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Meg Jay: Why 30 is not the new 20.

12 Jun

In case this video hasn’t made the rounds to your internet neighborhood yet –

Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist whose practice focuses on 20-somethings.  In this TEDtalk she discusses why now is the time to invest in your life, rather than believe your 20s are a ten-year freebie pass to mess/wander around because life and direction are just going to be there for you at 30.  I think she is actually the first person I’ve heard who tells people that the decisions you make today can cut off possibilities for your future (such as the ability to have a family when you want one).  Even church advice is typically of the “get married young, but if God doesn’t bring your mate into your life in college, just keep hoping and praying – God’s timing is perfect!” variety.  Meanwhile, girls are turning 30, dressing frumpy, and waiting for that sacrificial leader to walk in the door on Sunday and choose them.  Good luck with that!

Jay’s talk is important because a generation of young people has been raised to believe that they can have whatever they want, whenever they want – they are just that special, and all they have to do is wish hard and it will happen.  Especially now, with the ubiquity and immediacy of texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media, you can get stuck in a bubble where reality doesn’t intrude – where you don’t (and don’t have to) contemplate reality.  This makes getting hit in the face with reality even worse, AND you’re totally psychologically unprepared to deal with it.  While Dr. Jay does not give Christian advice, she does hit a lot of the same areas that the Boundless types are always harping on, except Dr. Jay does it in a way makes a lot more sense and is far less annoying.

Also, although Jay focuses on twentysomethings, her advice is good for any age.  Now is always the right time to take stock of your life, get focused, and do things that will help you get where you need to go.

Should Christians EVER go on dates with (presumed) non-Christians?

2 Jun

For those of us who have grown up in the church, probably the cardinal rule of dating that is hammered home again and again and AGAIN is to never date an unbeliever.  This is because if you date an unbeliever, you will have premarital sex, never go to church again, and basically ruin the rest of your life.

When you’re in high school, or even college, this seems like pretty solid advice.  For girls, you are advised to keep holding out for that ambitious young man who loves Jesus and is a spiritual leader and material provider who will love you sacrificially and be a good father to your children whom you will raise in the faith, trusting God every step of the way as this young man challenges you to grow in your faith and prays for you to love Jesus even more as you have your couple devotions which he leads.  You know this guy is out there, because God is writing your love story and you are using this season of singleness to fall in love with Jesus even more in anticipation of the spiritually appointed meeting of this young man, who is also using this season of singleness to grow into the strong, faithful leader that God intends him to be.  Sure, you’re frustrated because the guys in your youth group seem immature and only interested in the popular girls (which you are not one of), but you can hold out, because you can’t imagine your life beyond age 25 and by then you’ll surely be married.

I’m not sure what the equivalent advice for guys is, but I’m guessing it’s some combination of never looking at porn, confessing your boners to other men, and praying and averting your eyes when you feel temptation.  Also, praising God for redeeming the precious young women in the group who had been deceived by men who only wanted to use them for sex.

And again, all this seems like a solid game plan……..provided you’re married by age 25.  It’s just – what about the rest of us for whom that cutoff point passes, and we’re still single?

By this point, you are:

  • out of college
  • in the workforce, full-time
  • starting to feel uncomfortable in “college & career” settings
  • but too young to be part of the “dregs of the church SMP baby mamas/broken divorced people singles” scene at church

The young married people you know have fallen into the Young Marrieds Abyss, where conversation now revolves around mini-vans, preschool, coupons for Kohl’s, and recipes on Pinterest.

The older married people you know don’t know any young singles to introduce you to, or if they do know anyone unmarried, that person would not be a good match for you.

As a good Christian, you do not troll bars, and if, on the off-chance, you happen to go to a bar with some friends (where you feel very uncomfortable), you are DEFINITELY not there to meet men, because good men don’t go to bars – especially not to bars with the goal of meeting chicks, because everyone knows that girls who go to bars are trampy sluts – and a marriage-worthy Christian man would NEVER look for wife material at a bar – and so you know going in that you have already written off every man in the bar, full stop.

