We all want to be loved by someone who puts us first. It’s not only common among humans but it’s also necessary for the continuity of our race. It’s also common, then, to seek that permanent bond and to focus on that need until we have that special someone cemented into our lives.
The problem is when we forget to do the courtship. In our modern culture, we don’t stick around anywhere for very long any more – we move a lot, we change jobs frequently and we even make new, but often temporary, friends online. It makes sense that we jump into and out of relationships, not knowing how to maintain one long term.
The Importance of a Courtship
But courtship is a tradition for a good reason: We need to know the person well whom we plan to live in the same house with for the rest of our lives. However charming and sweet your prospective partner is, he’s going to relax and be himself and she’s going to let her hair down and take off the makeup after the wedding ceremony (or move-in date) is over. If you haven’t been clear about what you want from your partnership BEFORE you commit, you may not get it. You need to enjoy a full courtship before you say, “I do.”
The sexual freedom that we enjoy today creates its own problems. Yes, the list includes possible pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, but there is also that pesky hormone, oxytocin, that causes us to pair bond with a sexual partner from the first round. A statement, “But I love him!” might actually mean, “I had sex with him so now I’m feeling monogamous!”
How Long Should a Courtship Last?
Make sure to date for at least a year. You want to experience your love interest during all of the seasons of a year, even if you live in a two-season climate. Knowing how she or he celebrates the December holidays may be important to you if you love to decorate the house and party for all the 12 Days of Christmas. Learning how to fight (yes, you two WILL fight) is key to resolving conflict. And an abusive partner will show his or her true feathers if you wait long enough before signing any legal documents. A partner who is in a hurry to get you to commit is a partner who is hiding something. However, when it seems like there is always an excuse why the relationship can't be taken further, you could also just be a backup plan, which is not good either.
The other trick we play on ourselves is when we either fool ourselves into believing that we can “correct that” in her or that she really isn’t that hard to please. It’s just nervousness, right? Or just this once. Or, wait, just this second time…. Whether a behavior that you can’t tolerate happens once or continually will become obvious during a full-length courtship, and you can’t shortcut it. People, despite our best intentions, cannot be retrained the way that we can retrain a horse to behave. People grow and change, absolutely, but trying to force change in someone else is both abusive and pointless.
Know When to Walk Away…
But what if she doesn’t want to wait for the courtship? Then let her go. Someone who can’t wait to marry you will not be patient with your kids (or your family or your friends). Also, someone who wants sex on the first date is not dating all of you – he’s dating your, um, private parts. You have more to offer than that.
We live longer than it can feel like sometimes. I’ve seen couples in their 80s still enjoying each other’s company. We need to get to know our partner before we give him or her the rest of our lives. And the rest of your life is worth that investment.