Week 4: Sense and Sentimentality

Last week we covered Avoiding Fatal Attractions.

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered Sense and Sentimentality. (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

The chapter starts out with:  “How could Mr. Right turn out to be so wrong?”

All I have to say is: “Word.”

“How could Mr. Right turn out to be so wrong?” was my theme song of my life right up until I met and married my husband.  It seemed like I had a particular knack for finding the Mr. Wrongs of the world.  Perhaps instead of rose colored glasses, I had “Mr. Right” glasses on, preventing me from seeing what was really going on in the relationship.

Are you looking at the relationship through rose colored glasses?

I wish I had read this chapter sooner!  Then perhaps I would have noticed that I was often getting caught up in being overly sentimental about the relationship instead of looking at it in it’s reality.

This chapter explains that often one can get carried away in the idea of a relationship rather than the actual relationship between the two persons.  Sentimental feelings about someone is a good and important thing, but when the sentimental feelings take over the relationship and obscure who the person really is, it’s a bad thing.

The chapter argues (as does Blessed JPII) that women have a particular propensity to fall into this trap of being overly sentimental.  We see a guy across a crowded room and suddenly we find ourselves dreaming up a life with him, when we haven’t even met him yet! Or perhaps we’ve had a brief conversation or a momentary encounter and we think, “perhaps this is the one!”

(It’s not that men don’t do this sort of thing, because they indeed do, it’s just that women seem to be more prone to this.  Men seem to rush into the physical side of the relationship and women seem to rush into the sentimental side of the relationship.)

In a way, I think it’s nice that we as women want to think the best of a man.  Awww – aren’t we sweet?

However it’s not exactly prudent to attribute virtue to a man who doesn’t yet posses it.

It reminds me of a scenario in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  (Insert swooning from the ladies here and groans from the men here.) Elizabeth Bennet has erroneously assumed that George Wickham is an upstanding soldier.  It’s only later that she is informed of his actual character in a letter.  George Wickham is in fact, a scoundrel who has been imposing extortion on various people and has left a string of broken-hearted women trailing behind him.

wicked George Wickham

Why do we see virtues that aren’t there? Perhaps we are longing for the heavenly virtues which we are all called to.  Perhaps we are innately yearning for the union that we will have with God when we are in heaven and that yearning drives us to seek those heavenly virtues and an earthly union.  Or perhaps it’s both, and.  (Which is very Catholic…“both, and”…) Perhaps we BOTH yearn for that union AND we (as women) have a particular weakness to rush into the sentimental swooning over a relationship.

When we got together in our small groups we talked about how we as women can sometimes get carried away as our hopes for that “happily ever after” gets imposed upon someone we may have just started dating or someone we may have been recently introduced to.

One woman commented that it’s interesting that the chapter comments on this dynamic but in essence, “what do we do now? How do we prevent this?”

I commented that further chapters discuss actions and attitudes that can help prevent this over-sentimentality, but I encouraged the women in the group to provide suggestions.

Advice for women: get an accountability partner
One woman suggested having a fellow girlfriend act as an accountability partner. (What a great idea! I wish I had one when I was single).  She commented that it was important to “choose an accountability partner who you could trust and one who had the same values as you”, otherwise you would tend to dismiss their advice or their advice might be contrary to your beliefs.  This person could help ensure that you were not looking through those rose colored glasses and that you had a clearer sense of reality about the relationship.  This accountability partner would not be experiencing the relationship emotionally and would be able to give a more clear answer about whether or not the relationship was a healthy one.

Advice for men- how you can help
Once we returned to the group discussion, one of the men’s groups asked, “Well, if women are prone to this, what can we do to help prevent this?”

One woman answered that question quite succinctly:  “prayer.  Please pray for us.  Pray for us to be emotionally chaste.”  Men struggle with physical chastity in particular and women struggle with emotional chastity.  That isn’t to say that we don’t have struggles vice versa, it just means that we USUALLY have a struggle when it comes to these things.

Also, don’t be judgmental.  Yeah – it might be weird for you, as a guy, to witness a girl getting all wrapped up sentimentally with a guy (maybe even you) but don’t label us with terms like, “she’s being a psycho.” 😛 Men and women are just so different that our struggles seem “weird” to the other.

I chimed in with, Say, what you mean and mean what you say.  Don’t just say you “had a really really great time on a date and that you are going to definitely call usjust because you can’t think of a nice way to end a date.  Don’t be nice – be honest.  If you say things that lead us to think more of the relationship than there really is, then it’s no wonder that we’re thinking it!  Also – don’t talk about what particular school your children will be attending, what their names will be, or what kind of house you want unless you want US to be envisioning ourselves in that house.  Don’t talk about your dream life in detail and then expect us to NOT picture ourselves in it.

