I think God is trying to tell me something. More specifically, I think He’s trying to tell me that the way I have been dating has been really screwed up.
This sinking suspicion has emerged for a number of reasons, the first being a conversation I had with one of my roommates. I was explaining to her that I have never in my life dated a guy who waited to make a move on me (ie. hold my hand, put his arm around me, kiss me, etc.) until AFTER we were officially dating. The “move” usually occurred somewhere in the beginning stages of getting to know one another, and only after it happened did we eventually move into the relationship phase.
Because this was my only experience with Christian guys, I assumed it was the norm, but my roommate assured me that it is not. Or at least it is not the ideal. In fact, it would be a deal breaker for her. Apparently some guys are gentlemen enough to wait until long after the DTR before allowing the relationship to become physical. I just haven’t dated any of them, so I assumed they were little more than Christian urban legend.
The second sign that God was trying to tell me something is that my pastor has decided to preach through Song of Solomon, and during the past two Sundays he has talked about dating. Today’s sermon was actually entitled, “How to Date and Love a Woman,” and he laid out parameters for men in their pursuit of women.
One of those parameters involved the importance of keeping the physical relationship in check. As my pastor explained it, physical touch is an extremely easy way to communicate, which is why we often fall into it first. But, the effectiveness of that kind of communication fades over time in marriage, so you need to found your relationship on the kind of communication that lasts. What’s more, if you embark on physical communication before you have firmly built up your verbal communication, then you will short circuit the entire process. It will be far more difficult to build verbal communication because the physical is what you default to. My pastor therefore urged young couples to abstain from the physical as long as possible, and even then, to be highly cautious.
Well between my roommate and my pastor, I am getting the message loud and clear: Physical intimacy has little to no place in the beginnings of a Christian relationship. If your “gentleman caller” dives into it right away, then it is an immediate red flag.
Unfortunately, there is a problem. The problem is that I have trained myself to look for affirmation in the exact way my pastor warned against. If a guy doesn’t make some sort of move after we’ve been going out for awhile, I start to doubt his intentions–is he not attracted to me? Does he only want to be friends? Is something wrong with me? Am I not pretty enough? It doesn’t matter if he’s being consistent in pursuing time with me–if he isn’t doing the one thing that I am used to guys doing, then I doubt the entire relationship.
What is ironic is that I have always criticized other girls for this very mindset. I once had a guy friend who was dating a non-Christian girl, and the couple began to flounder when she wanted to have sex, but he didn’t. She began to feel emotionally isolated from him because, in her mind, if he didn’t want to have sex with her, then he must not really desire her at all.
When my friend told me about this situation, I reflected on how topsy-turvy our world has become–the fact that a woman would need extra-marital sex in order to know that the relationship is strong, reveals how fundamentally we misunderstand healthy love and relationships. Our world is so backwards that ungodly behavior has become the standard of acceptability, the standard of rightness and goodness!
Well little did I know that I am suffering from the same syndrome. I have become so influenced by what I see on tv and the movies, by the past relationships that I have had, that I don’t recognize chivalry, godly pursuit, when I see it. Instead, I am looking for worldly affirmation, and I am discouraged when I do not get it.
So with all of that in mind, I would like to close with two thoughts, one for the guys, and one for the girls. First and foremost, guys: We need you to be men of integrity, even if we punish you for it at times. Many of us girls have a lot of emotional baggage that we will bring into our relationship with you, but stand firm and treat us like the sisters in Christ that we are. We may even resist it at first, get mad at you when we don’t get the kind of affection we desire, but we will appreciate it in the long run. Even if the relationship doesn’t work out, we’ll be able to look back and think, “At least he always honored me as a woman of God.”
And ladies, if you have found yourself in a similar position to mine, look to Scripture and talk to trustworthy Christian leaders when you need a godly perspective. Don’t listen to the rest of the world, and don’t even listen to some of your other Christian friends, because a lot of us are getting this whole dating thing wrong, and we are pulling one another down in the process. There is a better way, a kind of dating in which we are treated as the precious daughters of God that we are, so don’t settle. It’s out there, and it’s worth waiting for. If we want to recover chivalry, then we must help our brothers to do so.