Linkage

Racism [The Morning Offering]

Dispatch From Charleston: The Cost Of White Comfort [NPR]

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Condemns Shooting at Historic Charleston, S.C. Church [GOARCH]

 

Chastity is hard. What helps?

Dating and engagement are interesting periods. It’s so fun to move together from intrigued by each other to twitterpated to loving, at home together, and a good team. But it’s an in-between time, it’s temporary. It’s a time with the unique quality of becoming-close while needing certain distance. And it is really hard to keep our thoughts and actions chaste.

That’s worth repeating: it’s really hard. It’s not just you. We’re not broken or wrong, we’re designed to yearn to be close to someone else. That’s a healthy thing! It leads us closer to one another.
People are wired differently, so we all have different things we yearn for most and different boundaries that work for us. But no matter where we are in life—single, dating, married, widowed, monastic, celibate—we have to strive for chastity. And like all virtues, it is a struggle.

Specifically for the dating/engaged days, here are a few things that help.

  • Don’t escalate. It’s lovely when sparks fly, but chasing them isn’t kind to your sanity. There is nothing wrong with being attracted to someone. That’s a lovely thing, healthy and beautiful. But if you keep seeking more and more sparks, your attraction ends up in charge of you, which is when admiration becomes lust.
  • Have firm, mutual, no-shame boundaries. Know your limits before you walk in the room.
    • It’s not about things being objectively right and wrong*, it’s about “right for me”.
    • They’re non-negotiable. If you’re comfy with X, that is your boundary. If he’s comfy with Y, that is his boundary. End of story. In practice, this means that you go with the more conservative boundary, but both boundaries are still there, and both matter.
    • Check in with your heart from time to time. Have your comfort levels changed? Have your needs or goals shifted? What about your partner’s? “Firm boundaries” doesn’t mean “a brick wall (that you invented) that you’re now stuck with forever”. The point is your sanity, not a bar to live up to / an unrealistic ideal to belittle yourself with.
    • No pouting, and no dramatic speeches about how good you are to make this sacrifice for them. You both have to actively work to protect each other’s boundaries. Anybody who whines about or pats themselves on the back for basic decency isn’t worth your time.
  • Keep a measurable distance at first. Sit on different couch cushions, or maybe different pieces of furniture. This is advice with an expiration date for most couples, but in the beginning it’s useful.
  • Don’t drink alcohol when alone together. You don’t need extra warm-fuzzies or lowered inhibitions.
  • Both of you can wear courteous clothing. While everyone mentions that women need to watch their cleavage and hemlines, men also need to keep their shirts on, and long pants are preferable to shorts. It honestly does help. (But it’s about courtesy and thoughtfulness, not modesty.)
  • Pay compliments other than physical ones, at least in the early days. It’s fine to say “You look so handsome in that shirt” on occasion, but if you focus on their kindness, skillfulness, companionship, etc. it helps you keep your mind off the physical. It also helps you recognize their best qualities, so you get to know each other more deeply.
  • When it’s really hard, stop reading love stories and watching rom-coms for a little while. If doing XYZ gets you into hot water, watching it on the silver screen tends to lead to envious daydreams. Envious daydreams suck. Watch something else instead.
  • Pray together. Say “O Heavenly King” when you meet up, do evening prayers together, say an Akathist, read a Psalm. Make it a regular part of your routine.
  • And above all else, remember the goal. Why are you striving for chastity? What does chastity mean to you? You’re on the same team, so what are you working towards? It has to be meaningful, and you need ownership. The struggle is yours. The reason has to be, too.
  • Finally, remember that this is temporary. In a year or two, you’ll have different problems to tackle, either together or separately.

*Yes, obviously some choices are pretty objectively better for your spiritual life, but that’s not what’s most important in this conversation. For some, it’s easy to be pretty close without going nuts. For others, holding hands leads to daydreaming leads to the torture of wanting what you can’t have. Ask Your Priest (or matushka) if you need help figuring out what boundaries are healthiest for you right now.

It’s rarely helpful to say “X and Y are always wrong, A and B are always right.” We’re all different, and our needs shift over time. Look at the effect your actions have on your spiritual life and your sanity. If a kiss on the cheek makes you daydream so much you stop saying your prayers, then re-evaluate. If holding hands gets you hot and bothered while you’re fertile, do things differently this week (and mark your calendar for next month). Doing X or Y may work just fine in a week or a couple months, but if it doesn’t work right now, don’t shame yourself. Just set your boundaries so they work for you.

