Posts Tagged ‘Love and Responsibility in NYC’

Week 10: Men, Women, and Tenderness

October 14, 2011

Last time  we covered: To Inspire Love: A return to modesty

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered the chapter, “Men, Women, and Tenderness” (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

This chapter is funny because I think it makes all of the women who read it, say, “Alleluia!” and all of the men who read it, say, “Uh. Oh.”

Why do they have those reactions? Because in this chapter Blessed John Paul II says that in marriage, “Tenderness is the ability with and for the whole person, to feel even the most deeply hidden spiritual tremors, and always to have in mind the true good of that person.”  He goes on to say that “women not only expect this type of tenderness from their husbands but that they actually have a special right to it in marriage.”

In trying to help men to realize that women seem to have a different tenderness need than men, one guy  repeated a simile that he heard once:  Women are like slow-cooking-crockpots.  Men are like microwaves.  So men, if you are wondering why women seem to need so much more time, effort, and love than you do, it’s because we’re wired differently!

Women are like Crockpots... they need love and tenderness for hours on end! 🙂

The chapter first clarifies however, that there is danger in being prematurely tender with one whom you are not married to.  In the dating or friendship realm, premature excessive tenderness can lead to confusion and even lead to the demise of a love that may have been quietly blooming.

Sometimes in the dating phase we are eager to reach this sort of spousal tenderness and we slip into being either physically tender, emotionally tender, or spiritually tender at a level that really is only appropriate for spouses.

In the large discussion I brought up that this reminds me of 6th grade behavior.  You know, like when Bobby said to Susie, “Hi – do you want to go out with me?”, Susie said, “Yes.”, and then Bobby and Sue hold hands.  They hold hands tightly from the moment they are “boyfriend/girlfriend” until the moment they break up.  In fact, it’s only when they stop holding hands that you know that they are no longer an item.

Bobby and Sue don’t take time to get to know each other or have the relationship and friendship deepen.  They simply quickly move on to this public display of (premature) tenderness that declares to others, “Back off.  We’re inseparable!”  It gives the illusion that they have a deeper relationship than they really do.  It gives the illusion of tenderness that simply is not there.

Are you prematurely inseparable?

For one thing, it’s not being honest to each other about how they feel about each other.  It gives them the secure feelings of a deep relationship – perhaps even for altruistic reasons, but it’s false.  For a second thing, it wards off any other suitors that are perhaps more properly matched for them.

In the larger discussion a guy commented that the above dynamic seems to be happening in the dating scene again – even though we’re not in 6th grade anymore. 😛 People seem to quickly rush into showing tenderness for the other only to realize, “Wait! It’s only the end of the first date.  Perhaps I should get to know the person.”

Janet commented that she felt that premature tenderness or excessive tenderness or even an inability for tenderness (so either there’s too much or too little) seems to stem from dating that is not “purposeful dating.”  Rushing into concern for the other (care-taking when someone has the ability to care for themselves) or rushing into spiritual tenderness with someone  stems from the idea that “this is just what is supposed to happen when you are dating someone” instead of allowing those feelings to actually develop for the other person.  OR You might hang out with a group of friends to “get to know someone before you start dating them” only to sort of stay in this friendship zone once the dating phase starts.   But dating with purpose – purposeful dating to discern if God is calling you to DATE THIS SPECIFIC PERSON (not just if you are supposed to be dating in general) and then leading to discernment on if you are called to the vocation of marriage with that specific person helps ensure the balance of tenderness.

Are you discerning the will of God? Are you staying balanced?

I think that this is probably in part to the fact that if you are discerning (focusing on what God is calling you to do in that instance) then it assists you in being more aware of whether or not you are balanced, in tenderness or other areas of your life as well. If you are asking yourself, “What does my tenderness or lack of tenderness toward this person mean?” then you are probably less likely to be reckless or lacking in your tenderness.

This may leave women saying, “Wait.  I thought you said that I had a right to tenderness – deep tenderness?”

Yep – you do – as a married woman.  Indeed you, and every human, have a right to tenderness at some level.  But spousal tenderness is something that women seem to be predisposed for and so they often, it seems, fall into wanting that sort of spousal tenderness in a budding dating relationship.  For women, our challenge is to fight the urge to create this spousal unity in tenderness when we are merely dating the person.

For men, their challenge is to fail to be fully united in their tenderness with their spouse once they are married.  Perhaps they became accustomed to the level of tenderness that they are comfortable with while they were dating? This may be fine during a budding relationship, but as the relationship progresses, the tenderness should also increase, until in fact it is complete unity in spousal tenderness: emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

Why does this type of tenderness need to wait until marriage? Simply put: because you aren’t spiritually united with your spouse until you say, “I do.” Why does it need to progress and grow during marriage? Simply put: because the relationship and demands on the relationship progress and grow in the marriage.

One of the questions asked, “Have you ever witnessed a marital relationship where true tenderness was evident, and in contrast, one where it was not?”

Happily and sadly this brought my parents to mind.  They are Catholic and have been happily married for almost 40 years.  (How awesome is that?!?!? It makes my 2 years seem quite shabby!) I’ve seen my parents show tenderness towards each other: holding hands, smooches, flowers on an anniversary or birthday, and chicken soup and foot rubs on days when there’s been illness or bad allergies. In these times I see how united they are as a couple.

Sadly, I’ve also seen times when their patience has been drawn thin and they’ve gotten snippy with each other instead of using words of kindness.  (Hey – it happens to the best of us.)

WARNING: Words or actions without tenderness creates division!

During those snippy moments – those lack of tenderness moments, it’s almost as if I see their spousal unity divide and suddenly there are two individuals standing there.  One person is saying, “I need something of you.” and the other is saying, “I don’t care.” 😦

It’s my personal opinion that lack of tenderness during a fight is the cause for most divorces. It’s not infidelity or financial woes, it’s lack of care for the other person’s feelings.

Thankfully my parents aren’t headed for divorce, but those snippy times help me realize just how fragile love and marriage can be.  If you aren’t careful, you can crush the love that is there.  That’s why tenderness is so important.

One woman related that her parents had gone through a divorce and that it was only after she went to a friend’s house and saw her friend’s parents being affectionate and tender towards each other that she realized that this had been missing in her own home.

