Tired of Christian dating advice acting like physical attraction is an either/or proposition.

12 Jan

I can’t remember if I’ve discussed this article from MarryWell before, but even if I have, it’s worth a revisit.  I bookmarked the article a couple of years ago in anticipation of blogging about it, but did I ever get around to the blogging part?  ANYHOW…it’s your basic “how important is physical attraction?” Q&A, wherein a thirtysomething single female MarryWell-er gets an answer from Candice Watters.  (Longtime readers of my blog can probably tell you Candice Watters’ opinion on the topic, and my opinion of Candice Watters’ opinion on the topic.)  Basically, the reader says she forwarded the infamous “Brother, You’re Like a Six” Boundless article to a single male friend whom she felt needed the ~advice, and he wrote her back a lengthy reply that basically reads like typical manospherian reasoning on the subjects of looks, chemistry, and attraction.  Since this reply from the horse’s mouth wasn’t good enough for Reader, who believes men are “swayed heavily by…our culture” and “secular standards about who to pursue,” she went to Candice to get the answer she wanted to hear.

Candice wrote a reply that encapsulates the aspects the I find most infuriating about Christian dating advice:  namely, that physical attraction is this sort of either/or thing that you can only count on for a couple of years, and then you plummet directly into companionate love for the rest of your life, never to feel any heat again, but that’s okay because your companionate love is so rich and deep that you’ll never miss being hot for each other except those six times you have sex per year.  Okay, that’s my paraphrase, but what other conclusion can one draw from a reply that begins thusly:

If only it were that simple! Find a gorgeous woman (or man), marry her (or him), and live happily ever after. Of course that’s how it works in the movies. But movies always end before the fireworks (what your friend calls “zing-pop”) die down. And they do. Always. Every marriage moves beyond the new-love, high-octane phase eventually, according to Psychologist Dorothy Tennov. The longest it can last is three years, and often it’s less. On average the emotional highs last between eighteen months and three years. Then what?

If what he’s looking to hold his marriage together for “many, many, many years” is sexual attraction, he’s setting himself up for disappointment. The only way to keep the high-jinks of new love going is to keep starting over with new lovers.

But it need not end this way. When two believers come together in marriage, they have the potential, when the giddy feelings ebb, to leave what C.S. Lewis calls the “thrill” phase of romance for the “quieter and more lasting kind of interest … and happiness that follows.” He encourages this process, noting it is “one little part of what Christ meant by saying a thing will not really live unless it first dies.”

What I do not understand is this churchian insistence that marrying out of sexual attraction is this zero-sum, either/or proposition, like either you marry because you want to BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG and do pretty much nothing else, or you marry because you’re pure and holy and mainly interested in doing taxes together and making sure your future children are raised in the faith, and the sex appeal is just sort of this little side bonus.  Why can’t people marry because there’s sexual chemistry AND they are well-suited to each other in temperament and other values AND it all comes together in a complete package that includes sex, kids, and life?  Why must one preclude the other?  Why can’t you grow in companionate love and the security of stability, and still find each other sexy and attractive?  How is this “well, don’t think you’re going to find each other sexy forever, ’cause that never lasts” view of marriage going to encourage young men to marry?  I mean, what young guy (or young woman, for that matter) is going to hear this and be like, “OH YEAH, BABY, SIGN ME UP!”??

I agree that singles looking to marry need to be realistic about the mundane aspects of married life (someone who needs constant romantic drama/stimulation is not a wise marriage prospect), but I find the constant downplaying of the importance of sexual attraction really irritating.  Most men aren’t going to marry – or even begin pursuit – for lack of sexual attraction, and most women would be depressed to find out a man would pursue them without having any sexual attraction.  Marrying someone SOLELY due to sexual attraction is obviously unwise, but how many people are really doing that?  Especially in an era where you can have sex and not be judged socially without having to marry the other person – even within the church?  How many singles really get removed from churches these days because of fornication?  If anything, the current sexual and cultural climate in the U.S. is forcing men to consider other reasons for marriage, just to reduce the risk of divorce.

Other reasons this article irritated me:

  • Watters’ assertion that Reader’s male friend has a “consumer mentality” about sexual attraction and the insinuation that making sexual attraction really important is per se BAD.

