Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Stuck on Courtship

In case you somehow missed the message…

This blog, and the book it’s based on, both trumpet a return to courtship. And not just a return, mind you, but a return from which there is no return.

“Perpetual Courtship” I call it in Chapter Three:
“Thick-headedness and primal hunting instinct may convince a man that once he has been accepted by a woman, the chase is over. But it isn't—as husbands often discover too late, only when wives announce they're leaving—weary, perhaps, not so much of being mistreated as being treated indifferently. Brides can be won, and brides can be lost—if not courted and captivated anew each day. The chase, in other words, needs to be perpetual, with a daily quota of thrills and tribulations.”

But (to argue the point) isn’t that turning marriage, which should be a progression of life phases (what Gail Sheehy famously called “Passages”) into an endless replay of the same passage, like a needle stuck in a groove (for readers old enough to remember the Vinyl Era)? What's the point of endlessly repeating one phase, even a happy phase, like in Groundhog Day? Isn’t this turning pursuit of the love object into a closed-loop Sisyphean task, like Wily Coyote’s pursuit of Roadrunner, Elmer Fudd’s after Porky, Tom’s after Jerry?

Don't we all want to move on in life? And does everything in life have to be about the woman? Catering to her, treating every day like a first date with a fistful of roses? What about guy stuff?

The simple answer is that perpetual courtship is designed for guys, as much as gals (to use a proscribed word I happen to like). The male animal craves the courtship phase. That's where he is most fully engaged. Doesn’t matter if he’s already married, the hunting-pursuing need is still there.

Take that ritual away and he is going to start straying. He will find his courtship elsewhere, outside the marriage, seeking strange flesh.

So, if you want to save or safeguard a marriage, keep the husband’s courtship compulsion endlessly focused on his wife.

But doesn’t the perpetual chase, with the quarry seemingly always beyond his reach, make a husband frustrated or insecure? A wee bit, sure. But it also makes him more ardent. “On the edge,” as Lady Misato puts it. Certainly it makes marriage, and life, more exciting.

In a romantic courtship marriage, the ardent knight is always entering the lists against a new challenger, or riding out to prove his mettle against a new dragon. Motivation is always there. His Lady Fair is always enthroned or empedestaled, endlessly to be won—or lost.

What better authority to cite on courtship than two Loving Female Authorities, Fumika Misato and Elise Sutton?
Lady Misato: “The key to rediscovering courtship in marriage is to withdraw the certainty of romance. This simple idea leads to all sorts of interesting and exciting directions.”

Elise Sutton: “During the courtship, a man has to gain permission from the woman if he can touch her or kiss her. Men treat women with more respect during the courtship than during the marriage because men soon take the woman for granted. The dominant woman always keeps the upper hand by making intimacy a reward and not a husbandly right. After all, the female body is a masterpiece and only a man full of reverence should be entitled to touch his Goddess.”

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