Nivi then offered that we all can take part in making sure that this does not happen in a marriage.  From the example that her mother gave her, Nivi now implements acts of tenderness to her husband like dropping everything and greeting her husband as he walks through the door.  Awwww!

It seems simple, but this act of being fully present to the person as they enter the room says, “I care that you are here and I want you to know that I noticed!”

Nivi went on to mention that we are often affected by the family experiences that we have grown up with.  (Psychologists usually refer to this as Family of Origin “stuff”.)  If you are aware of those experiences and dynamics you can try to avoid the areas where your family’s actions fell short and work to implement those family actions that helped strengthen the marriage, family, or acts of love toward others.

Nivi mentioned that one of the good things that she learned from her Family of Origin was a good way to end a fight. She said that when her parents have an argument and then one realizes that they have been wrong, they kiss the other’s wedding ring.  This shows a re-commitment to their wedding vows of honoring and loving the other and gives them a signal that the surrender flag has been sent up.

Kissing a wedding ring to end a fight? Sounds like a fairy tale ending to me! 🙂

Another question asked of the group was: “What do you think tends to keep husbands from entering the emotional lives of their wives? How can men live this out better? And how can women make it easier for their husbands to do this?”

My answer was: The thing that tends to keep husbands from entering the emotional lives of their wives the most is THE NOTHING BOX. Basically, they are simply wired differently then women.

If you aren’t familiar with what the Nothing Box is, watch this hilarious clip from “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage.”

If men aren’t careful, they can end up staying in their nothing box for too long.  They can claim, “Well, this is just the way I am.” and refuse to come out of their nothing box, especially when it’s at the request of their spouse.  If men are in their Nothing Box they can’t be fully present to the women in their life.  If they remain in the Nothing Box then they lose the ability to show tenderness to another.

If women aren’t careful, they can end up expecting men to be like women and request that the men somehow throw away their Nothing Box.  These types of women end up wanting men to be fully present for them at all times of the day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  But this would be asking the men to be something that they are not!  God, in his wisdom, designed men to have a Nothing Box so that they can regroup and be refreshed.

Our job as women is to be aware and respectful of the existence of our men’s Nothing Box.  Once they’ve had a reasonable amount of time (whether that’s 20 minutes or an hour) in the nothing box, then we know that we’ve allowed them to be who they are and we ask them to meet us where we are now and where we need them to be.

God creates these differences in us so that we can be encouraged by the other – so that we are stretched as persons into growing into a better person.

God is asking us to be better persons by showing tenderness towards other people. It might be tricky to keep it in balance and to anticipate the needs of the other person, but the good news is,  we have a lifetime to figure it out.

That’s all for now.  Up next: How Contraception Harms Love!

Week 9: To Inspire Love: a return to modesty

October 3, 2011

Last time  we covered: The Battle for Purity

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered the chapter, “To Inspire Love: a return to modesty.” (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

This week was fun! You know why?  Because finally the small groups were co-ed! Guys and Gals sharing ideas about….. MODESTY.  Duh Duh Duh!

This chapter unpacked the idea that modesty isn’t about covering our bodies because they are bad, it’s because they are oh-so-good that they deserve to be respected and that through modesty,  more about the person is revealed.

But how can this be?  Covering up more of the body, hides it – how can modesty reveal more about a person? and can it have the amazing effect of actually inspiring love?

The short answer is: Yep. The answer about how modesty does this is what the chapter is all about.

The first part of the chapter is tricky because it deals with a word that most people interpret as negative thing ( in other words, it has a negative connotation, but not denotation): shame.  Both Sri and Blessed John Paul II clarify that shame in this sense is not a result of guilt – but rather a natural reaction to cover the body – to cover that which is precious and personal.  Sri explains, “It helps prevent the person from being treated as an object.” He goes on to explain that that in the context of wedded love (a mature self giving of a husband and wife), however, the natural innate tendency to cover our bodies (shame) is “absorbed by love”.

Basically, shame disappears because the spouses’ free, total, faithful, and fruitful gift of themselves at the altar is a statement that says, “I will not use you.” Once that spousal trust is there, there is no need to be afraid of  being used as an object.

But, outside of that spousal trust, we need to be aware that even though we do not mean to provoke this reaction, we may be seen as an object rather than the person that we are.

(I’d like to clarify that if a spouse treats their spouse as an object, then it’s not a situation when that spousal trust exists.  When a spouse uses the other person, it squashes the spousal trust that was there.  It’s not that marriage or being a spouse therefore is a force-field against being used for unfortunately spouses can fall into the trap of mutual use if they are not careful and active in ensuring that the state of spousal trust is preserved AT ALL TIMES.  Once that state of spousal trust is there and remains, then shame is no longer active between the spouses. Spousal trust diffuses the innate good shame.)

Sometimes this is a bitter pill for us women to swallow.

I think that this is mostly due to the fact that we don’t realize just how powerful our looks can be – we don’t realize the power that we can wield over men’s reaction to our visual stimuli.  Men are much more visually stimulated than women are, so I think women have a hard time comprehending the magnitude and speed to which men are stimulated. (Likewise men have a hard time understanding how women can get so emotionally stimulated over one tiny nice gesture, because women are more easily emotionally stimulated than men are.)

I explained in the large discussion group that when I first started dating the man who later became my husband, I had a somewhat awkward conversation with him in which I explained my desire to “not wield the power.” He said, “Wielding the power? What’s that?”  I said, “Well, that’s wearing a low cut blouse or dress so that I can get “attention” from men.  I don’t want to control a man into finding me attractive.  I don’t want to whack someone over the head, figuratively speaking, with my body parts.  It’s enticing to want attention from the opposite sex –  especially from the man I’m really interested in – or the man I’m dating.  This is going to sound silly, but I’ve come to realize how powerful cleavage is.  Or a short skirt for that matter.  I don’t want to manipulate a man with that.  I don’t want to be “sexy” to strangers. I want to be beautiful, alluring, and inviting.  So I’ve decided to stop “wielding the power”.”

Are you wielding the power like She-ra? low cut blouse? short skirt?