Your friend’s thinking mirrors our consumer culture far more than it does the Bible. God designed marriage for a purpose, several actually. And all of these purposes: “procreation, remedy against sin, mutual society, help and comfort” are achievable even if physical attraction isn’t the primary driver. That’s not to say there’s something wrong with pursuing a mate you find attractive. But it is to caution against giving looks and “chemistry” pre-eminence in the decision process.

  • Watters’ slamming of Song of Solomon as an example of the importance of sexual attraction.

I suspect your friend would say his desire for a “zing-pop” connection is consistent with Song of Solomon. There certainly was chemistry between Solomon and his bride. But nowhere in Scripture is that given as a condition for a God-glorifying marriage. You can build a strong, godly, world changing marriage on many things. But you can never build that simply on looks. Good looks are a bonus. They’re like icing on a cake. And as the saying goes, if all you eat is icing, you’ll get sick.

  • Her church lady-ing of Reader’s friend for his desire to be sexually attracted to his future spouse.

I worry for men like your friend who may miss out on highly productive marriages and families that are fruitful for the kingdom, simply because the women God brings to them don’t, at first, cause a chemical reaction.

I know I’ve said this before, but…does Watters understand ANYTHING about male attraction?  HER OWN EXPERIENCE trying to win over her now-husband seems to have taught her nothing!  Steve didn’t want to date her at first because he didn’t find her physically attractive!  How much time and heartache would she have saved herself if she had done more to make herself look good from the get-go?  Yet she continues to accuse men of passing over women who would be good wives, except those women are missing a key component of what men think makes a good wife:  physical attractiveness!!!

But sure, let’s keep praying that God will change every man’s mind about attractiveness, or at least the minds of the ones who don’t think the way women do about attractiveness.  (This is the advice she gives to the women:  don’t try to change men’s minds directly; instead, PRAY their minds into a different direction.)

Meanwhile, zero admonitions to the women to get themselves to the gym, stop eating every baked good that passes before their eyes, to dress better, and to be fun to be around.

 

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16 Responses to “Tired of Christian dating advice acting like physical attraction is an either/or proposition.”

  1. FuriousFerrett January 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    You have to understand the dynamics at play here to really understand where Candice W is coming from. Most women and men that actually stay in Christian circles are unattractive. Strike that women and men are increasingly becoming more unattractive in general in the US simply because we feed everybody the worst diet the world has ever known. It’s creating a polarization of a few people being attractive while the rest are turning into sloths. With the men and women in the church being unattractive they have to do something to push marriage between these people. However they massively screw it up. They unconciously push fatties at the feet of the few attractive men that exist and demand that these men marry these shrews. I’m pretty sure they just keep betas on the hook with the ‘someday’ rountine until it happens to some post prime ugly woman.

    I can’t believe that anybody that has any sense anymore stays in this modern day church. I have concluded that it’s simply a cult nowdays. It has the all the makings. The leadership monopolize the women while the betas serve as sexless eunuchs. Leadership is always right about their biblical interperation. Flowerly language is supreme and anybody that doesn’t partake is ‘not really saved’. It’s madness.

    Organized religion needs to die. The very early Christians met in homes without any real formal structure or cult like leadership. That’s will probably be the only pure old school style Christianity that can be practiced in the future.

  2. herbie31 January 12, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    I’m not familiar with Ms. Watters, but I didn’t see anything in the quotes you supplied that really caught my eye. There’s some truth in what she says.

  3. Heybob January 12, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    ??? I have never heard anyone say this in my corner of Christendom, so I am a little astonished. Why–I mean, what the heck, has she never even seen Fiddler on the Roof? Read The Good Earth? Mature sexual passion is one of God’s great gifts to mankind. Don’t think you’re gonna have it–don’t get married. This. Should. Be. Obvious.

  4. Sonya January 12, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    When I’m a 35 year old single woman I will read this and be comforted, it’s better than facing the truth anyhow. Any advice on how to avoid this contingency? I’m 23, single and facing the churchian dilemma where all the attractive men were married straight out of college or have left the church (?) and the less attractive ones are well, less attractive. Sigh. Advice?

