If there is one lesson I could teach the 27 year old Bevin that began this blog it’s the distinction between courtship and dating.
I suffered so much because of my expectations for dates!
The rush of “Are you my person” is undeniable for those of us socialized by romantic comedies and codependency.
But the focus on “Are you my person” overshadows all of the best parts of dating, in my opinion.
I define dating, at its most basic, as spending intentional time connecting with another person.
Most folks need dating to involve the possibility of sex, which can, of course, be a component. But I come from a lineage of queer elders and melders who taught me that we need to cultivate romance with our friends, too.
Date your friends! Date your spouse! Date your kids! I know a lot of great dads and babas who have “daddy daughter dates” that are intended to teach their daughters how to be treated by future suitors. I certainly think this can be an any gender parent any gender kid activity but the intention is that it’s meant to facilitate connection and worthiness.
I define courtship specifically as a process of intentional getting to know you that results in the discernment of lifetime partnership commitment.
Dating experiences saddled with courtship expectations created a lot of angst for me. Not understanding the distinction was emotional chaos.
If you’re one of those attachment theory people, you likely already sense it created a lot of anxious/avoidant attachment dynamics with my dates. Not all of my dates knew that this was happening for me but probably some of them did.
Throughout my 43 years I sacrificed a lot of my happiness at the altar of control. The illusion of safety that comes from a perceived long-term connection is just that, an illusion!
Years of therapy, Al-Anon recovery and self awareness practice are helping! I’ve grown into a person invested in present moment satisfaction while cultivating the internal sense of safety that slays fears of abandonment.
Back then I wanted to ensure every liaison was… lasting? I don’t know why I expected everything must last in order to be great. It was all great. Even when it was hard.
I learned a lot about myself throughout my dating years and through every relationship I’ve had. Even the ones defined by both of us as long-term commitments that ultimately ended.
When I think back on my dating experiences I mostly remember all the fun stuff I got to do. Fun sex adventures, of course, also really memorable meals, trips, adventures, picnics in the park. Sweet gestures, gifts I still use, creative inspiration.
Longevity is not the sole determiner of a relationship’s success!
If I’m evaluating a dating situation I’m going to consider a few things.
As my bestie Rachael (a Taurus) taught me going on dates should involved getting dressed up, getting compliments and “free dinners” which is, of course, something with great mutuality. (I’ve been the monied dater and the non-monied dater—there are ways both folks contribute in their own creative ways.)
Even that won’t last if I don’t enjoy their company and feel nurtured by my time with that person.
I’ll also ask: Is spending time with this person helping me understand more about myself? Do I feel valued by this person? Are my boundaries honored?
Most dating relationships are not a courtship, but I would argue that most courtships are dating relationships. I did not understand this distinction way back when and thus the suffering!
If I were to consider a courtship experience with someone it would require great intention from both parties (or all parties if a polyamory situation).
Declaring an intent for courtship thus means dates are fun and flirty while simultaneously focused on a vetting process to determine if a long term commitment with this person is worth developing.
The things I would examine during a courtship process are the person’s character, commitment, willingness to grow, how they act in conflict, whether we have similar values, goals and dreams. Whether we’re on the same page about faith, family, finances, communication and sex.
If I was dating someone I would love if they joined me for church! (I attend live stream Agape Spiritual Center services). If I was courting someone, it would be essential that they joined me for church services.
If I was dating someone I might never introduce them to my family or close friends. If I was courting someone, there are certain people whose opinions would weigh heavily for me in evaluating long term commitment.
If I was dating someone it doesn’t matter if they want children. If I were courting someone it is important to me that they want kids even more than I do.
I now understand the distinction between performative commitment and the steady, daily, beautifully boring experience of real lasting commitment.
My peace is necessary component of cultivating my relationship with God. I’m done seeking chaos. Getting all jumbled with expectations robs me of my peace.
I believe you know when you know! I trust my intuition that the Goddess is going to speak clearly to me that this person is someone to cultivate commitment with.
When I was young my standards for dating were all over the place. Basically, if there was chemistry I would totally hang with someone. Now I know sometimes we get chemistry with someone because there’s a lesson there. That lesson might be to NOT have sex with that person.
So, if I got the opportunity to hang out with my 27 nearly 28 year old self (through her epic epic heartbreak at that first engagement dissolving), I would sit her down, explain this to her and say in sum:
Do what feels good for you today and right now. Trust the Divine speaking through your life.
I know I was always doing the best I could with what I had available at the time. I can see so clearly now the times I chose fear over the risk to love and enjoy and spoiled some really sweet connections that were meant to be fleeting.
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