At first I think he didn’t know what to think of that statement.  But after a while he came to appreciate it – especially after we were married.  He’d see a woman who was revealing WAY too much to the rest of the dinner party and he’d lean in close to my ear and say, “Honey, thank you for not wielding the power.” Which was really just short for, “thank you for not showing your breasts off to the rest of the men and women that are sitting around the table – because it’s really awkward to see all these men staring at that woman’s breasts as they try to pass the potatoes.  I would just feel sooo awkward if the men at this table were drooling over my wife’s body parts like they were a piece of meat at the dinner table.”

If you are a married woman and you are reading this (or even if you are dating someone) , I encourage you to reflect on this situation and ask yourself, “why isn’t the love and affection from the man whom I love, enough? Why do I feel drawn to pull the eyes of all of the men- any man – even someone else’s spouse to my cleavage?”

The single gals are by no means exempt.  I would encourage single gals to reflect on this situation and ask, “Why do I want to be seen as an object? Why do I want a man to only see a part of me?”

My husband and I laugh about it now because as I shop for clothes my husband will look at the new outfit as I exit the dressing room and say, “Hmmm.  No.  I think it’s “wielding the power”.”

Now there maybe some gals who might be thinking, “I don’t think it’s a big deal, I’m gonna wield the power that I have because God gave it to me. Why not use it? If you’ve got it, flaunt it.”

Why not use it? Because it is merely the illusion of power.  In actuality, when you use “wielding the power” to manipulate a man, you allow yourself to become an object.  So instead of gaining something, you lose something – your human dignity.  Love doesn’t see the person as an object to be used.  So gals, if you are truly seeking love, then avoid being seen as an object.  Be seen as a person who deserves and seeks human dignity.

Strive for lovely, adorable, beautiful, or alluring.  It will bring out the best in you and the best in the men in your life.

Be Adora…. as in adorable…. not She-ra… as in She-ra-ther be treated like an object. 😛

When She-ra isn't wielding the power, she's modest Adora.

(For those of you who watched She-ra when they were young,  you will know that the character Adora actually has another step to go in being more modest.  She is seriously lacking in the pants or skirt department which is why the picture above is not zoomed out. BUT please note that She-ra has all kinds of cleavage going on- while Adora is revealing much less! For those of you who didn’t watch She-ra and need a little explanation:  She-ra and Adora are one in the same.  Adora is a princess and when wielding the power, she becomes She-ra!)

During the both the small and large discussion groups I brought up a hilariously and even quite functional As-Seen-On-TV product that helps in the effort to be more modest: the Cami Secret.

It’s in many colors and if you call now, I’m sure that you’ll receive a free bonus selection! 😛

I was going to get it for my sister one year for Christmas as a joke, but then I got to thinking that it would probably be a pretty great gift.  Sometimes I find dresses or tops that are very flattering but unfortunately have one significant flaw:  as one guy at L&R in NYC put it, “It looks like you’re dressed for open heart surgery!”.  Yep – the  neckline is way too plunging thereby making the shirt or dress unwearable. 😦

Anyway – I thought I’d post the clip so that if any of you are interested in actually purchasing it, you can follow the link listed there.  Boy don’t I wish I had invented it – or at least I was getting a cut on this referral!

Sometimes people think that dressing modestly means wearing a frumpy jumper.  It doesn’t.  NO frumpy jumpers please!

No frumpy jumpers!

One way to dress modestly is to, as one person put it that night, “Make sure your underwear is under there.  It’s called UNDERwear for a reason.”

In other words, whether you are a guy or a gal, I don’t want to see your underwear!

Isabel reminded us gals that we should dress for our body types.  Be aware that some fashionable trends were not made for your body type – and on your body type they are too revealing.  She also pointed out that dressing modestly does not mean dressing unattractively as some people in today’s fashion world might have you think.

Crystal suggested that girls ask themselves, “Do I want the cheap kind of attention?”

Another gal asked the guys to “Please let us know when we aren’t dressing modestly.  We might not know that what we are wearing is causing a temptation for you. ” Brilliant.

In the small group Megan offered that modesty is also in our actions.  It’s not enough to dress modestly, we must also be modest in how we hold our bodies.  We can be fully clothed but still be inappropriate in our manner.  Hold yourself to higher standards in dress and in actions.

In the small group I offered the reflection that it seems: If we reveal everything, there is nothing to draw the other in to discover that which is hidden.  What is hidden?  Our minds and our spirits.  We are more than our bodies.  So if we reveal everything about our body, the other person could easily miss the reality that there is more than meets the eye.

Patrick who was in my small group added that, “by revealing too much, it hastens that ‘getting to know the other’-phase.” He commented that if the getting-to-know-the-other-person-phase goes to quickly then you actually end up missing a lot about the other person.  As he was speaking it made me think of a car speeding past a beautiful scenery.

Are you speeding past the "getting to know someone" phase?

If you’re going 100 miles an hour, you aren’t really going to see the scenery as it goes by.  If you drive by a person at 100 miles an hour, would you be able to recognize them once you are standing still?  Dressing immodestly makes everything a blur.  On the other hand, dressing modestly sets both persons up to be able to actually see the other person.

Michael commented that when guys come across a gal at a party or a bar who is dressed modestly the guys don’t think, “Wow.  I really want to get to know that modest woman over there.”  They think, “Wow.  She’s beautiful.  I’d like to get to know her.”

Some guys in the crowd also acknowledged that while there might be some women who ARE striving for modesty, there are plenty of women who are unaware that their immodesty is a temptation for men.

One guy in particular commented that in college, while he considered himself to be a practicing Catholic, he really struggled with the idea that women should not be objects of lust.  Once he realized that women deserved to be treated with dignity and not be the objects of lust, he had to reform his old habits and replace them with good ones.  Instead of a subscription to Maxim Magazine, he read the Bible.  When he encountered a scantily clad woman walking down the sidewalk, he would push lustful thoughts out of his head by reciting Hail Marys over and over again.  One of his friends even wore a rubber-band around his wrist and snapped it every time he felt himself being drawn into lusting after a woman (or a particular body part) instead of seeing her beauty and value as human deserving the utmost respect.

