Alayna and I have discovered that we have fairly different approaches to dating. This is not to say that one is wrong and the other right, but they are shaped by very different cultural forces and personal experiences. Last week Alayna addressed some of the faults that women tend to fall into when dealing with men who are interested in them, and she especially stressed the importance of respect and honesty. This week, I’m going to stress the importance of care for men. If we are to glorify God in our relationships, we must care for the well-being of the women that we pursue, and this doesn’t mean caring for what we think their well-being should include.
It is easy for men (probably for anyone, but definitely for men) to get the idea into our heads that what we want is what should happen. Just because you are interested in someone doesn’t mean that she should be interested in you, and if she isn’t, it doesn’t mean that she’s stuck up, a jerk, a bitch, or any of a hundred other pejoratives that we use to demean the women who reject us. If you’ve found yourself doing this, I have one thing to say to you: GET OVER YOURSELF! That being said, rejection can be difficult to handle. It leaves us feeling unwanted and worthless, like refuse in a dumpster, and sometimes it leaves us feeling used and abused as well. Trust me, I’ve had my share of these feelings, some legitimate, and some entirely illegitimate. Again: GET OVER YOURSELF! Selfishness is an unwarranted focus on the ego, and this generally comes in two forms: self-aggrandizement (i.e. pride, self-righteousness, ‘stick-up-your-butt syndrome’, etc) and self-derision (i.e. false humility, self-deprecation, ‘I’m-gonna-go-eat-worms syndrome’, etc). If you’ve found a woman who loves you and puts up with you, it’s not because you’re God’s gift to women, and if you’ve been rejected, it’s not because you’re a miserable, pathetic, worthless worm who should be shot dead at the first sign of movement. These are both lies that men too often believe because we focus too much on ourselves. So, if a girl says no to a date, it’s probably just because you’re not her type. Chances are that if she says yes but means no (which you probably won’t find out for a while), she’s probably trying not to hurt you. While this is likely to have the opposite affect, her heart is in the right place. Give her credit for that. Admittedly, all of these things are true for women as well, but I’ve found that men tend to deal with them a little more often for a very specific reason.
That reason is that there actually is significant culture pressure on men to be the pursuer. Men are generally (though not always) expected to pursue women, to risk open rejection (and let’s be honest, there’s a significant difference between not being asked out by someone you like, and having someone you like say go away when you ask them out – Alayna doesn’t entirely agree with this point. She’s made the point that men and women may be hurt in different ways, and thus while a man might be hurt more by being openly rejected, a woman might be more hurt by being ignored), and to find a balance between actively seeking out a woman who is right for them, and saving themselves for that woman. This is something that Alayna and I have struggled with. I’ve dated a few women. Generally they have been short, painful relationships and Alayna is the first woman I’ve dated who honestly seems to want to care about me and my needs as much as I want to care about her and her needs. Of course, we both fail sometimes, we both get selfish and needy, and we both get hurt. However, the relationship has never felt one-sided to me – in this relationship I can make mistakes.
However, my past relationships have been a source of stress to her, and this is an important point for guys to understand. It’s easy for a guy to get into the mindset that his relationships are his business, and thus who and how he dates will have no impact on his future. This isn’t true. My own romantic history has been fairly pathetic (I’ve dated 7 or 8 women briefly, been rejected by… a lot, and generally been a relationship non-starter), and it still hurts Alayna sometimes. The way that we date matters. By this I mean that men needn’t ask out every woman that moves and breathes (I’ve been there), nor should they sit back and just wait for God/Allah/Flying Spaghetti Monster/whatever they choose to believe in to drop the right woman in your lap. Honestly, I even agree with the culture pressure that guys should take the lead, and thus the risk, in a relationship. However, desperation hurts everyone, and its not particularly likely to get you a date. At the same time, confidence is hard to come by when you feel like a loser. If that’s where you are, then the best thing you can do is stop trying for a while. Learn to enjoy being single, and when you don’t desperately need to be with someone, see if you can find someone that you want to be with. This is what I finally learned: I don’t much care whether Alayna needs me in her life, but I care very much that she wants me in her life. It is much better to be wanted than to be needed.