Several years ago, a creative friend of mine, decided to reveal his romantic feelings to a certain woman. In the middle of winter, he led her to a bridge that spanned a white, solidified river. He began hurling boulders over the wall, crushing the ice and revealing the frigid water below. After each stone drop, he asked her, “What am I doing?” “I don’t know,” she responded warily. After several failed attempts, he finally explained to her, “I’m breaking the ice.”
My friend’s attempt at initiating a relationship was clearly unconventional and humorous! Yet, this seems to be the general protocol of evangelical Christian dating: a man pursues a woman while the woman waits to be pursued. It’s not a bad system, per say, when it works.
But what happens when that model doesn’t fit your story?
Several of my single female friends are frustrated. They see their 20’s and 30’s flying by without a quality relationship in sight. Their angst stems from their felt powerlessness to change to the situation. Indeed, their feelings are on standby, and it’s painful for them to wait endlessly in relationship purgatory. Ugh.
What measures, then, is a Christian woman free to take when she isn’t being asked out? And, what can a woman do if she likes a certain guy but he isn’t pursuing? Both questions have the same answer.
Here’s the bottom line: It’s my belief that women are not bound by the religious cultural norm of dating passivity. In other words, they are totally free to make the first move.
Before explaining why, let me offer a poignant conversation I had with a friend in her 30’s.
Me: “Pauline, are you dating anyone?”
Friend: “No, but I like a guy.”
Me: “How long have you liked him?”
Friend: “A year-and-a-half.”
Me: “Does he even know you like him!?”
Friend: “No. I’m waiting for him to ask me out.”
Me: “Why don’t you let him know that you’re interested?”
Friend: “I don’t want to pursue him!”
Me: “Telling a guy you like him is NOT the same thing as pursuing him!”
Friend: “Maybe you’re right…”
Can you relate?
A woman in this situation has four viable options.
1. She can accept the status quo and wait for him to ask her out.
2. She can wait and flirt with him, in hopes that these signals gain his attention.
3. She can let this person go.
4. She can inform him of her feelings and even ask him out.
Pauline obviously chose option 1, and forfeited progress in the relationship until the man pursued. But her waiting game didn’t work. Instead, he began dating someone else.
I’m sure she’s not alone. It’s customary for women to take the inactive role, right? But from where does this norm originate? Scripture? Christian teaching? Secular culture?
Scripture is all but mum on the specific topic of dating. Instead, what Scripture reveals is a hodgepodge of marriage stories—many of which are a debacle. Jacob found his wife at a well but had to work 7 years for her. Widowed Ruth blatantly pursued Boaz, presenting herself at his feet. King David married Abigail after killing her husband.
Were these stories meant to be archetypes for us to follow? Hardly.
What the Bible does provide are three specific rules for Christians to adhere to when choosing a spouse:
1. Do not be yoked together with a non-Christian (2 Cor. 6:14).
2. Don’t marry someone who is divorced unless there are valid reasons (Mat. 19:1-12).
3. Avoid sex before marriage (1 Cor. 7).
Outside of these commands, Scripture focuses on who to seek to marry, not how to get there with them. Spiritual and emotional maturity are paramount. The Golden Rule (Lk 6:31), the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), and 1 Corinthians 13 are all solid litmus tests in assessing the character of a potential mate.
Inside this fence, God gave us a huge dating-yard to play within.
Ladies, let me say this plainly: It was my friend’s choice to pine over this man for 18 months. But this laissez-faire notion of dating kept her from moving forward or moving-on with a new relationship.
So this is my challenge to the stuck, single females who are passively waiting to be swept off their feet: Your ship may not come in; instead, you may need to swim out to sea and find it. Empower yourself. There’s absolutely nothing unfeminine, improper, or unbiblical about taking the initiative with a guy. And it also doesn’t mean you’re brazen, feminist, or liberal.
It means you want to be married—and that’s completely normal.
Even after going on a limb you may not get the response your heart desires. Nevertheless, isn’t hearing some answer better than no answer?
To be clear: I’m not advocating for unstructured dating or androgynous relationships. There is a biblical design for marriage. If you’re convicted to wait and let a man pursue then that’s OK! My only point is that it takes the same faith to wait as it does to make the first move with him. It’s up to you to decide how the Spirit is leading.
Finally, remember the goal is to be married, not to follow a fairly-tale model of dating. Think about this: 50 years from now when you and your husband are sitting in your rockers, playing Bingo, and eating dinner at 4 o’clock, will it really have mattered who broke the ice in the relationship?
Be bold. Be brave. Change the status quo.
Written by: Eric Demeter is an entrepreneur at heart. He has the desire to change hearts towards Christ through Bible-centric teaching and to create opportunities for the marginalized. He has traveled around the world several times and has a master’s degree in theological studies. See more at www.ericdemeter.org and on Twitter at @ericdemeter