To be sure, today’s world brings us challenges in the way of modesty whether we are men or women.  But I’m here to say, that it’s worth it.  I encourage you to, Be “The Cutest You” not the “Sluttiest You”.  Be “The handsome-est You.  Not the “Slickest You.”

That’s all for now – more next time on:  Men, Women, and Tenderness.

Week 8: The Battle for Purity

September 14, 2011

Last week  we covered: Resenting Chastity

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered the chapter, “The Battle for Purity.” (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

This chapter explains that the word chaste literally means clean – and no that does not mean that the Catholic Church teaches that sex is dirty – it means that being chaste is being in a state of being clean – a state of purity.
Sri explains, “We must see chastity as a positive virtue that enables us to love, and protects love from being tainted by the selfish tendency to use the other person for our own pleasure. Wojtyla says chastity is emphatically not “one long ‘no.'” Rather, it is first and foremost a yes — a yes in our hearts to the other person, not just to his or her sexual values. It is a ‘yes’ that requires certain ‘no’s’ in order to protect love from falling into utilitarianism. “The essence of chastity consists in quickness to affirm the value of the person in every situation, and in raising to the personal level all reactions to the value of ‘the body and sex'” (p. 171). This positive, wider context of love for the person is key for understanding the ‘no’s’ of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality.”

The chapter then goes on to explain that there seems to be two “battlefronts” where this fight to be pure – to be chaste takes place: the physical realm and the emotional realm.

In most cases men struggle most with the physical realm and women struggle most with the emotional realm.

The chapter then explains that it is natural to experience the initial thrust towards lust whether it be physical or emotional, but that in itself is not sinful.  The problem is when we step over those bounds and ACT on those initial impulses.

The truth is, until one masters these impulses to act, one is controlled by them.  If we do not have power over it, then it has power over us.   Ick!

Don't let lust imprison you!

Our breakout discussion in our small group largely focused on emotional chastity, what it is, and how to know how to apply it without going overboard.  One gal, (I think her name was Lorena), said that her mom’s advice to her was: Fall in love with your head first until you are married, then fall in love with your heart.

The gals in our group also commented that this battle is difficult whether it is for physical chastity or emotional chastity because it comes so naturally from our innate call to love.

In the larger discussion group when everyone came back together multiple people gave the advice of using prayer to assist us in this “Battle for Purity”.  Because our weakness is in chastity (until and even after we master it), it not only is a physical or emotional battle we are fighting it is a spiritual one.  So, it is wise for one to strengthen themselves spiritually with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that we can gain in the sacraments and by saying the Rosary.

What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“Paragraph 1831 The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.

Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

What are the Spiritual Fruits of the Rosary?
taken from: http://www.prayerfulrosary.com/Prayerful.html

The Fruits of the Mysteries
The Meditative and Soul of the Rosary. Each mystery has a deep meditative virtue or grace associated with it known as the “Spiritual Fruits of the mystery”. When the meditative mode of prayer is developed, the mysteries become connected to the soul which leads to contemplative prayer.

Do you know the Spiritual Fruits of the Rosary?

Joyful Mysteries

  1. The Annunciation ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Humility
  2. The Visitation ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Love of Neighbor, Charity
  3. The Nativity ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Poverty, Love of God
  4. The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Obedience
  5. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Zeal for God

Sorrowful Mysteries

  1. The Agony in the Garden ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Sorrow for Sin/Contrition
  2. The Scourging at the Pillar ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Purity
  3. The Crowning with Thorns ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Courage
  4. The Carrying of the Cross ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Patience
  5. The Crucifixion ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Perseverance

The Glorious Mysteries

  1. The Resurrection ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Faith
  2. The Ascension ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Hope
  3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Love of God
  4. The Assumption of Mary ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Grace of a Holy Death
  5. The Coronation of Blessed Virgin Mary ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Trust in Mary’s Intercession/Devotion to the Blessed Mother

Luminous Mysteries

  1. The Baptism of Jesus~Fruit of the Mystery: Sacrament of Baptism
  2. The Wedding at Cana~Fruit of the Mystery: To Jesus through Mary/Gratitude for the gift of Faith
  3. Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God ~ Fruit of the Mystery: Repentance and Trust in God/Desire for Holiness
  4. The Transfiguration~Fruit of the Mystery: Spiritual Courage
  5. The Institution of the Eucharist~Fruit of the Mystery: Adoration of the Eucharist

One gentleman commented that it’s much harder to resist something good at the wrong time if you are starving.  His advice (which I think is brilliant!!) is to fill one’s mind with beauty and to work at being emotionally connected with people – in general – so that you won’t be so starved of this beauty and emotional connection that you will grab at it with the wrong types of people.  He commented that he had just finished having dinner with his sister and that  this connection with her helps fill that desire for emotional connection.

Are you starving for beauty and emotional connection?

For many of us, especially in NYC, our family lives far away so this particular example is not available for us.  However, we can create a NYC-family to  have dinner with: a roommate, someone we met at a  MeetUp group, someone we met at a volunteer activity, or perhaps even someone we met at Love & Responsibility in NYC! (I’m just stayin’) 😛

His point was that, “It’s easier to not eat junk food if you are eating healthy food.”  Taking these steps is part of setting ourselves up for success in this battle for purity.

Megan had a similar imagery:  “Don’t date cupcake men.  Date apples and pears.”

Don't date cupcake men!

Her point is that some people look nice on the outside but what’s inside isn’t really good for you.  You should date people who are good for you and who you are good for too!

So yes, the Battle for Purity will be difficult…. but it’s totally worth it! Good luck and see you at the next L&R in NYC!

Week 5: The Law of the Gift

August 22, 2011

Last week we covered Sense and Sentimentality.

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered The Law of the Gift: Understanding the Two Sides of Love. (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

This chapter speaks about the subjective side of love and the objective side of love.  The subjective side of love is what happens inside of us (our feelings, our attraction, i.e. sentimentality, sensuality). To quote the author, Ed Sri, “In other words, on its own, the subjective aspect of love is no more than a pleasurable experience happening inside of me.”   This is the side of love that sort of  happens to us. The objective side of love is that conscious decision to love someone for who they are.  It’s not something that happens to us, it’s something that we do.

