How many chances are enough before giving up?

20 Apr

Scenario:  Duke, a single man from your church, asks you on a date.  You note that Duke is neither physically off-putting nor a psycho/stalker/rapist/killer/child molester/creeper so, despite not having any pre-existing interest in him, you accept.  You haven’t been on a date in a while, and you have taken to heart the admonition to give decent men a chance.  Duke takes you to Johnny Rocket’s and doesn’t chew with his mouth open, talk about himself the whole time, or forget about the biblical prohibition against fornication.  In fact, he is well-spoken and gracious, and he even leads in prayer as he asks God to bless your cheeseburgers to your bodies.  You find out during conversation that Duke has a stable, well-paying job, owns his own house, has a good relationship with his parents and siblings, has interesting, non-weird hobbies, and desires marriage and children.  Even better, there are no awkward pauses; the conversation flows with relative ease.  Still, while there’s nothing wrong with Duke, you don’t feel excited about being with him.  As the date progresses, this feeling nags at you.  He is a great guy, so why isn’t any adrenaline flowing?  You try to figure it out, but no answer presents itself.

When Duke asks you to go out with him again, you say yes.  But then you go on your next date, and you still don’t experience a single tingle of excitement, even though Duke is undeniably a wonderful man.  This time when he asks you for another date, you hesitate.  Do you give him another chance?

This is a question that ties single Christian women in knots.  How many chances do you give a man before you decide that not only is the magic not there, it’s never going to be there? You’ve been told over and over in your women’s group at church that you need to be receptive and encouraging to young men who have taken the risk of asking you out.  So what if you don’t feel anything right away?  Sometimes the best love is gradual…like an iceberg!  It’s better to get to know each other first; that way you don’t have any pesky desires for sex feelings getting in the way.  Besides, if he’s the right one, God will turn your heart toward this man and you will be able to entertain all of your new, married friends with stories about how you once wondered if you could ever love your dear, darling hubby.

You agree with this advice…at least you do in theory.  You do want to give men a chance, and you don’t want to be the worldly fool who threw away a great opportunity and spends the rest of her life lamenting her Greatest Mistake.  Plus, you haven’t been on a date in quite some time, and you’re grateful that you’ve caught someone’s eye.  However, none of this can change the reality that you just can’t get excited about Duke.  You enjoy spending time with him, but you don’t miss him when he’s not around.  You don’t check your phone, hoping he’s left a message or a text for you.  You don’t wait by the computer for an email or Facebook note.  You don’t wonder what he’s thinking about or doing, at least not in more than a detached sort of way.  In short, you don’t feel the thrills that girls are supposed to feel when they’re falling in love with someone.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer to the question of how long is long enough.  It’s different for everybody, and it’s true that a lot of women have grown to love the men they eventually marry but weren’t initially attracted to.  I think, though, that there are some principles you can apply to help you figure out if you should cut bait.

First – do you respect him?  If you already want to make fun of something about him or roll your eyes, you probably don’t have enough basis of respect to build a relationship on.

Second – do you admire anything about him?  A woman who loves a man will always admire something about him.  Usually it’s a character trait (kindness, honesty, fairness, determination, etc.) or a talent (music, technology, sports, humor, intelligence, handiness…).  If you can’t think of one thing that makes you say “wow” even at this stage of the game, that’s not a good sign.  Also, if the only thing that makes you say “wow” is his looks, RUN AWAY.  It’s not going to end well.

Third – do you feel comfortable sharing things about yourself with him?  If you don’t feel that you can trust him with more personal details of your life, or you feel that he won’t understand you, it will be very hard for you to build the kind of emotional intimacy that leads to and sustains love.

Fourth – does the idea of ever having sex with him make you want to recoil, or does it make you want to rejoice?  If it’s “recoil,” the likelihood is not high that you will ever completely reverse your feelings on this matter.  If it’s “rejoice,” or at least “I don’t think it would be all bad,” then you probably have sufficient basis of physical attraction, even if your heart’s not beating a mile a minute presently.  The thing is, if you marry this guy, he’s going to want to do it with you all the time.  It’ll be helpful if you think you’ll be enjoying doing it right back to him.

I would say that if you don’t see any of these points emerging after two or three dates, it’s probably time to part ways.  If at least two of these characteristics start kicking in, though, I’d say go on some more dates and see if you don’t get all four points starting to happen.  (Anything less than all four, though, probably means you’re destined to be Just Friends, especially if point 4 is missing.)

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10 Responses to “How many chances are enough before giving up?”

  1. Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life April 20, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    I think Duke is doing a few things wrong. I sounds like he is doing just wonderful on the comfort building front, but he doesn’t seem to be doing much on the attraction building side of things.

    I’d really advise him not to go so soft on the physical side of things, he should definitely touch her frequently and ideally “struggle with the fornication issue” in relation to her. Ideally kiss and fondle just a little too much, then back off realizing he’s crossing the line. The old push-pull routine suckers Christian girls every time.

    Also it being the whole church sex ratio thing, he should possibly date someone else as well. Preslection automatically creates increased interest in women.

    Leather jacket anyone? Some stubble?

    Otherwise he my just be a little dull on the sexual matrix for your girl. There’s no point hooking yourself to a lifetime of lack of sexual interest to a future husband. Move on.

