ‘well, you’re smart and everything, but not what I’m looking for.” We spoke more about our fears of rejection, and then a bit about what we liked about each other. It started to get dark outside, and the moon rose with what looked like a rainbow hovering around it. I told him about my verse and “the time of the singing”, he smiled and said that he thought that the singing was here. We were reluctant to end our walk and head back into the house with the family, but eventually we did.

I was trying as hard as I could to not be afraid of letting down my walls, so I wanted to get the last few serious questions out of the way before I relaxed and let the relationship go wherever it was going to go. Before the week ended, I asked him about his sexual/relationship history (he had held hands with a girl he courted briefly the year before) and shared my own (Zip). I asked about sexual expectations in marriage. Then I asked if he had ever had any addictions, smoking, drugs, alcohol or pornography. Again, I think he was a bit shocked at my forwardness, but he was willing to answer as honestly as possible. By the end of that awkward conversation, I felt like we were on the same page.

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Our parents asked about everything all the time, how was it going? What had we talked about? Were we being careful to maintain physical boundaries? And most of all, did we feel like this was going anywhere? It was most important to figure out if we were compatible for each other, there was no point to wasting time in this relationship if we weren’t going to get married.

We got together as much as we could, I was rarely allowed to drive his way, so he mostly came to my house, where we hung out in the corner of the living room and talked in whispers. Now that we were allowed, we were always holding hands. But hugs or kisses or anything else was still strictly off limits. So we would sit on the couch as closely together as possible without our bodies actually touching. I remember wanting so badly to touch his hair. There was so much emphasis on not being allowed to physically touch, it seemed like sparks should go off if our shoulders or arms brushed against each other.

There was a sense of urgency from both families, were we going to get married or not? We had to figure it out quickly before we gave away pieces of our hearts or (even worse) compromised our purity.

On the one hand, I was feeling more and more that I wanted to be with “Hunk”. He was the first person that had ever made feel as though I was beautiful. He was respectful, he listened to me without interrupting me or belittling what I said. He was a sincere Christian who took his faith seriously. He interacted well with children and adults, we never seemed to run out of stuff to talk about, and he had even survived several hour long discussions alone with my father! When I imagined being married and waking up in the morning I could picture him sleeping on the pillow next to me.

On the other hand, we hardly knew each other at all. We had met a year before, and interacted a bit more in the last few months, but was this enough to be sure about a lifetime together? He was going to be a minister, and my family had been “home churching” alone for most of my upbringing, would I be able to handle being a minister’s wife? He had finished his high school and bachelor’s degree early, and was heading into graduate school that fall; I had some sketchy home school high school. His family was reformed in theology, and mine was a weird patriarchal kind of Baptist with some Pentecostal flavour for good measure who refused to subscribe to any actual denomination.

Despite my questions (and the fact that we had been courting for less than 2 weeks) I could not imagine going back to my dreary life before “Hunk”. Every day, I looked forward to seeing him. The days we could not see each other dragged and seemed to last forever, and I wrote pages about him in my journal. I soaked up every little bit of attention, even the somewhat cheesy romantic moments. Like when he called me on the phone to tell me that the moon had a rainbow around it just like the first night we had held hands. Or when we sat on the couch together, and starting with “Once upon a time…” he told me the story of how we met. He told me that he loved my body, curves and all, that there was nothing about me that wasn’t beautiful to him. I could still hardly believe it, if felt too good to be true.
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My Courtship Story ~ Part 4: The Singing Again

by Permission to Live

We had a good time talking and getting more comfortable being around each other that first day of our courtship. And best of all we were able to see each other again the very next day at Greek class. It was kind of nice to be officially courting, because now we could get down to business and talk in more depth about our beliefs and what we were hoping for in a marriage relationship and children.

That Monday after Greek class (while my sisters hung around and waited for me to be ready to leave) we even talked a little bit about ideas for a wedding. Before I left that night “Hunk” gave me a letter to open the next day (he called it “sad Tuesday”) since we wouldn’t be able to see each other.

I got to open it the next day and it was my first “love letter” of sorts, detailing how excited he was to start this relationship with me and that he couldn’t wait to see me the next day. I must have read it 20 times that day, and I still have that letter tucked in my old journal now.

For Wednesday we planned to get together at the church where I taught some violin lessons in the morning. We each had a sister along to hang out in the church and chaperon while “Hunk” and I ate the lunch I had made and talked. After we ate I pulled out my list. I was very serious and intentional about what I believed and what I would not be OK with in a marriage relationship. Over time I had written 4 pages of theological, relational and child raising questions that I considered important. Some of them were non-negotiable in my mind, such as whether or not he was a Christian, what his beliefs on birth control were, and if he believed that men and women were equal. Some things on the list were preferences, like would he be open to homeschooling and was he OK with the fact that I have some food allergies. And still others I was just curious about, such as would he be willing to talk about things that made him angry or was he a quiet thinker type, what did he like to do for fun, what were some of his best memories from childhood?

I think “Hunk” was kind of surprised at the size of my list, but he answered all my questions openly, and even came up with a few of his own on the spot. When we were done, there was moment of awkward silence, and then “Hunk” said “well, I guess now we just have to hang out and see if we click.”

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He drove over to my house for dinner with the family on Thursday, and again on Friday. We planned to go on our first real live date to the zoo that Saturday. I could hardly wait. One of his sisters and one of mine tagged along to chaperon, and we had an amazing time walking around the zoo and talking, and talking and talking. We talked about dreams for the future, hopes and convictions. I loved that he was willing to engage on every topic that came up, and that he continued to take whatever I was saying seriously, and respect my opinions.

Our sisters took some pictures of us together, and looking at them now, you can see the happiness in my face in every single one. I remember him telling me that I was beautiful at some point that day, and my heart just soared. Towards the end of the day, I slipped walking up some stairs and as I regained my balance I saw that he had reached forward to take my hand, and I found myself wishing that we had permission to hold hands.
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