  5. Natalie January 12, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

    I think the problem is that they’re essentially equating alpha/physical attraction with people they couldn’t marry in a million years. So settling for ok beta attraction that will “inevitably” wane seems like a pretty good deal. It’s the safest bet for long term family stability, and they’ll hopefully develop a good working relationship with enough sex to make babies and keep them from going too stir crazy. What they aren’t getting is that attractiveness isn’t as hard as they think. A few skirts or button ups. Better posture. Six months hitting the free weights. For the guys a little “this is my place in the world” kind of frame. For the girls a considerate, respectful demeanor. The singles group won’t suddenly be filled with 9′s and 10′s, but it will have a lot more 6′s and 8′s who are actually attractive to each other. Keep that rolling through a few years of marriage, and even though the intense days of sexually frustrated dating will be over you’ll have many years of sexual fulfillment with a person of compatible values.

    As to why people aren’t telling women to shape up – I actually think that’s a fairly charged topic. Even most of the manosphere seems to think that women are getting a free pass I actually think there’s a fair amount of pressure. This might be more true in Christian circles. Be attractive but not too attractive. Also be spiritual about things (ie don’t be disappointed). Go to college and get a career but don’t be too serious about it. It’s wonderful to want marriage and kids, but you’ll drive men away if you talk about it. Then you stick body image on top of that, and it’s kind of mess. (Especially when you think about what our mothers told us when we were 18 and in top condition. FYI, Mom, I wasn’t overweight.) I think it might be better if we tied body issues to chastity. For instance, telling women to think about how much time the spend wrapping presents at Christmas and to equate that with the time they spend waiting for a husband. Even though their worth doesn’t fluctuate with their BMI they should be excited about being the most beautiful woman they can be for their husband to “unwrap.” For some woman this will mean being 5’8″ and 120lbs. For other women this translates to 5’6″ and 140lbs. What matters is that they are cultivating their beauty in the same way they’d fill their recipe box or take a child care class – these are gifts they can use to bless their husband. I think focusing on the generosity of having something to share with “the one” would likely get better results than turning weight into another checklist item.

  6. Heybob January 13, 2013 at 1:57 am #

    Or, as our campus chaplain always said, you have an obligation of charity to take care of yourself and to be both attractive and approachable to other people. I consider the strict dress code and everyone’s overall effort at presentableness to be one of the chief causes for my alma mater’s success at getting anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of each class married before 25 (and not necessarily just to each other either).

  7. Rich Cook January 13, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    Candice W’s attitude sucks. And Ferret people are making the choice to feed themselves crap, not having it fed to them. They do this because they want most things handed to them on a silver freaking spoon. Like a junkie, unless faced with their mortality they will do not a damn thing to help themselves.

    Considering scriptural commentary on appearance, the quote “was comely and good to look at” does appear. To me attractiveness had alot to do with marriage even back then. Along with, you know, obeying God. A person who used attractiveness to mislead, as in the book of Proverbs harlot, young marriagable men were advised to stay far, far away from.

    I do not belong to the church because it is profoundly unserious about the critical things of the church.

  8. JG January 13, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    Since when do women know what attracts a man? The vast majority of them are utterly clueless. Most men realize that they cannot attract a model and wouldn’t want one anyway because of the baggage and drama that comes along with getting someone like that. But most men who are physically fit and somewhat attractive are not interested in marrying a woman who is grossly overweight, has a bad attitude or both.

    And opinions like those of Candice W. will never change us. We don’t need women telling us how to be a man. I’ll believe that Candice believes what she says when she starts counseling women to consider relationships with unemployed or underemployed men who have good character just not the income that most women would consider necessary to support a household. It’s all about character right? That guy making minimum wage might be the best guy for her readership.

  9. whatever January 13, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    Where is physical attraction?

  10. Aunt Haley January 14, 2013 at 7:52 am #

    JG–

    I’ll believe that Candice believes what she says when she starts counseling women to consider relationships with unemployed or underemployed men who have good character just not the income that most women would consider necessary to support a household. It’s all about character right? That guy making minimum wage might be the best guy for her readership.

