There is a great difference in excellency, usefulness, and comfort between people of clear, digested knowledge, and confused, undigested apprehensions. -Richard Baxter

is it possible to transact love and commitment without dating as we know it?

Thanks to all who participated in our panel discussion on Marriage last Sunday. Your questions were honest and insightful, as were the answers. As promised, tomorrow we’ll begin posting some of the questions here we didn’t have time for Sunday, and invite those on the panel to contribute short or long responses.

Today, though, a thought related to dating. Sunday afternoon brought us in touch with one of Ken Burns’ American Stories. Here’s the link of the relevant segment:

PBS – THE WEST – P.S. I Like You Very Much

In this segment, Burns lets Ethel Waxman and George Schlichting tell of their courtship by way of their letters to one another over several years. It’s a fascinating display of assertiveness, humility, carefulness, and measured speech. It’s a kind of relational transaction: offer, consideration, counter-offer, deliberation–all of which results finally in a pledge to one another in marriage. And all from hundreds of miles away. Particularly interesting to me and my wife was how George takes the risk of revealing his affections for her, but without any sense that she obligated to reciprocate. He promises his unwavering respect for her even if his affections are unrequited.

That, my friends, may be the only way to “date”, to put it anachronistically in the case of Ethel and George. To befriend and then take the risk of revealing one’s affections for the other, all with the understanding that there shall be no umbrage taken should their respective appreciation for the other not be mutual–that’s the risk that love takes and the only way for love to exist.

But have a look at the letters. Feel free to comment on whether their “transaction” here is “portable” into our day.

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1 Comment»

  Sara Call wrote @

Wow! Who wouldn’t want to receive letters like that? The frankness, the warmness of them.
Yes, their “transaction” is “portable” to our day. Wouldn’t we all appreciate a little honesty and upfrontness from other people? Especially in dating? If someone cannot be frank with you as a friend or person you are dating, how do you know they will be frank in a marriage relationship anyway?
It’s okay if one person loves before the other can/does love. Dating (or whatever you choose to label a pre-marriage relationship) doesn’t have to be heat and fireworks, but it must have heavy doses of sincerity and risk.
One thing that I appreciate about my husband is that he unashamedly loved me long before I could say the same in return. He was patient, but I knew where he stood–right next to me. Emotional honesty is frightening. It always will be.

Is love not true if unrequited?
Or affection unwarranted if unreturned?
Is kindness not precious if unappreciated?

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