Courtship is a funny word, and not one that many of us consciously use to describe the process of winning someone's attention, interest and affection.
There's probably a good reason for that: It's kind of gross. Implicit in the whole notion of courtship is an agenda - an attachment to making someone become attracted to you, and often a kind of manipulation toward this end.
This manipulation, at it's worst, comes out as either hiding certain parts of ourselves (withholding), or exaggerating (and even completely fabricating) other aspects of ourselves.
It's a word with lots of connotations and interpretations, so I apologize for any semantic misunderstandings, but for the purpose of today's blog, I'm thinking of courtship as something synonymous with inauthenticity. I'm also thinking of it as something incredibly common, incredibly unconscious, and incredibly weak when compared with its alternative. At its worst, it is manipulation with no regard for truth.
We've all seen it, and to some degree, we've all been guilty of it. Unless you're a self-styled seduction/pick up artist, though, it's not really something we brag about. It's cringey.
The alternative is to allow a natural, organic unfoldment, being totally transparent in your interactions with the ultimate attachment being not to winning anyone over, but to discovering the truth of yourself and your potential mate.
No manipulation. We still get to feel our yearning and desire, but don't throw honesty and authenticity under the bus stumbling, enamoured and insincere, toward the shiny bright lights.
We're not willing to hide or obfuscate parts of ourselves to appeal to the tastes of another.
This brings a somewhat embarrassing personal story to mind:
In my mid twenties, I was dating a woman who was very new age. Now, most of the women I have dated or been in relationships with have been very spiritual, but this person was into a kind of spirituality that just didn't really jive with me. Think of all of the trendy spiritual cliches, and this person was steeped in them. I found it difficult to have a deep conversation without cringing, and although sometimes I would speak honestly and share how incomplete and off centre I felt that a lot of her beliefs were, more often than not I simply withheld. I was afraid this person wouldn't like me if I really spoke my mind completely and powerfully, and so I shut down.
After a couple weeks, this person thought I was the perfect partner, and I felt so toxic and misaligned because of holding in my real feelings and thoughts so long that I didn't know what to do with myself.
Eventually I reached a breaking point, where I owned my pattern of withholding, where I shared my truth, and, not surprisingly, where my fears of backlash or rejection were confirmed by this person's response (let's just say they were less than receptive. In their defence, I had been withholding - which is just a nice way of saying lying and misrepresenting myself - the whole time).
I screwed both of us over with my inauthenticity - thankfully my body couldn't handle it very long and things fell apart before they went too far.
The overwhelming majority of clients I work with do this to some extent - usually unconsciously. It's the most subtle and common way we enact the negative aspects of courtship in our relationships - the art of withholding and misrepresentation.
Again, there are people who actually consciously do this, but for most of us, it's usually just at or below the threshold of our conscious awareness - an almost automated program, that once we own and acknowledge, is painfully obvious.
The reason we do this painful dance varies from person to person, but the most common thread is a fear of rejection, or aloneness, or having love taken away (which for many people is arguably more terrifying than death).
The irony is that when we choose authenticity, we actually make it possible to receive real intimacy. Honesty = Intimacy, there's no way of having one without the other. Or, said another way, it's very hard to be accepted fully when you are hiding. If we can't see you, you can't experience the bliss of being seen.
And if all of that wasn't enough, probably the most ironic aspect of the whole courtship vs authenticity dynamic is that there is possibly nothing more attractive than authenticity.
A client who I've been helping with these specific issues recently shared a story with me that illustrates this: He was on a first date, and after an hour or two it became very clear that he and this woman had no serious lifestyle or relationship chemistry. Instead of his pattern of hiding, or twisting and contorting himself into something he wasn't, he simply shared exactly what he saw. He told his date that he really liked her, but it was clear that they wouldn't be ideal partners because of reasons XYZ. When he finished, she was wide eyed and said, "I'm really, really attracted to you right now!"
He didn't get a new girlfriend, but he got direct feedback on how attractive stepping into his authenticity is.
If there is a love potion, it's honesty. We do ourselves and our partners an enormous disservice when we are inauthentic with them, when we mislead them, however passively, even if we feel like we have the best of intentions.
And whether it shows up as fiery strength or tenderness and vulnerability, authenticity is the sexiest thing there is.
Over to you: Any thoughts, stories or questions get sparked by today's blog? Leave them in the comments below or send me a note, I'd love to hear!
Did you like this post, and want to dive deeper? My name is Miles, and I absolutely love working one on one with people - helping them learn how to study and process their own energy and emotion, work with the wounds and lessons that are gateways to their greatest growth, power and wisdom. I would love to help you step into your truth, and invite you to learn more about me and my work.