    Nice try! But here’s the correct answer:

    Lack of striving for a job = lack of character, because the purpose of men is to earn money to support a wife, and unemployed slackers aren’t ~leaders~

    Lack of striving to be slender = that’s just the way God made you, and God doesn’t make mistakes, and we need to see the true inner beauty of people because that is where the true value of people lies, and stop being brainwashed by the values of ~the world~

  11. JG January 14, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    LOL Haley. Good one!

  12. lumberjack jones January 15, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    “Meanwhile, zero admonitions to the women to get themselves to the gym, stop eating every baked good that passes before their eyes, to dress better, and to be fun to be around.”

    This. So much this. Physical attraction is important and it is not that hard to improve or maintain. Christian dating advice (for both sexes) needs to start with: 1) Exercise. You will feel better and look better. 2) Try to look good with the clothes and the hair and the accessories etc. 3) Get professional help for 1 and 2 if you grew up in Sunday School. No exceptions.

    Then they can throw in all the other stuff. Seriously, why do people have a problem even attempting to look good?

  13. Teresa Rincon January 15, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

    Here is a church suited for the Asherah pole Christianity represented here:

    http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/The_Family_International

  14. Karenology February 14, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    Marriages the world over today are still arranged and physical attraction or sexual compatibility are not the main factors when parents/families arrange them. I agree with you that the entire package is possible, and it can last for more than 3 years, but it might be rare. And its true that sexual fireworks do sputter out (that’s hormones and brain chemistry for you), but there are ways and techniques to keep at least a few sparks alive.

  15. John August 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    I’ve never been a catch or a prize of a man, so boo-hoo. I’m not a hulking mass of muscles that are popping out through my skin. The only wash board I know is the one you scrubbed clothes on in the 1960s. I never made a lot of money & most male pastors, priests, my father, friends & strangers have often told me, “Get a good job first then date”. They would be correct & that’s good advice, because there always will be a double standard (Boo-hoo again). I didn’t even feel happy most of the time when I used to date, but, I found it stressful for many reasons beyond any benefit that I might have received. Everyone is not supposed to date or get married. Now, as far as “Christian Dating” goes let’s change the name to “Worldly Pornea (Greek word) Dating” or “Bound For Hell Dating” & we have a winner. There isn’t much dating difference between 50% of Christian men & women & pagans. I have asked females that hate religion, in my celibate stage of life & they reported that Christian men are hypocrites! Many of their sexual partners have been with Christian men. Imagine having sex & then hearing a sermon about going to Hell because, you haven’t accepted Jesus yet?!! What an example of holiness & self-control we are. Another pet peeve: King Solomon & Esther’s King husband had hundreds of wives & sex objects–enslaved females (harems & concubines). How, in anyone’s Christian brain can that be a romantic one on one relationship? Do we actually know what we’re reading in the Bible??? Do Christians who make movies or preach actually read the Bible to understand it?? I had my own sinful days as well & it ain’t easy to not do what everyone else “seems” to be doing especially when you’re lonely & burning up in lust, self pity & you just wish you had a wife-a partner to help you. That’s a romance crusher. The man must never, never, never: rest, deny sex to his wife or say, “I need you to help me pay the bills, cook, clean the house, take the dogs for walks with you or ask, “Can we have sex this week?”. We have to stop sinning, because discipline to duty & obedience to God will bring a modicum of peace. We have to learn the fear of God again. Is this world so delicious that we chase it full throttle while completely forgetting about the eternal life we’ve been promised??? The holy Christian ladies are too afraid to compromise their virginity or afraid of being rejected & the same for the Christian men. What a pity, they should marry & take whatever marriage turns out to be. Stop expecting, complaining & being disappointed. It will be what it will be. Why cry because marriage is too sexy or not sexy or boring or exciting or expensive, or too much responsibility or too much whatever? Christians can enjoy marriage no matter where it goes as long as they are praying together daily–out loud, giving in to each other, forgiving & starting each morning fresh with respect & love. Hard to do, but imagine it. Having said that if, you want to stay married but, your spouse doesn’t you will most likely divorce. These are wicked times, be brave. I hope no one told you Christians all have happily ever after lives….

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  1. Daily Linkage – January 14, 2013 | The Second Estate - January 14, 2013

    [...] Tired of Christian dating advice acting like physical attraction is an either/or proposition. « Hal… [...]

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