Linkage: Love Advice

Love, Factually: Gerontologist Finds Formula for Happy Marriage [Cornell Chronicle]
A survey of 700 older and long-married people finds that certain clichés have a solid backing…

7 Marriage Tips to Ignore [APracticalWedding]
…and other clichés can be laid to rest.

Everything You Thought You Knew About L-O-V-E Is Wrong [Time]
Wait, comparing arranged marriages and Tindr? Huh. The more I hear from Aziz Ansari, the more I like. 

Forget Falling in Love With the Perfect Guy [Verily]
“We so easily fall into the habit of imagining, planning, and perfecting our lives—especially when it comes to the sort of relationships we’d like to have—that we often let our fantasy cheat us out of the real deal.”

Turn Towards Instead of Away [Gottman Institute]
What it means when your partner makes a bid for your attention. For example,

Text                                                          Subtext
How do I look?                                         Can I have your attention?
Let’s put the kids to bed.                           Can I have your help?
I talked to my sister today.                        Will you chat with me?
Did I tell you the one about…?                 Will you enjoy me?
Want to cuddle?                                        Can I have your affection?
Want to play Cribbage?                             Will you play with me?
I had a terrible lunch meeting today.         Will you help me destress?

Detachment

Originally published in November of 2013. Written by Anna.

A few weekends ago, I grabbed some friends and went to a monastery. In addition to being places of prayer, work, and solemn joy, Orthodox monasteries are places where, as I joked on the trip, introverts can be introverted together. It would have seemed out of place to bring an ipad to the common room of the guest house, so in the evenings we sat and talked, knit, and read. It was very nice.

Brigid and I having a little too much fun.

Brigid and I having a little too much fun.

 

Nuns have given up the worldly life for a life of prayer and community. They receive a new name at their tonsuring because they are dead to the world. One nun explained that if she were to leave the monastery, with her rank it would be like divorcing Jesus, and she would be excommunicated from the Church.

While I have no desire to be a nun, I do think that their detachment from the things of the world is something to emulate, especially if one is single. We laity are called to “be in the world but not be part of it”, but we are still influenced by the morals of the culture we live in. Unfortunately, this sometimes means as single women dealing with anxiety over whether we are “attractive enough”, and dealing with men who have no idea how to relate to women as human beings.

I mention those two specific things because of Seraphic’s post here. It was jarring to read after a weekend at the monastery. I encourage you to read her post before continuing this one.

Seraphic says, “I wanted a man, I have a man, and now I can ignore what all men on earth, save one, think about attractiveness. I am fortunate. But I worry a lot about Single women who lurch from one relationship to the next in the quest to find the man who will free them from the intolerable burden of wanting a man. Looking at break-ups and unrequited crushes from a married point of view, I now realize how awful it is to hear a weeping woman say, “But where will I find another [guy who gets me, clever intellectual, romantic poet, serious Catholic]?” I want to shake them and yell, “STOP LOOKING! JUST LIVE YOUR LIFE!” But that’s easy for me to say; marriage has killed that restless longing.”

I deeply understand that restless longing to get married, and the answer to it is detachment. Being open to getting married, but not predicating being happy with getting married.

It is very freeing to quit making decisions based on the probability of meeting eligible people, whether that’s moving for work or deciding whether to go to a party or going on dates with people you don’t really like. So far I have not met my spouse at, let’s see, church, work, classes, parties, bars, online, the theater, and many other places, but my enjoyment of these things has increased by letting go of the hope that I will meet Imaginary Husband there. Instead I can focus on the work or fun or people that are actually in front of me.

While I’d be lying if I said that I am never grumbly about being single, overall I’m content. As a younger person, I had a script in my head about how my life was supposed to turn out. Letting go of that, seeing the appeal of other ways of life was key. Admittedly, I am sure I would be less happy with my life if I didn’t have stable employment, a strong church community, family and good friends.

Men and women who desperately seek the other sex’s approval are searching for something that cannot be gained by romantic love. To begin detaching from the anxiety of getting married, one need not join a monastery. The place to start is to pray for detachment, the ability to hand your anxieties to God and to gain His peace.

Further reading:
Interior Freedom
Seraphic on Detachment vs. Despair