That reminds me of a country song that I used to know (I used to live in NC and country music was prolific!):

“When considering the objective aspect of love, we must discern what kind of relationship exists between me and my beloved in reality, not simply what this relationship means to me in my feelings. Does the other person truly love me more for who I am or more for the pleasure he receives from the relationship? Does my beloved understand what is truly best for me, and does she have the virtue to help me get there?” says Ed Sri.

Sadly, I have friends that have married someone who loves them subjectively, not objectively.  When I read, “Or are we really just living side by side, sharing resources and occasional good times together while we each selfishly pursue our own projects and interests in life?”, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach and it reminded me of those relationships that I’ve witnessed where the fire of (subjective) love burns brightly at first and then after a while it burns out leaving one or both persons wondering if they were really in love in the first place.

Subjective love is like PB&J

PB&J YUM!

When we were in our breakout groups, our group talked about this dynamic.  I mentioned that I had heard of couples who had been married for 30 years who seemed to stay in this subjective love phase.   “Many couples get divorced and I think that it’s because the relationship never matures into the objective side of love, it stays in the subjective side of love.  Sometimes couples can somehow survive this for 30 years, and then it takes something like a Marriage Encounter retreat weekend to expose them to the existence of objective love – this whole other level of love that is much more nourishing.   It’s like all they know is PB&J – they don’t even know that fillet minion exists!”  I love a good PB&J, but a lifetime of ONLY PB&J would get old quickly.  That’s why, in my opinion, living off of ONLY subjective love doesn’t usually work for very long.  It’s probably why most marriages that end in divorce, do so after 1 to 3 years.

The chapter also mentions that this objective side of love is given freely – it is a free choice to give of themselves.  The “Law” of that gift of self is that the person has to go outside of themselves in order to give that gift.  By forgoing their personal interests or personal freedoms for another, it enriches their loved one’s life and simultaneously their own.

Sri states, “Therefore, while the modern individualist may see self-giving love in marriage as something negative and restrictive, Christians view such limitations as liberating. What I really want to do in life is to love my God, my wife and kids, and my neighbor — for in these relationships I find my happiness.”

I’d come across that modern individualist attitude in some of the guys I dated.  It was sad because they viewed marriage as this THING that imposed a list of “can’t”s onto their life.  They didn’t want anything to do with it because they weren’t ready to give up their single -very-self revolving-lifestyle.

We commented about this in our breakout groups.  Sometimes people ask, “How much can I get out of this?” (subjective love) versus what they should be asking: “How much can I give?” (objective love).  That’s definitely a sign of subjective love, not objective love.

One woman commented: It’s freeing to hear this truth, that if we freely give of ourselves we will attain true freedom and lasting happiness.  

It’s inspiring, but intimidating. 
Another woman commented about objective love: It’s inspiring, but intimidating.  How are we supposed to accomplish this? Isn’t this impossible?

I mentioned that it does sound a bit like we’re asking someone to breath underwater.  It sounds unnatural to ask someone to go outside of themselves.  But, this is why those sentimental, sensual, subjective love aspects are actually important (as long as their within a proper proportion).  The desire for these things – the desire for love that is there innately, gives us the courage to consider it – to be open to doing that which seems impossible: giving up our freedom, to gain it.

I believe that the grace that we receive from God is like the snorkel and mask that allows us to stay immersed in the water and do what we thought was impossible.  God gives us grace which helps us to love others when it requires more that what comes naturally.

God's grace helps us to do the impossible!

The chapter also goes on to describe that objective love is a choice to love , that is freely given (e.g. one does not expect payment in return), and that one has to be free to give this gift.  If something is master of you, then you are not free to love.  That is why self mastery is so important – especially when it comes to chastity.

A woman gave the point that: while as a single person, one might wonder how you can freely give yourself completely to others.  Chastity is part of conforming one’s self as a single person to that ideal.  That one will give themselves completely (sexually) to one’s spouse.  While living as a single person, chastity is a way to achieve that self mastery so that when the situation arises after marriage, one can freely give of themselves and not be overwhelmed and mastered by sexual impulses.

Being unchaste  is a symptom of the sexual urge having mastery over one’s self.

That struggle for self mastery lies in many things, not just sexuality.  It’s important to remember that while we are striving for this self mastery, we are not yet perfect.  So we may not have every thing mastered yet, but as one person said that night, “At least we are facing the right direction” so that we can walk down the path towards that.

Natalia suggested reading a book called “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers.  She said that it gives a great example of this objective love and loving someone who has not yet reached perfection.

Read this for inspiration on Objective Love

(The Online Catholic Store describes the book as: this splendid retelling of the biblical story of Hosea, bestselling author Francine Rivers pens a heartbreaking romance between a prostitute and the upright and kind farmer who marries her; the story also functions as a reminder of God’s unconditional love for his people. Redeeming Love opens with the Gold Rush of 1850 and its rough-and-tumble atmosphere of greed and desire. Angel, who was sold into prostitution as a child, has learned to distrust all men, who see her

only as a way to satisfy their lust. When the virtuous and spiritual-minded Michael Hosea is told by God to marry this “soiled dove,” he obeys, despite his misgivings. As Angel learns to love him, she begins to hope again but is soon overwhelmed by fear and returns to her old life. )

Another woman advised that, “If you don’t know yourself, you run the risk of losing yourself in the other person.”

I wish I had a friend to tap me on the shoulder and repeatedly remind me of that while I was in the dating scene!

I commented that it was important to note that Blessed JPII had said that our desire to love, our choice to love “limits” our freedom.  It does not squash it.  It’s important to mention this because often I think people feel as if this kind of altruistic love asks them to give up their free will.  One gentleman quickly came to my rescue to help explain that “this idea of compromise or self sacrificing in order to fully love someone does not mean that we compromise who we are or who God is calling us to be.  We do not sacrifice our “non-drug”-self so that we can attend a Rave party and do cocaine.” It’s sacrificing for the betterment of the other person AND ourselves not at the cost of our dignity.

Brilliant!

Advice for men
One group of men shared the list of “how to prepare to be a man who can give themselves fully in love to another” that they came up with in the small discussion groups.  It was priceless!