Don't describe your dream house in detail!

Words are lusty for women
Low cut blouses and short skirts are kryptonite for men; men are prone to lust after the physical attributes of a woman.  Likewise words can be kryptonite for women; women are prone to lust for the sentimental feelings she has when a man speaks to her. Of course every dress is not going to thwart the good natured man and not every word is going to impact a woman to bring her to swooning uncontrollably after a man.  But there are certain key words or subjects that are sure to trigger an emotional response.  Those are: marriage, children (like what their names are and where they will attend school in Westchester County) and house.   (When I think of more, I’ll add them.)  Words can be used for good (like poetry or compliments) but they can also be the triggers that send a woman into daydreaming about a relationship that perhaps isn’t even there yet.  A good rule of thumb is to keep your words level with what sort of relationship you are in.  If you’ve just met, it’s a good idea to avoid describing what sort of house you want to buy “someday” (and what size tv you’ll have in the living room.) If you’ve been dating a while then perhaps it’s time to venture into those conversations which include more details about the specific life you envision leading in the future.

Here’s the thing: it’s not inherently WRONG – it’s just not wise.  See, we gals are like a video game character.  Say the right word and it’s like we just gobbled up a mushroom in a secret world of plumbing pipes and now we are dooo dooo do doooo Growing in Power

SUPER SINGLE GIRL! Now we have super hero strength and are able to leap to a committed relationship – heck, maybe even marriage- in a single bound! (Sorry – I’m sort of drifting in and out of metaphors.)

Super Single Girl! Able to leap to a committed relationship in a single bound!

So – unless you WANT to be out on a date with a slightly psycho superhero, I suggest that you make sure that your words match the type of relationship that you are ready for.

Make sure that you use the “D” word.
Patrick made a great comment:  To avoid all of this, simply state what you mean.  If you want to ask a girl out say, “Hi.  Would you like to go out on a date so that I can get to know you better?”  Be sure to use the word DATE so that she OR you wont be confused about why you’re headed out to coffee.

Patrick went on to mention that he’s noticed that in the Catholic dating scene in New York City, he’s seen a a really big pressure put on dating – that somehow dating someone = marriage.  Patrick noted, “asking someone out on a date for coffee is just coffee, it’s not a proposal for marriage.”  So guys, you don’t have to discern if you are going to marry someone, you just have to ask them out for coffee.  Gals, you don’t have to discern if this guy is Mr. Right, it’s just coffee.

Another guy suggested to keep the conversation on something that is outside of yourselves. I thought that was a good point.  Often first dates we are searching for a subject to talk about and so the conversation often lands on ourselves.  First dates are sometimes like an in person resume and unfortunately sometimes they are disastrously like a police interrogation.

Talk about something outside of yourself, like this tree!

Not fun! So instead of divulging too much about one’s self too early in the relationship, one can attempt to talk about something outside of themselves.  The gentleman that night used the example of talking about a tree.  I’m not sure how long my conversation would be if it were only about trees, but I think it’s a good idea nonetheless.

Another comment was made about prayer.  Pray to God that He will allow you to see the person you are speaking to, how He sees them. Nice.  Short and sweet and much better at making sure that we see the reality of the person not the dreamed up overly sentimental version of the person.

Another suggestion was: Relax.  Dating is a learning process, not a succession of failures.  It’s about getting to know

the other person and simultaneously getting to know ourselves better.  Dating is a way of determining if the match is a complimentary fit, not, is there something inherently wrong with this person that I am interacting with- and how bad or good are they.

I wish I had an easier time remembering this when I was single.  A breakup felt like someone saying, “eww – you’re no good.”  This was probably due to the circumstances of the break up.  Towards the end of my dating career, I realized that really, it came down to whether or not we were a good fit for each other.  Sometimes the guy was a really nice, great guy, but just the wrong fit.

Great fit for someone else, but not a great fit for me.  It didn’t really make sense until I met the man who became my husband.  Each day that I interact with him, I’m reminded what a good fit he is for me.  I’m so glad that I was able to learn through the dating process, what type of person would be a good fit for me.  It helped me to not get stuck in the trap of being overly sentimental and helped me to see the relationship and my sweetheart, in reality, not in my imagination.

As, I said before and as many other women in these discussion groups have commented:  I wish I had read this book sooner!

More to look forward to in further weeks!

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One Response to “Week 4: Sense and Sentimentality”

  1. Week 5: The Law of the Gift « Theology of Swing Says:

    […] Theology of Swing Reconnecting mind, body, and spirit through dance. « Week 4: Sense and Sentimentality […]

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