So you go through some very long dry spells where the most male attention you get is from a 44-year-old church creeper from the singles group, but there’s a kind of cute guy at work who probably is not a Christian, and you know this because he sometimes drops the F-bomb, but he’s nice to you and you think that sometimes he’s sort of flirting with you, and after a while you start wondering…….would it really hurt so much to go on a date with a non-Christian??  I mean, a date is not a proposal, and you’re 30/32/35/38/41/43 and not getting any younger.

At this point, Christian advice tends to bifurcate.  On the one hand, you have the hard-liners who feel that The Bible Says, and if you never go on that first date with a non-Christian, you will never have to deal with all the problems that come from Unequal Yokeage, which is the whole point of The Bible Says in the first place.  Plus, where is your faith?  God can work miracles.  Keep hoping and praying for your miracle.  Everything God does is perfect and in His own time – there will be so much greater and more rejoicing as you look back on this season and recognize His faithfulness to you.  And if you never meet anyone, then that is God’s plan for you and you can serve Him so much better as a single person, anyway.  Those people who have to spend time with their children?  They can’t serve at church potlucks and crisis pregnancy centers the way you can.

On the other hand, you have the people who approach dating slightly more recreationally.  These people don’t see the harm in going out with someone because it’s Just A Date, and Just A Dates don’t have a lot of big-picture significance.  Why not spend some time getting to know someone else?  It’s just a date, and early dates are casual.  No harm, no foul.  Plus, if you start to get a reputation for saying no to those who ask, eventually NO ONE will ask.

The two positions, as far as I can tell, are irreconcilable.  If you go to a church full of The Bible Says-ers, you will be frowned upon if word gets out that you went out with a non-Jesus-lover.  (You can tell if you attend such a church, because if you mention a young man to the women at church, the first or second thing they will ask about him is if he is a Christian.  If you say “no” or “I don’t know,” they will immediately advise you never to date a nonbeliever.)  But – are you doomed to zero dates over the course of a decade or more, potentially turning down a number of men just because they swore in front of you?  Is it really worth being alone all the time?

I don’t know what the answer is.  I just feel frustrated with the state of things.  And I feel despair when I read comments like this one from MontanaMoxie at Boundless:

I enjoyed listening to the panel discussion on 2nd dates. It sounds like CO Springs has a pretty great Christian singles dating scene.  Maybe I ought to move there!  Just kidding, of course…but I’ve been a little discouraged this weekend.  I’ll be turning 33 years old this week, and I haven’t ever been on a first date as an adult, let alone a 2nd date.  I don’t know how I’ll get to marriage someday (something I highly value, study and prepare for, desire, respect, etc.) if I can’t even get to a first date.  I suppose I’ll keep asking God to work a miracle, because I think that may be what it will take!

Really?  REALLY??  I know the Christian wing of the manosphere loves to focus on tearing apart and mocking the Saved Single SlutMoms, but there are a bunch of MontanaMoxies in churches, too – girls who have been churchpilling all their lives and have gotten nowhere romantically by doing so.  They’ve been told to trust God, and fall even MORE in love with Jesus, and to stay chaste, and to look for that Strong Leader Guy, and to IKDG and not date casually, and to keep hoping and hoping and hoping and praying and praying and praying – and the clock keeps running.  Meanwhile, guys feel like they’re at a job interview when they go on Christian Dates.  In the same thread at Boundless, Corwin aptly sums up the Christian Dating Problem from the male perspective:

I’ll be completely honest with you, I hate Christian dating, haven’t been on a date in well over a year, and have little interest in dating a Christian girl ever again because it often seems like first and second dates are more like a driver’s licence exam than a social evening. Did he show ability to take risks by asking me out in person? Nope, he used Facebook — two demerits. Did he show ability to provide by jumping up to pay for my $3 coffee? Nope, he was in the bathroom when I ordered, so I had to pay — three demerits. Did he show leadership by picking a venue conducive to conversation? Nope, he took me to a crowded place that he should’ve known would be too loud to talk deeply — six demerits…and that’s a fail for this dude’s godly husband potential.