  2. Aunt Haley April 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    Athol, I think you’re right about Duke, but (as you probably already know) you’re swimming in murky waters when you date within evangelical circles. For starters, Duke has no way of knowing if our hypothetical lady believes that kissing or touching is appropriate before marriage or even engagement. If he pushes too hard physically, he could get tagged with an “only wants one thing” reputation and totally torpedo any chances of dating any decent woman from that church. Christian girls, especially if they are very young, love it when a man places himself on a sexless pedestal and refuses to step even a toe over the primmest line. Guys who confess to struggling with masturbation or sexual thoughts are gross. Guys who pretend that women’s looks are meaningless to them and pledge all control to Jesus are sexy.

    Second, I don’t think dating more than one woman at a time is an effective method of social proofing in a church setting. Nine times out of ten, the man is going to get tagged as a player who doesn’t know what he wants, is not serious about marriage and family, and is using women as entertainment. A Christian girl is going to say to herself, especially if he’s trying anything physical, “If he wants marriage so much, then why is he dating her while he’s trying to figure out if he likes me?” And even if she is not saying these things to herself, her friends probably will.

  3. Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life April 20, 2010 at 5:26 pm #

    LOL it’s a minefield.

    He shouldn’t talk about marriage except in the most abstract sense.

    What’s sad/odd is that basically the Christan male has to do is be “coy”.

  4. Will S. May 3, 2010 at 9:19 am #

    Exactly so, Athol. It is sad and odd.

    Christianity is about forgiveness, but anyone who has spent any time in a conservative church can attest that it can be a very unforgiving place when it comes to certain sins, while other sins – such as gossip – are given a free pass; one can be sure that all the wives in a church will gab with each other about who’s dating who… There’s a reason people often prefer to date someone from another church, because it allows the ability to partially control who knows about one’s personal business. (And it’s probably a good thing, as marrying someone from outside one’s own church helps prevent excessive congregational inbreeding from becoming a problem…)

  5. Thursday May 23, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    What you describe is all to true for a lot of guys, who are often a bit sexless, but Christian girls will not infrequently reject you for some pretty frivolous reasons, even if they do find you attractive. I used to think all these rejections were about attractiveness, but now that I have had some experience dating non-church girls and know how to read IOIs I know that attraction isn’t the issue.

    I think Athol is a bit off about pushing things physically. Yes, you should be touching her a fair bit, but you should not go anywhere near as fast as you need to go with a non-church girl. I’ve experimented a fair bit about when to first go for the kiss with church girls and I wouldn’t advise trying to kiss a church girl until at least the third date.

  6. Aunt Haley May 23, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    It is far better to hold off physically with a church girl and make her wonder why you’re NOT trying to kiss her than to make a move too early and make her think that all you’re after is sex. If the girl broaches the subject, an explanation along the lines of “I’m trying to honor my future wife by holding off on physicality now” will satisfy her. Even better is saying “I made mistakes in the past with girls, and God really convicted me. It’s not that you’re not attractive, it’s just that I want the next girl I kiss to be the woman I’m going to marry.” Most Christian girls will melt into a puddle because that brief statement pings just about every facet possible of Christian female attraction.

  7. Will S. May 23, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    That latter scenario will work with the type of Christian girl who gets excited at the prospect of a reformed ‘bad boy’, but other Christian girls will freak at the idea that a guy isn’t as pure as Jesus, which is of course absurd, since we’re not perfect as He is; moreover, such an impossible high standard would have excluded King David, Samson, and St. Augustine, among others, from membership in God’s people.

  8. Aunt Haley May 24, 2010 at 8:11 am #

    I think even the “good” Christian girls who want a guy as pure as Jesus would get secretly excited about a truly reformed bad boy…so long as his past wasn’t TOO bad. Like, maybe he’d only had sex with a handful of women as opposed to, say, fifty. And he’d been celibate for several years since reforming.

  9. Will S. May 24, 2010 at 8:14 am #

    That’s encouraging to hear.

  10. Cane Caldo June 18, 2010 at 7:59 am #

    Will and Thursday’s responses are bitter towards Xtian girls. Athol’s is somewhere between jaded and accepting. Your reformed bad boy note should be well-noted by the aspiring church playa. It’s the secret ingredient of ex-football player/rocker evangelists that infest the US.

    “Before Jesus, brothers and sisters, I…I was a heathen.” Putting on his best shame-faced look, “You know, I was going to all these after-game parties, you know, drinking so much I didn’t know where I was, or even care. I was just hopping from bed to bed with these… these…misguided girls who were just looking for love.* But it was a love that I couldn’t give them, because I didn’t have Jesus in my life.”

    Church girls hear: “I think you’re as good as all those sluts you’re supposed-to-repudiate-but-actually-envy; and I can still bang ’em silly. Plus, I love Jesus now so I really care. We could totally pray afterwards.”

    Incidentally, Church guys hear: “Man I used to bang all these really hot chicks until they were sillier than Paris Hilton’s chihuahua… You’re totally missing out. Jesus will make sure that continues.”

    *A cautionary stutter lest a “fine-ass” slip out. Evangelicals love to white-knight even the sluts. Maybe it has something to do with Mary Magdalene?

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