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Each year on Valentine’s Day, we celebrate the time-honored tradition of courtship. Yet, we really have no systematic and reliable way in our culture to learn about it. There are no courses and little, if any, instruction on how to create and sustain a fulfilling, intimate relationship for the long-term. Yet failure in this arena can lead to loneliness, despair and repetitive relationship patterns that don’t work.

To understand courtship, it’s important to learn its 12 dimensions as outlined by nationally known speaker and author Patrick J. Carnes, Ph.D. New Leaf Center will explore the following dimensions in depth at a workshop titled “The Intimacy Dance: Dimensions of Healthy Sexuality” on Wednesday, April 4, 2018 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

1.     NOTICING – The ability to either notice attractive traits in others or stay conscious of the desirable traits in an existing partner.

2.     ATTRACTION – The ability to feel attraction towards others and to imagine acting on those feelings. In an existing relationship, it’s the ability to maintain openness to change and the unknown in your partner so that you continue to “discover” one another.

3.     FLIRTATION – The ability to use playfulness, seductiveness and social cues to appropriately send signals of interest and attraction to a desirable person and receive signals in kind. Success in a long-term relationship requires ongoing flirtation with your partner.

4.     DEMONSTRATION – The ability to demonstrate prowess in a physical trait, skill or capability in a way that’s appropriate for the situation. Examples include expressing athletic ability and dressing to attract another person.

5.     ROMANCE – The ability to experience, express and receive passion. Romance requires you to be aware of all your feelings of attraction, vulnerability and risk and then to express these with sufficient self-worth to accept the reciprocal expression of care from a lover.

6.     INDIVIDUATION – The ability to be true to yourself in the midst of romance and to feel free to be who you are without fear of disapproval or control by your partner.

7.     INTIMACY – The ability to remain attached to your partner as the exhilaration of discovery and passion subsides. This is when the relationship deepens in meaning and integrity.

8.     TOUCHING – The ability to touch one another with trust, care and judgment. It affirms your partner while respecting timing, situation and boundaries.

9.     FOREPLAY – The ability to express sexual passion without genital intercourse. Holding, fondling, kissing and sexual play are erotic and pleasurable; and they build sexual tension.

10.  INTERCOURSE – The ability to surrender oneself to passion, to let go and trust yourself and your partner to be vulnerable with one another. Many people limit themselves or fail in orgasm due to problems of trust and control.

11.  COMMITMENT – The ability to bond or attach to another with fidelity, to form deep and meaningful relationships.

12.  RENEWAL – The ability to sustain the already mentioned dimensions of courtship in an existing relationship. Successful couples continue courtship by showing the other they are a worthy partner, by making efforts to attract their mate, and by continuing to express the value they have for one another.

Jackie MacKay, M.A., LMHC, NCC, CSAT