Of course I’m exaggerating, but I really have found that the expectations and judgements that are made on Christian first dates are quite extreme. I really don’t think you can accurately assess anyone’s leadership or provider or parenting potential the first time you go out with them. No one is truly themselves on a first date either due to nerves or trying to be impressive, yet statement like “if he can’t lead a first date, he can’t lead your children” make it sound like it’s totally legit to give guys one high-pressure shot to prove who they are to women.

Christians love to talk about how “the world” is so messed up and “worldly” dating is so messed up – maybe they should look at the church, because as far as I can tell, it’s not any better inside the church.

Sorry if this is a downer, guys – just feeling frustrated at the moment.

Rebranding submission.

2 May

Mention “submitting to your husband” to the average woman, and she’ll look at you like you just suggested that the U.S. should bring back slavery.  These days submission has such a negative rep that trying to sell women on submission is like trying to sell paleo dieters some carbs.  In my opinion, given the current cultural climate, trying to pound the submission drum is just going to come up against a lot of resistance.

Last weekend I had lunch with a recently married friend and got onto the subject of submission.  While she had a knee-jerk reaction to the word itself, she actually agreed that deference was a part of her marriage and that it worked for her and her husband.  So maybe submission just needs rebranding.  When a woman hears “submit,” she thinks “become a doormat, throw brains out the window, let husband become a tyrannical dictator.”  Of COURSE women are going to reject submission when it is so closely correlated with those ideas.  But deference – and the connotation of agency involved in the decision – that seems a little more appealing.

So maybe the subject should be approached from that angle – ladies, can you defer to your husbands’ decision-making?

I suppose we can quibble over whether women should just suck it up and ACCEPT that the Bible says submission so therefore they have to SUBMIT whether they like it or not, but there’s also a reason that chewable pills taste like fruit, so………

 

Be a good listener.

11 Apr

I don’t think of my blog as an advice blog, per se, but the piece of advice I’m offering today is to be a good listener.  This skill will aid you greatly in your ability to attract someone of the opposite sex.

When you are a good listener, others will perceive you as:

  • sympathetic
  • tolerant
  • patient
  • kind
  • sweet
  • nurturing
  • trustworthy
  • enjoyable to be around

Being a good listener enables you to relate to other people – and if you’re not relating to other people, it’s going to be hard to get into a relationship of any value.

This skill is especially crucial for women, because men typically don’t have anyone to confide in emotionally.  I think a lot of women either forget or aren’t aware that male friendships aren’t like female friendships.  Female friendships usually center around talking, and usually that talking is about feelings and relationships.  It’s very unusual for women to get together to talk about problem-solving if it’s in a purely social setting (as opposed to a work meeting).  Men, on the other hand, relate by doing, which is probably why my male coworkers thought it was absurd that I would categorize female friends as either “talking friends” or “activity friends.”  To them, a friend was just a friend.  (One coworker even went so far as to proclaim, “If you can’t do more than two activities with a friend, that person isn’t a friend!  You need to get different friends!”)

Anyhow, women usually have more than one person that they confide in, so if one person isn’t sympathetic enough, there’s always someone else to turn to.  This isn’t so for men.  That, in a man’s mind, is one of the motivating factors in getting a wife.  So you can imagine that the prospect of coming home to a woman who doesn’t listen – the one person who is supposed to listen – is a huge downer and would be a serious deterrent to considering marriage with her.

The equally negative flip side to not being a good listener is that this tends to go hand-in-hand with talking at people.  If you’re not listening to the other person, you’re probably thinking about yourself and what you want to talk about instead.  So when it’s your turn to talk, no matter how well-intentioned you might be, the other person just hears that you don’t care about what’s going on with them and are more wrapped up in yourself.