Get a plant to take care of so you can learn how to love!

  1. train one’s self in forgiveness – be able to forgive others easily
  2. general discipline – be able to keep a schedule/routine and stick to it
  3. get a plant or even a dog  (this was my favorite!) -so that then, you’ll get used to taking care of something, other than themselves, that needs care on a regular basis.
  4. going to reconciliation on a regular basis.  This encourages one to go outside of one’s self, to admit to another that we “messed up” and shows a desire to be stronger in that area.

Another guy, Tom, offered that he often watches the movie “The Nativity Story” during the season of Advent.  This  love story  between Joseph and Mary really displays that objective love – that self sacrificing love- that Joseph has for Mary.  It’s a way for him to be reminded of this good manly role model of how to love rightly.

That’s all for now – see you at the next Love & Responsibility in NYC!

Week 4: Sense and Sentimentality

August 17, 2011

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!

Week 3: Avoiding Fatal Attractions

July 19, 2011

Week 3 of  Love & Responsibility in NYC was all about “avoiding fatal attractions”.

(Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

This chapter is all about the dynamics of attraction and  in particular how to avoid the attractions that end up being destructive.   It talks about the components of attraction:  the sexual urge (the initial stirrings of attraction to the opposite sex – talked about in the previous chapter and previous blog post), sensuality (the physical attraction) and sentimentality (the emotional attraction).  It talked about the importance of all of these components but warned that if one became the dominant dynamic, it would lead to the destruction of the relationship as it would lead to one if not both of the parties being treated as an object.

This chapter also brings up the touchy (no pun intended) topic of pornography, it’s power to enslave those who use it and it’s power to harm those who are  victims of it.  It was careful to note that there is a big difference between the naked sculptures in the Vatican museums and the pictures in Playboy.

I was surprised to find that in my small group discussion all of the women seemed to be very well versed on Blessed JPII’s Love and Responsibility.  It seemed to be a younger, very vibrant group – a good example of the “JPII generation” that I’ve been hearing about.  (The JPII generation are those who were born and grew up during the Pontificate of Blessed John Paul II who have benefited from his writings and implementation of World Youth Days throughout the world.)

I commented that during the reading what really struck me was that in my life it seemed that I fell victim of falling into sentimentality about a man whom I had just met and that possibly later it would blossom into sensuality whereas for the man in my life it seemed to be the reverse (sensuality possibly blossoming into sentimentality).  I just figured that this is what most gals and guys experienced.

My sentimentality went something like this:

The wedding of Mr. Darcy to Ms. Bennet

the silent (yet secretly generous, thoughtful, kind, romantic) gentleman is swept away by the strong outspoken young lady who in turn is softened by his gentleness and kindness.  It was someone’s kindness and generosity that would grab my attention first and then lead me to think them more handsome than I had originally noticed.

Whereas guys, it seemed, would notice a woman’s body first and then be drawn to her through her funny personality, generosity and kindness.

I was intrigued when a woman in my small group revealed that for her it seemed to be the reverse – that for her, she experienced sensuality first, followed by sentimentality.  So if you are reading this and feel like it’s reversed for you – know that you aren’t alone 🙂

We also talked about ways women could help men avoid being stuck on sensuality.  We talked about how dressing modestly can help men see women in more than a sensual way.  I admitted that when I first began dressing more modestly I was concerned that men in today’s society were so trained to see only the sensual side of women that they wouldn’t see me at all if I didn’t reveal that side of me.    Sadly, I can admit that when I felt lonely because I didn’t have any dates lined up, I would resort to dressing more “sexy” so that I would get noticed.  Of course, this gave me all the WRONG sort of attention from the WRONG sort of men.

One of the other women in the group added that as she had grown in her faith through college she became more and more aware of the importance of not revealing too much in the way that she dressed.  She said that she felt awkward at first because her friends were wearing shorter dresses or lower cut blouses, but later she began to see the freedom that it gave her.  She felt more free to be herself, especially around men, who had less of a temptation to objectify her because she wasn’t putting her body out there on display.   Now she’s so accustomed to dressing modestly that she almost doesn’t notice it at all – it’s just what she does.

Another lady commented that she was actually on a date when a crowd of scantily clad women walked by.  Her date turned to her and said, “gross – that’s so tacky.” So at least in her experiences she is seeing that men already notice and prefer women who are dressed more classy and sophisticated.

Perhaps modest sophisticated fashion fit for a princess is the new in thing?

Modest Fashions fit for a princess is the new in thing!

When we all gathered for the group discussions/reflections one of the first comments was about the bar scene in NYC.  The question had been posed: “What is something we can do to guard ourselves against being looked at in merely a sensual way?”  One’s group suggestion was to look at what how one is socializing with the opposite sex:  is it at a bar scene where the music is so loud that you can’t even hear the person speaking that is standing next to you? If all you know about them is how they look, then are you really attracted to them – their personality- who they are as a person? or merely to their physical body?

“Wow,” I thought.  I had never thought about that.  I had never thought about NYC as being full of No-talking-so-I-can-just-focus-on-your-body-bars.  But it totally makes sense.  As people in NYC focus more and more on physical attributes and sensuality in a hook up culture, there would be less and less of a need to increase the sentimentality or attraction to the personality of the person.

Cheers! Where everybody knows your name

versus

NYC club where nobody knows your name...because they can't hear you say it. 😦 booo buuuu

I also shared with the large group discussion that one thing that I had heard at a  “Theology of the Body in Art” lecture by Fr. Thomas J. Loya, STB, MA (who I believe was an Art professor before he entered the priesthood.) He said that pornography focuses the viewer’s attention on one part of the body so that instead of seeing the whole body, the viewer’s eye rests and fixates on one body part.  Whereas beauty – as seen in a naked body (or barely clothed body) in sculpture, painting, or photography draws the eye of the viewer around the subject so that it sees the person in it’s entirety.  It is not nakedness that makes it “bad” or wrong or demeaning.  It is the focus on that one particular part (usually a sexual part) that makes it impossible to view the whole person because it turns the person into an object to be seen, not a person to be known.

