Something occurred to me recently. Thinking about various experiences, mine and those of others I have observed. A recent one, me dating a woman that I am no longer dating, and me counseling a young woman years ago about how to tell a guy she’s not interested.
One of the confusions over the last couple of generations that men experience in dating is this: why is it that women don’t seem to like nice guys? It suddenly hit me that this is entirely the wrong question. It’s not about nice guys, though often that is misconstrued to meaning men who are supplicating or submissive towards women. But here, let’s take it to mean men who are kind, generous, thoughtful–in other words who epitomize what 1st Corinthians living men should be like.
I think what women have failed to understand, perhaps because having total choice in relationships is still relatively recent for them, is that those characteristics merely open the door to possibility. The idea that a man is kind, good, generous, brave and hard working should be enough to win her heart is not enough. See the woman I was going out with last year wanted a man who was really affectionate. She liked the qualities I had as a person, but she wanted to give her affections to someone intensely affectionate. I wasn’t that guy, and would never be that guy unless I was pretending, which I didn’t want to do. It was hard to break up with her because she resisted the idea that things would not somehow work out.
I think that as we have come to a point where marriage in our culture is predominantly for companionship, we need to become wiser about how we court. And so ultimately women in order to be ethical about this need to understand clearly what they want and have a clear understanding of how it can come about.
Not sure that that is likely, so let me address men instead: you need to keep an eye out for what she really wants. If you can’t give it to her happily because you like it too, then don’t, and don’t continue the courtship. If what she really wants is say a fun active outdoor lifestyle and you are more of a museum and glass of red wine guy, then don’t. You get the idea.
Men need to get over the idea that women want a hardworking man with a good heart–those are good things, but I find that women inevitably are looking for some other thing once that door is open. It can literally be anything. In a way you could liken it to this: you like dogs, you want a dog. But you ideally want a dog that suits you well. If you get a totally unsuitable dog, at best you will have an uncomfortable situation you’re never truly happy with–like say if you spend most of the day commuting and working and just want to veg out when you get home, but you’ve got a Springer Spaniel or a German Shepherd or something, going nuts with longing for you to be home and spend time with it, not a good combination. At worst you want to give the dog away, get rid of it. That’s how it is with relationships now.
So what if you’ve already gotten past this part, you’re married or cohabiting or whatever? What then?
I’d like to offer some of the platitudes that Christian marriage counseling books do, but I can’t and won’t. If you’ve gotten past that then you are in for a difficult and heartbreaking time, perhaps, of it, to whatever degree. You may, as some have, find yourself in a virtually sexless marriage. You may find yourself with someone where you carry a huge amount of the load of parenting or other parts of being a family with little sense of partnership.
The thing is, that’s how it is for God. God yearns for our love, our devotion, our attentiveness, our obedience, because He knows it is what is good. Yet we struggle to give it to Him, or sometimes are barely even aware that we’re supposed to. One of the roots of faith is compassion as Christ had it, as a very smart poster reminded us today. Forget the platitudes–the point is that we are called to be like Christ.
I believe that there are some things that totally cross the line in marriage and for which divorce may be the only remedy. But being unhappy, unfulfilled, lonely…these are heartbreaking situations, but the answer is for your heart and mind to be transformed.
So I think in conclusion that we need to be careful about how we date, as Christians, because we don’t have an easy way out–do we have an easy way out of anything though? We need to be ready to accept the counsel of others that we trust. We need to remember that our faith has to be cared for and nurtured. We need in all things to be surrounded by those who are wise in their understanding of the Gospel, and who are trusted companions as we grow in our faith, and we ourselves need to feed ourselves wisdom and knowledge and understanding so that we continue to grow. Because the only way we can truly have compassion is if we are strong in our faith.