Sometimes to be a good listener, all you have to do is listen.  The other person may just need to unburden himself without any commentary from you.  And if you prove to be a good listener, he may come back to you.

Just to be clear – I’m not advocating being anyone’s doormat and letting them use you as their emotional dumping ground while offering nothing back in the way of friendship.  I am also DEFINITELY not advocating being the repository for someone else’s self-made drama.  But listening IS a critical skill in getting and maintaining a relationship, and I have seen too many women who otherwise have good qualities unknowingly basically remove themselves from the MMP because they lack this ability.

“She was a winning hand.”

27 Mar

Today at work I asked my married coworker who sits in the cube next to mine if he had felt his wife was The One (or could have been The One) early on.

He replied that yes, upon first meeting her (through mutual friends), he felt that she was special.  He said that ultimately, he realized that she was a “winning hand.”***  He put it this way:

Could I have continued looking for a better hand?  Sure.  But she was a winning hand.

Probably the best meditation on settling that I’ve ever heard.

***P.S. totally not endorsing poker of course

Reasons you might still be single despite your plentiful inner beauty.

17 Feb

I was talking with a coworker recently about the single women we know, and we came to the conclusion that it’s not a lack of “good person”‘-ness that’s an impediment to finding a spouse, but rather that “something is missing” that is a necessary component to being good marriage material.  We all know good people with generous, kind, servant hearts and the best of intentions…who, deep down, we know have an uphill battle to find someone who will commit.  There’s just something missing.

I think this is what I find frustrating with Christian and mainstream advice – the focus on “be an amazing person!  you’re amazing!  own your amazingness!”.  As I said in my previous post, there is a practical, mundane component of marriage, and that is having to actually live day-in and day-out with another person.  Being an amazing person doesn’t mean you’re automatically amazing mate material.  Many people with impressive accomplishments and character traits still get passed by for marriage because they’re not so amazing at the relational component of relationships.

Below I have listed ten things that I think can be hold-ups for otherwise functional, intelligent, accomplished adults (which means I have excluded obvious things like “is fatty fat fat,” “is a slutty slut slut,” and “life is a drama-filled wreckage”).  List also applies to men, though I was thinking of women when I compiled it.

1.  You don’t listen.  In conversation, especially when trying to build rapport, people want to feel that the other person is listening to them, not merely waiting their turn to start talking again.  If you’re not giving signals in conversation that you have heard and understood and empathized with the other person, you’re going to have a hard time convincing that other person that they should keep you around.

2.  You talk AT people, not TO them.  This often correlates with point #1.  Good conversation is largely about empathy.  If the other person doesn’t think you’re relating but rather just waiting so you can unleash your (superior) point of view on them, it’s not going to bode well for a relationship.

3.  You’re always trying to get in the last word/one-up other people.  In college, there was always that annoying person in class who always had his hand in the air, DYING to impress the professor with his vast knowledge and proof of having done the reading.  If you made a good point, that person had a BETTER point to follow up with.  It was annoying then, and it’s annoying now.  Let other people be the ones to shine sometimes, even if you have a legitimate claim to the spotlight.

4.  You don’t pull your own weight in conversation.  Relating to others is a give-and-take.  I get that there are a lot of shy and/or introverted people out there, but if you are depending upon the other person to be the entertainment, that’s going to get really old, really fast for that other person.

5.  You lack a sense of humor.  If everything offends you, or you can’t delight in absurdity, it’s going to be hard for you to find someone who wants to be with you for life, because so much of life is offensive and absurd.

6.  You don’t read social signals well (or at all)/you don’t observe social graces/conventions.  If you can’t tell when it’s time for the conversation to move on, or the other person is trying to bow out gracefully, or you’re constantly hijacking someone else’s project or idea, or you’re always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, it’s going to be harder for you to find a romantic partner.  Most people only have so much graciousness for social awkwardness.

7.  You’re a complainer.  I can’t stand to be around complainers.  My free time is precious; why should I spend it with someone who gets off on griping about everything?  How is that beneficial to me?  The occasional venting session is one thing, but people who always have something to complain about are just not worth the time.