I actually forgot to mention to the group that Fr. Loya also mentioned that 1.)  trained artists learn how to use light and form to move the viewers eye around the canvas (etc.) so that they are able to capture the true beauty of the body in it’s entirety.  2.)  An image doesn’t have to show the body naked to be pornographic – the body shown may be “fully clothed” and still (through it’s light, shape, and form) focus the viewer’s attention to the sexual part of the body – thereby making the image pornographic.  It is an image which incites lust not love; an image that creates a hunger for consumption of the object.

One comment was made in the audience by a guy that one of the ways that we can avoid fatal attractions is by not entering a dating situation with someone who doesn’t share your views about saving sex for marriage.  For him it seems to much of a temptation – that the other person will just tear you down from your goal to have a pure relationship.

A few other comments were made and then I brought the conversation back to this comment.  In my opinion, while on the surface, the above advice sounds like a good idea, I would propose that it is just simply quite impossible to do in real life.  MOST people in New York City have never even heard of the word “chastity” before.  I commented that “just because you are struggling with chastity does not mean that you are not datable.”  People are in different points along the faith journey that each one of us has in life, likewise people are in different points along the journey to chastity.

We can’t control other people.  We CAN however, control our actions. So our first goal should be one of self-reflection.

We must first reflect on ourselves.

Are we doing our part in making sure that we avoid fatal attractions; are we making sure that we are not falling into a purely sentimental or purely sensual attraction with someone? Are we really focusing on who someone is, not only how great they look? Are we truly seeing the person? Are we doing our part in not encouraging someone to use us? Are we dressing beautifully and  modestly? Are we using our way of dress to manipulate the opposite sex so that we can have a power over them?  Are we wielding this power?

After the group discussions I chatted with the gentleman who had made the comment above about avoiding those who have not achieved chastity.  As we were chatting he admitted that what he was truly trying to say was that if we were in a relationship with someone who was actively trying to knock us off of our goal of chastity that we should remove that person from our lives.  (ie if they were saying things like, “oh you’re so stupid for doing this chastity thing” or “you’re so naive, just wait, I’ll show you how wrong you are”) I completely agree with this statement.  If someone is being disrespectful to us because of what we believe then we absolutely want to avoid contact with the person, unless they can begin to act towards us in a respectful way.

One of the reasons why I feel so strongly about not avoiding people who are not yet on board with the idea of saving all sexual activity for marriage, is because I’m married to one. 🙂

My husband was present at this group discussion and stood up and commented on this subject.  He said, “When I met Genevieve I was sexually active and contracepting.  I had never heard the word chastity before.  So while I agree that life would be simpler if we could all just date people who are chaste – like how the other gentleman is proposing- I just don’t think that’s how it plays out in real life.  Look, we’re all struggling with something.  I was struggling with the idea of chastity.  Genevieve was struggling with other things. ”

After the evening ended and while we were on our way home, my husband and I continued to chat about this subject.  One of the things that I remembered was that when I started dating my husband, I was very up front with him about what the Catholic church teaches about chastity and about the fact that chastity was what I wanted in any relationship that I was involved in.  It was a HUGE pill for him to take.  But it was important that he know exactly what he was signing up for and that I felt so strongly about it.  My husband had been baptized and raised Catholic, so I took that piece of information and asked him to consider what that meant.  I said something along the lines of, “look, I know that some of these ideas are really new to you, but even on the most simplest level: if you are Catholic you need to be going to church on Sunday.  I want to be in a relationship with someone who has a relationship with God.  If you want to have a relationship with someone, then you need to spend time with them – so spending time with God needs to be important for you.”

I knew that a simple chat from me or a handy book on The Good News About Sex and Marriage was not all that it was going to take to really open my husband to the idea of chastity.   He needed to hear the Truth from someone otherthan me.

Excellent explanation of the Catholic church teaching on sexuality

I also shared with my husband that I thought that it would be beneficial for him to go to confession.  I explained that I had felt the healing graces of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that I thought that he could really benefit from it too.  (With his permission to reveal this ) I’m happy to say that although he hadn’t been to confession in many many years, he considered it and went.  It made a HUGE difference in his life and in his perspective on God and how he was to live his life.

So, while I don’t think that we should exclude someone because they aren’t on the same chastity page as we are, I DO think that we need to challenge others.  I think that we should challenge others by asking them, “What do you believe? Why do you believe it? If you have a problem with the Catholic church’s teaching on sexuality, have you done any reading recently on the subject? Have you listened to any lectures or talks on the subject? or are you making your decision without much information on the subject?”

In short the chastity message says: save sexual intimacy for your spouse and only your spouse.  That’s before AND after marriage.

If someone doesn’t feel that you should reserve sexual intimacy for one’s spouse, then why would they reserve sexual intimacy for their spouse AFTER they get married? simply because they said the words, “I will” honor and cherish this person until death do us part?  What does sexual intimacy mean for them?

Allowing a person to focus solely on one’s  sensuality, causes a divide in who they are as person.  We as persons are more than just the body.  We are  mind, body and soul.  When someone only sees one side of me and they get stuck or refuse to go beyond that and see me as a whole person of mind, body, and spirit, they cause me injury.  They reduce me down to only a 1/3 of who I am.  Ouch.

That is why, in my opinion, they are called “Fatal Attractions”. The attraction becomes destructive.   Instead of seeing the whole person, only 1/3 of the person is focused on.  The remaining 2/3 is ignored or discarded.   😦

So in the final words from that night of my husband, “These are very tricky situations and it’s good to keep in mind that the journey will be difficult.  So good luck everybody.”

I’m looking forward to the next L&R in NYC discussion group in a couple of weeks – it should be interesting!

Week 2: Beyond the Sexual Urge

July 8, 2011

Week 2 of  Love & Responsibility in NYC was all about living “beyond the sexual urge”.

(Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

In short, it acknowledges that often dating relationships (or even friendships) start out with a basic attraction and that is due to an innate sexual urge that we humans have.   It explains that in reality it’s not an abstract sexual urge that we experience, but an attraction to another person.  It’s not an attraction to blonde hair per say (because being attracted to just a wig would be strange!), but it’s an attraction to a person who has blonde hair.  The chapter encourages one to go beyond the sexual urge to SEE the other person.

