If you are forging your way through the dating scene, you may be familiar with the word “pursue.” What does it mean, though, to pursue someone — or to be pursued?
The best definition I’ve heard of “pursue” is to anticipate the needs of another. Anticipating someone’s needs is essentially willing that person’s good — which is another way to describe love.
When we’re in the beginning of a relationship, it’s a little creepy to say “I love you” right off the bat, though. It would send someone running for the hills if you dropped that on them after only a handful of dates. It sounds a lot less crazy to say, “I’d like to pursue you.”
So, for simplicity’s sake, to pursue someone is to practice loving them. But how do we love someone we’re just starting to date? How do we authentically pursue someone in our modern dating culture?
The idea of a relationship that seeks excellence may make some people scoff. We don’t often think of romance in the same terms as advancing a career or getting good grades — but why not? Why shouldn’t we set high standards for ourselves and those with whom we explore love?
The pursuit part of a relationship isn’t limited to the first few months or first year of dating. There’s no “coast” button in a relationship. We’re either growing with someone and becoming a better version of ourselves, or we’re not. That’s true while we’re dating, and it will still be true when we’re married 20 years. The dynamics of pursuit in a relationship never ends.
That may sound daunting, but it should be freeing. It just means there’s no “we made it” stage in a relationship because we’re constantly in the process of making who we are together. Looking at it this way, it’s important to seek constant improvement. The more time we spend with someone, the more we know about our partner — and the more we know, the more we can anticipate what will be good for him or her.
Just remember: seeking excellence doesn’t mean not having flaws. It simply means learning from mistakes and then humbly setting out to do better the next time. True love asks nothing less.
The word “chastity” feels like a big, finger-wagging “NO!” because we only associate it with repression and shallow moralizing. Chastity is much more of a “yes,” though — it’s a way to respect the magnitude of self-gift that love calls out of us. Being chaste means never settling for anything less than the deepest and most profound love, and protecting our freedom so that we know it when we find it. It’s a slow building of the gift of physical intimacy, a gift so beautiful and so rich that it literally becomes a taste of heaven.
To pursue someone is to build that gift together in a way that respects the power it can hold over us. To pursue someone is to set out on a journey of discernment together with the same end goal in mind: Could this relationship lead to marriage? This discernment requires clear communication and mutual effort, and chastity keeps us from getting distracted. If only one person is bought in, then chastity won’t work — which means true love won’t work. If only one person wants this, then the gift won’t be as complete as it otherwise could be.
If you really want to pursue someone well, make your intentions clear around chastity. If you were catching a flight with someone, you would communicate where your destination is beforehand. Otherwise, you might pack for cold weather and end up in Bermuda. Or maybe your partner would pack for warm weather while you were planning a trip to Duluth. Being on the same page from the beginning allows for a much more enjoyable flight. (I’m getting anxiety just thinking about flying somewhere with zero information beforehand.)
A good gauge for a relationship is how often you exchange the words “thank you.” Expressing gratitude is basically the same thing as saying, “I see you.” It lets the other person know that his or her actions are seen and cherished. These two simple words — and the disposition behind them — can absolutely make or break a relationship.
Gratitude is also the key to longevity in your pursuit. It keeps things fresh, and it keeps the fruit of a relationship on the forefront of your mind. Notice the small ways your partner pursues you and you will open his or her eyes to the small ways you pursue them in return. It’s a contagious attitude that doesn’t take long to foster. Good relationships practice it everyday.
Gratitude also directs our gaze toward something bigger. Pursuing someone should ultimately lead us outside of ourselves and draw our gaze upward. When we make pursuit about ourselves and lose sight of the One who makes our love possible, we miss the point. A relationship is never about one person — it’s never about just the two people walking together, even. It’s about connecting our love with God — who is Love, himself — and participating in the outpouring of his love for the world.