Support for my view of courting from… Jane Austen?!!

I get into a lot of trouble because I have this loooong list of questions that I pose to women during courtship in order to evaluate them for marriage, and to let them know how I want them to prepare for my plan for the marriage.   Basically, my view of courting is that it is the time for the man to present his plan to serve God as a married couple, and where he wants to be effective, and how he wants to be effective, and where the woman fits into to his plan. The purpose of the pre-marriage courting is for me to explain all of this, and then the woman has the opportunity to first decide if she wants to help with that plan and then demonstrate that she can help with it. My job after laying out the plan is to make sure that she has all the tools she needs and lots of affection and tenderness, too. I am auditioning for the roles of protector, provider and moral/spiritual leader. And she is auditioning for the roles of helper, motivator and nurturer.

Anyway, all of that is evil, if you ask any non-Christians and Christians today. The ladies in my workplace are always telling me that I am “too strict” and that I need to “lower my standards”. What they mean by this is that they resent me taking on the role of leader in the relationship and telling them what marriage to me will be about and what they need to be able to do to help. And they especially resent having to prove that they can do it. Men they’ve known in the past have been pacified with some earnest words of agreement, and maybe some hugs and kisses. But that doesn’t work on me. I want books to be read, and actions to be performed.

For example, I want public speeches defending marriage, presentations on abortion in church, apologetics book clubs, apologetics conference organizing, apologetics lectures and debates in the local university, economics degrees, law school degrees, and pro-family conservative political views. (These are all the things my current favorite lady and her predecessors have done / are doing). In short, if I am coming to the table with lots of evidence that I can do my roles, then I want to see evidence that she  can do her roles. I call this view of courtship the wisdom view, and the popular alternative to it I call the fairy tale view.

The funniest thing is that right now I am working together with a woman who is very very high up in her profession. Manages dozens of people, has her own receptionist, wins lots of awards. Her job is incredibly stressful. But the funniest thing is that she is actually the easiest one of all to lead. And that’s because she is a good listener and she reads a ton of books and then independently designs and executes operations designed to move the ball forward on the things that I care about. She thinks my vision for serving God is good, and she knows how to get the job done, without being micromanaged. Here is a close-up of some flowers that I sent her recently to recognize her. She is also the least attention seeking female of the ones I know. She doesn’t want public recognition for what she does.

And with that said, let’s take a look at a quote about my favorite British author, Jane Austen, courtesy of Reformed Seth’s blog:

[Austen] was committed to the ideal of “intelligent love,” according to which the deepest and truest relationship that can exist between human beings is pedagogic. This relationship consists in the giving and receiving of knowledge about right conduct, in the formation of one person’s character by another, the acceptance of another’s guidance in one’s growth. The idea of a love based in pedagogy may seem quaint to some modern readers and repellent to others, but unquestionably it plays a decisive part in the power and charm of Jane Austen’s art. And if we attempt to explain the power and charm that the genre of the novel exercised in the nineteenth century, we must take full account of its pedagogic intention and of such love as a reader might feel was being directed towards him in the solicitude of the novel for his moral well-being, in its concern for the right course of his development.

– Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971), 82.

There! I’m vindicated by someone who ought to know how these things work. When I was a young man, I read everything I could get my hands on from Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. It’s nice to know that I wasn’t misinterpreting what they were telling me, and that I’ve applied it well. Just because it’s not “cool” today, doesn’t mean it’s not right.

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8 thoughts on “Support for my view of courting from… Jane Austen?!!”

  1. Excellent post! Mr Knightley (in “Emma”) is a very good example of someone taking the pedagogical approach.

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  2. My wife and I were close to 20 years old when we met in February 1964. We became engaged in May 1965 and married May 1966. We are both Christians, so we had an innate understanding of our God-infused roles. The roles of man and women, husband and wife, and father and mother were never in question. How far our culture has deteriorated where these roles must be explained to intelligent adults.

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  3. I am also a huge Jane Austen fan and would agree that pedagogy is involved in relationships, but would oppose the notion that Austen’s view is that of a one way street. Just as an example offhand, the relationship between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet suggets a kind of mutuality in which Mr. Darcy is taught by Elizabeth, while she also learns from him.

    Jane Austen’s novels are obviously set within their cultural milieu, but I think that they transcend that. I am comforted in that I am not alone in this belief, as Rachel M. Brownstein writes in “The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen” about how Elizabeth “recognize[s] her man’s limitations, [and] keeps her wits about her even in the clinch” (55); while others in that same volume acknowledge the interplay between male and female, in which class and money often lead to a disparity in equality. Yet the inequality is not found in a division of authority based upon male headship. In fact, that very division is shown to be far more complex and even played with at points.

    Those are my thoughts on Austen. I know we disagree, but felt I would like to share them!

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    1. Hey J.W. – check my Facebook page and see what I was doing tonight with Dina. There was definitely some learning going on, but I was doing the learning. But I think a lot of women are grateful to have a man who is a good leader. Not someone who is arbitrary and dictatorial, but someone with a carefully thought-out vision who knows what help he needs and knows how to build up a woman to give him that help. I have had several women tell me that one of the best things about me is that I know what I am doing with them. When I go out with a woman, I have specific things to talk about planned and they know I am trying to maneuver them into marriage, and trying to prepare them for the marital roles. A lot of them like the directness, and they like to help. They like to grow, add on skills, and see how effective they can be.

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      1. “a lot of women are grateful to have a man who is a good leader.”

        I daresay even the ones who claim they don’t need to be led are still grateful, whether they’d admit it or not.

        Your approach to marriage is quite lawyerly, and I mean that as a compliment. Marriage is a legal contract, after all. If one is Christian then it is a moral contract as well, but either way, an open and honest contractor is something we all lust for.

        Cheers!
        Lin

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        1. If I had a complementary person who lived with me and knew me and understood me and interacted with me and worked together with me on things we cared about, I would fall madly in love with that person and thank God for her, too. After having to do everything myself with no thanks, I would be sure to fill her love tank in every way she could possibly require to get her to keep engaging in the joint plan that we agreed to for the relationship.

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  4. Oh my goodness, Jane Austen had so many ideals that she never married. Are you sure she had any idea about how these things work!? I hope you aren’t completely like her WK.

    You seem to have a very androcentric view of what a woman should do to prover her worth as a wife. You say her roles should be helper, motivator, and nurturer, yet you constantly look for evidence of provision and moral and spiritual leadership (STEM, pro life activism, economics, apologetics).

    Don’t get me wrong, the mother of your children should understand why she believes God exists and should be fervently prolife. But that’s a far cry from lecturing on apologetics.

    If you were as committed to finding a helper, motivator, and nurturer you would focus more on accomplishments such as serving the elderly, being a tangibly good influence on her siblings and friends, pitching in on projects started by the men in her life, caring for children, etc.

    I know this is an old post, but I just had to say something. The more I read your writing, the more I think you are looking for a copy of yourself with female body parts, not a female with womanly interests, callings, and desires.

    Blessings
    AM

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