8.  You’re too social.  Being social and having your own life going on is good for singles, but not when you’re so social that other people aren’t sure if you have room for them in your life.  If you’re constantly fielding text messages and coordinating activities with friends and ALWAYS have something going on, a new person might decide you’re not going to be able to prioritize a relationship – that getting on your schedule is going to be too much of a hassle.

9.  You haven’t cut the cord with Mommy and/or Daddy.  It’s good to have a relationship with your parents when you’re an adult.  It’s bad to be so close to them that their presence in your life is a disincentive to find a mate.

10.  You don’t dress the part.  Everyone knows at least one single person who wants a top-drawer caliber mate, but the person dresses frumpy/is overweight/is poorly or boringly groomed/doesn’t dress at the level of their target.  Now, how does this person think he or she is going to attract sexy people of the opposite sex?  What are those sexy people going to notice first, the hardware or the software?  See where I’m going with this?  Your appearance brands you.  If you want a certain kind of person to pick you up and take you home (METAPHORICALLY SPEAKING, THIS IS A CHRISTIAN BLOG AHEM), then you need to look like the kind of product they’ll be attracted to.  Sure, you can pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes to your inner beauty, but in most cases it’s a lot easier to just look better.

A good personality is not enough.

14 Feb

I was thinking recently about the emphasis on personality/character by Christian (and mainstream, for that matter) advice-ists.  Usually this emphasis is framed as “looks fade, character is forever.”  Well, yes, there is a lot of truth in this statement, and it makes plain people feel better, but the more I look around at the single women around me, the more I feel that the emphasis on personality uber alles does everyone no favors.

You can be the nicest, friendliest, most thoughtful person in the world, but if you don’t have any (or many) practical life skills, you’re digging yourself into a hole when it comes to snagging a mate for life.

By life skills, I mean the actual skill set you need to function in the world as a productive adult.  Marriage, to a large extent, isn’t just about enjoying each other’s company.  A lot of marriage is two people being a functional unit of society.  So…can you budget your money?  Can you restrain your spending and be able to pay for needs before wants?  Can you cook (from scratch)?  Can you put on a dinner party?  Can you clean well enough so that someone doesn’t want to come in after you and re-clean?  Can you decorate/make an abode look homey?  Do you know how to dress and behave appropriately for different occasions?  Can you show genuine interest in other people?  Does your life look like a tornado hit it, or would people enjoy coming to your place to relax and connect?***

Basically:  what are you bringing to the table?  If it’s primarily your personality, that may not be enough to get the type of man you’d really like to have.  If he’s going to make a life with you and not just enjoy coffee and movies with you, he’s most likely going to want to see some indication that you can give him the type of married life that he envisions for himself.

I’m not trying to shake my finger at anyone or pile on any “you must be PERFECT!” pressure with this post; it’s just that of the single women I know, I sometimes see the life skills issue impacting their dating prospects in various ways.

***Not every man is going to have the same standards for what constitutes an acceptable set of life skills (SES/education level/demographics play into this a lot), but they all have a standard set somewhere.

 

Why women like the man to pay on the first date.

21 Jan

I feel like the manosphere has mostly embraced the idea that the man should never pay for a single thing on a date until the woman has put out.  Kind of like, “you have to pay your way until you give me sex,” which is a very romantic notion.  Or, judging the woman’s character on the basis of whether she reaches for her wallet first and gives lip service to the idea of paying her way:  if she doesn’t offer to pay her way, then she’s clearly an amoral dinner whore who will probably divorce you and ruin you financially for life after she pumps out Baby #1.

This whole approach banks on the premise that the man is so sexy to the woman that she will do anything just to remain in his presence.  The problem with this approach is that very few men are actually that sexy relative to the women they are going on dates with.  Most of the time, the woman will come away with a negative impression of the man if she senses that he expects her to pay, even if the rest of the date was a success.