(See – this blonde hair piece just isn’t that exciting when it’s all by itself!)

blonde hair by itself = not so hot

The chapter goes on to explain that if we allow ourselves to remain in relationships that are based merely on the sexual urge we end up using each other.  This refers back to week 1 where we talked about Utilitarianism.  Blessed JPII goes on to describe that these utilitarian situations develops into a dynamic of fear and insecurity.

One of the breakout questions asked, “Why do people in utilitarian relationships feel so much insecurity and instability?”  We discussed it in our small group and commented that because it’s a relationship of use, as soon as the use ends – or it becomes clear that it’s no longer useful to one of the persons, then the relationship fizzles.  Basically there’s nothing there to hold it together.  I think that’s why so many women live in a state of uneasiness – they know deep down in some small way (or sometimes in a big way) they are being used – and they are afraid of being dropped like a hot potato.

Girls: don't let yourself be a hot potato!

One of the women commented that she thought that it also worked the other way around; people that are insecure often enter into a relationship that is insecure.  This seems to perpetuate the cycle.  They feel insecure beforehand, they allow themselves to be used, they fear being dropped when they are no longer “useful”, they get dropped like a hot potato, and then they feel even more insecure.

Then someone in the group asked me,  “What was it that led you to have such a good marriage? Was it prayer?”  My response was: “Well, yes, I guess that prayer played a part.  But it wasn’t the foundation of the marriage.  Honestly, it was Chastity and our struggle to achieve Chastity.  Striving for Chastity enabled us to NOT use the other person.  We avoided having a utilitarian relationship by striving to be chaste.  The good outside of ourselves that created the Virtuous Friendship was that we didn’t want to use each other.  There were times that we fell and that was tough because we actually admitted to each other, “I’m sorry.  That was NOT our plan.  I’m sorry that I used you.” Thankfully we had the grace of the sacrament of Reconciliation which picked us up after we had fallen and encouraged us to continue striving for that Virtuous chaste Friendship.  It was hard, but it was worth it because our relationship is strong and has an awesome foundation.”

The last question of chapter 2 is: “What does John Paul II mean when he says the sexual urge can provide the raw material for love? How is this so?”

I think my story above is a witness to the fact that it is good to be attracted to one another, but I believe it’s the act of moving past that that allows you to SEE the other person, to stop the cycle of using each other, and to create a wonderful strong foundation for a Virtuous Friendship that blossoms into True Love.

Later in the large discussion group I mentioned that while I am blessed to have a virtuous friendship as the foundation of my marriage, I have to daily take steps to ensure that I don’t fall back into use of my spouse.  For example:  My husband has awesome cooking skills.   Coming home to a hot dinner that my Handsome Husband has finely crafted is easy to get used to.  So on the days when he was tired I caught myself being a little miffed that dinner wasn’t already ready.  “Boooooo” 😦  As a way to combat thinking of my spouse as merely my private cook, I made a conscious effort to thank him for cooking.  In thanking him I was able to look past the action that he was doing and SEE him – the person that he is and that his act of making dinner was how he was loving me.  Likewise even though I may not want to get up and go to work in the morning, my husband has made a special effort to thank me for going to work.  That little action of thanking each other that helps keep us from using each other.

Yummy Thai Hot Soup with Pineapple thanks to my fabulous spouse

Later in the evening a comment was made by a woman in the large discussion group.  She brought up the issue that when it comes to living ‘beyond the Sexual Urge’, often men get a bad wrap.  She commented that often women complain about men not getting past the sexual urge.  She gave a great quote:

“A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.”
Max Lucado

Her advice to the women in the crowd was that they should grow deeper and deeper in their relationship with God.  That closeness with God will be the draw for men to go out side of themselves.  Their holiness will attract men and actually assist them in seeking God and living Beyond the Sexual Urge.

On the dance floor, beyond the sexual urge, and beyond the Lindy Crush.
On the dance floor we are also called to go beyond the sexual urge – beyond that sexual attraction- beyond the “Lindy Crush”.  I first heard about the term “lindy crush” after I had only been dancing for about 2 months.  Someone flippantly said, “oh have you danced with Mr. x? I soo have a Lindy Crush on him.  He’s a great dancer.  You should dance with him.”  For a moment I wondered, “am I 15 again? did she just say crush? and what’s a Lindy Crush anyway?”  So when I asked for some clarification she explained that a Lindy Crush is where you have this great connection on the dance floor, you have an amazing dance, and you feel this euphoria and you think, “Wow. That guy is dreamy.  I think I have a crush on him.”

Go beyond the Lindy Crush!

Actually, when you have a Lindy Crush, it’s more like a crush on the guy’s dancing, not him.  You might not know him at all – whether he’s got a girlfriend or if he’s single, what his interests are or what his background is and yet you still feel as if there’s this great connection (off the dance floor) and any moment now he’ll be asking you out on a date and soon after you’ll be living happily ever after.  It’s tricky because when you are dancing you are close enough to pick up on the guy’s pheromones, so it’s even more difficult to work past the sexual urge

So my advice to women is:  enjoy the dance and then resist the urge to day dream.  Get to know the guy on and off the dance floor.  Don’t look at a guy’s dancing expertise and stop there.  Look beyond to SEE the person and to get to know them.

My advice to men is:  work hard to go beyond the sexual urge.  Resist the urge to day dream.  Get to know the gal on and off the dance floor.  Don’t look at a woman’s physique and stop there.  Look beyond to SEE the person and to get to know them. (We women notice it and appreciate it!) 

Love & Responsibility in NYC

June 27, 2011

I’m happy to report that Love & Responsibility in NYC is starting up again!

Taking place right in the heart of NYC every Tuesday evening, in downtown SoHo, this weekly social discussion forum for young adults in their 20’s and 30’s will inspire you to grow in your understanding of love and flourish in your relationships.

The first meeting is tomorrow night (Tuesday June 28, 2011) at 7:30 p.m. in SoHo.

Interested? check it out at:
Outdoor Courtyard of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral High School
Entrance via the yellow door on Mott St (b/w Prince St & Spring St)
New York, NY

More info at:

https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=211308248907388

Hope to see you there 🙂