“When Ethan and I started seeing each other, I didn’t have to do any of the work. He called; he scheduled the dates. I just had to receive it. It was really different from how it had been with the guys I’d dated before.”
My engaged best friend murmured this advice into the phone one evening, and it made my heart sink.
At the time, I maybe-sorta spent time with a guy I sincerely liked, but I was the one doing most of the texting and planning.
What started as him making some effort quickly turned into me trying to drag things along. Needless to say, no real relationship blossomed.
And while I don’t hold him any ill-will, and no longer blush with shame when I think about that experience, I don’t deny that I’d rather not go through it again.
As I prayed for healing and surrender, something made me remember the words of my friend that had initially made me so gloomy. As I reconsidered her advice, I found that my heart began to surge this time. How right that sounded — how appealing. And not just in a “it’s always been like this, rigid gender roles” way. It struck a chord in my soul.
Is the old-fashioned ideal of a man who humbly, yet confidently wins over the woman he loves an ideal because society has forced men to be aggressive, and women to be shy and passive? Or is it because we come alive when we experience love in this way? Isn’t it what we all want, deep down?
Maybe you’ve heard it said that men want respect and women want love. Of course, we all want both—we simply want to be shown love and respect in different ways.
Being pursued, treated with affection, and made to feel desirable is how a woman wants to be loved. And being treated with courtesy and consideration, not being harassed if we say no to a date…all of this makes us ladies feel respected. We want to be able to happily receive the attention of a good man, to know that there is something that makes us beautiful or special in his eyes.
Whatever we say about “true” equality, having to be the one to initiate is, in my experience, degrading.
It’s like admitting to ourselves that we are as unattractive as we sometimes fear, that we do have to work for love after all. Let’s consider the reverse: would you expect your brother or male friend to ask out a woman who didn’t respect him? Who ridiculed him or poked fun instead of admiring him? Would you tell him to just be bold, sit the gal down and ask for her to, um, maybe, please respect me a little bit more if you could? Or would you tell him to let it go and wait to meet a woman who thinks highly of him without having to be asked to do so? Just as no man wants to ask for a woman he loves to start respecting him, no woman wants to have to ask a man to start acting on his interest. We want to simply inspire admiration and pursuit, because of who we are as a man or a woman.
“Yes, but,” you may protest, “some men aren’t players, bums, or not interested. He might have something else holding him back; maybe he is shy. The woman needs to get the ball rolling for him.”
This is a valid point. Yet, if something is seriously keeping a guy from asking a girl out for dinner, then it’s possible that that something is serious enough to make you think twice about getting into a relationship with him in the first place. Let’s say there’s something external holding him back. Perhaps you’re coworkers and your work frowns on dating, or he’s discerning, or he’s about to move far away. It’s at least worth considering that such barriers exist for a reason and it might unfortunately not be a prudent time for the two of you to date. If the barrier is internal, if he is too shy, or clueless, or is still hurting from a breakup, that certainly doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy. But it might mean that he simply isn’t ready for a serious relationship.
Of course, there’s exceptions to every rule, and I’m certainly not trying to say that all couples where the woman pursued are doomed, or that it’s a sin, or any other extreme blanket statement. But I would invite any woman (or man!) reading this to consider the old norms, and think and pray before going against them.
Fr. Roger Landry writes that “men receive love by giving love, women give love by receiving love.”
Men want to feel as if they have something to give, and women want to feel that there is something about them worth pursuing. How many of us actually feel this way?
We don’t need to be perfect to find romance, but I’ve decided that one step I can take is to wait for a man who pursues me first. That way, not only can I be a little more sure that the man in question is ready for marriage, but I can also show Christ (the One pursuing all of us, every minute of our lives) that I trust Him when He says there is something in me worth pursuing, even if I don’t always feel that to be true.