So, in this era of “why should the man pay when women are earning a lot of money/feminism means that women deserve JACK from men!”, why do women still want the man to pay?

My theory is that the man paying is a demonstration of the mix of alpha and beta traits that women are looking for in men.

Paying is beta because it demonstrates that the man can be a good provider.  Christian dating advice usually hammers this point home to male readers:  Men, show how godly you are by providing for your woman!  PROVIDE as God PROVIDED for you!  Answer the call of PROVISION!  …But seriously, it’s a comfort-building move that puts the woman at ease and makes her feel cared for.  It takes the pressure off her to lead.

Paying is also alpha in that it demonstrates the man’s control over the situation and his social ease.  A man who kind of glances at the check and then glances at you expectantly, like, Hey, aren’t you going to pick up your half of the tab = not confident, not cool, is more interested in testing you than getting to know you, is waiting for YOU to set the tone, is waiting on YOU to act, is waiting for YOU to initiate.  These are attitudes that make a woman shrivel on the inside.  Conversely, a man who nonchalantly grabs the bill and pays without looking to the woman for any sort of affirmation = TINGLES.  It’s a dominant move that says shows the man is a leader, he doesn’t need your “permission” to pay, he’s not deferring to your lead, it’s that he wants to pay and he’s going to and, furthermore, he CAN pay.

Because of the implications of paying, I recommend keeping first and other early dates low-cost.  That way the woman won’t feel as though the man was trying to purchase her time/physical affection if the date was only so-so, and the man won’t feel as though he blew a bunch of money on a mediocre time.  Also, if you (the man) ARE intending to pay, grab the check as soon as possible.  The longer the check lies there, the more pressure the woman feels to offer to pay since she’s no longer sure you’re the type who pays for dates or not, or if you will only offer to pay after she offers first.  Either way, it’s a tingle-killer.

Also:  what about women who insist on always paying their way?  The reason women do this is because they feel that dates are basically a sort of socially sanctioned prostitution in which the man purchases time with the woman in expectation of some degree of putting out.  In her mind, if she permits him to pay, then she may give him the ~wrong impression~.  So, in order to thwart that expectation, the woman will insist on always paying for herself, which, generally, has the side effect of being a romance-killer since she has now robbed the man of a chance to show his alpha/beta mix AND it shows that she is a believer in equalism.

If you run into a situation with a woman who seems intent on paying, don’t barter with her, just tell her “We’re on a date, so I’m paying.”  Your tone should convey that this is non-negotiable.  If she puts up resistance, tell her, “When you ask me on a date, you can pay.  Would you say that’s fair?”  If she STILL insists (but why would you be on a date with this kind of woman in the first place?), you can try a nuclear move of asking the server if you can retroactively have separate checks since your date has refused to let you pay for her.  At that point, it’s all scorched earth since there’s no way you will ever be taking her out again anyway.

“What if he’s just being nice?”

16 Jan

I was talking the other day with a male coworker about reading signals, and he (of course) opined that men are “easy” to understand and everything with them is very obvious.  My response was that as a woman, nothing about men seems that obvious or easy to understand, plus women are prone to overanalyzing.

He said that if a man is talking to a woman, he is probably interested in her.  (He thinks that women are constantly approached.  I disagreed.)  I said that yes, sometimes the man is interested, but what if he’s just being nice?

This did not seem to compute with my coworker.  But I’d say there’s a good chance that most women have run into the “he’s just being nice” scenario, where she thought that the guy was showing some interest, typically by singling the woman out in some way (often: some mixture of  one-on-one conversations, isolation, kino), but in actuality, he’s just being nice and has no interest beyond the platonic.

Male readers, have you ever been the “just being nice” guy and inspired the ire of women?  (“Just being nice” is not the same as being a Nice Guy, btw.)  And how can a woman tell if a guy is just being nice?  Female readers, have you ever crushed on a “just being nice” guy and gotten crushed in the process?  Please weigh in below.  I don’t have answers to this.

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.