This post is a development of ideas I have expressed before. However I first thought of it in this light last night when I was just pondering to myself late at night. However I am in quite an interesting state today as I actually type out these words. On one hand I am full of these positive thoughts of well being and joy and beautiful things. On the other hand, I have just read a post about how to maximise your life “before you’re 30”. The one part that really struck me is the part where the author insists on the need to hustle. He makes a point about the need to hustle for the sake of getting a great relationship and also a great job/career. As I was reading it, I was forced to ask myself: in my life, have I hustled hard enough? Have I really pushed myself and put myself out there in terms of
finding a great husband, (sorry, I of course mean being found by a great husband!), or have I let myself be content with sitting behind this screen, pouring out these thoughts, instead of going out there, and enthusiastically pounding the streets like everyone else?! So I am little confused as to whether I should write that post just now! I really need to explore these thoughts for myself, to ask myself hard questions, and to honestly examine my life. However, I suspect that I will end up justifying myself, that I have done the best I reasonably could have done given my limitations, including the limitations of my understanding. That is why I pursue understanding about relationships so aggressively on this blog; so that I can direct my resources, including my very precious resource of time, as efficiently and effectively as possible, so that by the grace of God I can feel that I know what I am doing, and how I am going about it. Furthermore, these endless issues with church that have deeply frustrated me are deeply pertinent, in terms of the question of where I am actually going to find this man! Part of the reason I have been so angry about the churches, including lots of anger directed at myself, is because I have finally realised that I have essentially wasted so many years of my life in those places where I did not truly have anything in common with those people at all, and the considerable effort I invested into building all those “friendships” was essentially wasted. I should have walked away a long time before I did.
Anyway today I am not going to write that post (although I’ve kinda already just written it!) Rather I am going to talk about what I was thinking over yesterday, about a different kind of pursuit. OK, so I was scrolling through Facebook, and I came across an idea, posted as a meme, an idea which I have come across countless times before, and which I am sure that everyone must also have seen countless times. And it was this. “Let him be the one to pursue you!” I was instantly stabbed with a prick of guilt, because…ahem…yeah! But honestly, the truth is that I sincerely don’t know what that statement actually means. Actually no, of course I know what it means, but it just does not make sense to me. So I was thinking over it and these are the things that occurred to me.
Firstly, I do have to admit that this is a little bit self-justifying to justify ways I have acted in the past. Secondly, I am not in any way advocating that women should pursue men, although I appreciate that my actions in the past could have been construed in that way! (Scratches head, blushes! – well as much as I can reasonably blush given my skin colour!) I just don’t understand why anyone has to pursue anyone else.
OK, let’s talk about the word “pursue”. When you are pursuing something, it means that you are running as hard as you can to catch something which is simultaneously running away from you as fast as it can. And this is my big problem with this idea of “letting him be the one to pursue you.” It is like this. You like this guy, right? You want to be in a relationship with him. So why are you running away as hard as you can from something that you want?! Why would anyone encourage women generally to run away from what they want, or present it as proper and respectable feminine behaviour to act as if they don’t want it? To me, that seems ridiculous. Or again, there is the possibility that the woman does not want the man which is why she is running away. So what is the idea here – that you should let a man’s effort win you over into something that you don’t want? And when people talk about “letting him pursue you”, let’s be clear about what we are talking about here: meals, flowers, chocolates, dates, phonecalls. So what is the suggestion here, that a woman should let herself be won over into a relationship that she inherently does not want, which could potentially last a lifetime, because of meals, flowers, chocolates and dates and phonecalls? Or perhaps she simply is not sure – so should it be those things that swing the decision?!
(I guess I do have to acknowledge that this statement also means “if anyone is going to be in pursuit, then let it be the man”. It is just that I would disagree with the idea of putting “pursuit” in the concept at all.)
If you are someone like me, and you say “no”, and the man continues to pursue, because he thinks that is what he “has” to do, or even what he is entitled to do, then please believe me, nothing could be more annoying. I generally try my hardest to be romantically gracious, but so many times I find myself wondering just how witheringly rude I have to be towards these men before they finally get the message.
Just as an aside, at the moment I am being pursued, but not in a romantic context. Frankly, from my perspective, it amounts to harassment. In this particular situation, I am restraining myself from saying anything because of politeness and cultural respect.
From my perspective, as a woman you need to decide whether or not you like a man based on tangible aspects of his character. If then you decide that his character is what you want, then you can be straightforward in letting him know; if conversely his character is not great, then pretty things like dates etc should not be able to sway that decision; if it happens that you are not sure, then get sure!
I cannot help feeling that this “pursuit” approach essentially encourages women to sell their futures for the sake of a few bunches of flowers, a few boxes of chocolates. What, do you honestly think that I am incapable of walking into a shop and buying myself a box of chocolates, if I am that desperate for chocolates?! Somehow these things become so magically precious just because they are given by a man.
I also think that the “pursuit” idea comes in when you meet someone, and he immediately tries to express romantic interest in you before you have really had a chance to get to know one another. So if we were to completely unravel the idea, I guess it would go something like this. A man meets you and immediately likes you and expresses an interest in you. Because you are a demure, well-brought up lady, (like me – ha ha – demure!) you of course turn him down. But because he persists, and “pursues” and sends you flowers, (and chocolates etc) you eventually relent, and “give him a chance”. Man, I hate this idea with such a passion. I hate the idea that as a woman I should allow a man’s persistence to overcome the issue of his unproven character, especially if I am going to be married to that character for the rest of my life.
Remember that everyone sees this “pursuit” message everywhere. This “everyone” includes men themselves, of course. If men see this message, that as a man they have to “pursue” the woman, then that leads to thinking that when a woman turns them down, they can or should pursue until the woman eventually relents. So that might actually be teaching men that a woman’s “No” just means “You have to pursue harder.” This has actually happened to me a few times, and because I am an upfront person, when I say “I am not interested in you”, I sincerely mean that I am not interested in you and never will be. I am not hoping that you will pursue harder. I am merely hoping that you will leave me alone, romantically speaking. If I am not sure, then I will say “I am not sure.” If I don’t know you, then I will try my hardest to express that. (Cue awkward references to “Two years”.) I do make lots of effort to make sure that my interaction with guys honestly reflects the sincere truth of the matter. For instance, if you are not a Christian, but I am not attracted to you, then I will not blame the fact that I don’t want to be with you on the fact that you are not a Christian. So when I say “My husband has to be a Christian”, then I do sincerely mean that yes, I am attracted to you but I cannot be with you because…my husband has to be a Christian.
Let us now wade into very dangerous territory. What if we are talking about a potentially sexual context, possibly within marriage itself? If a man thinks “no=pursue harder” then what is to stop him simply trying to “pursue harder” after a woman has already turned him down sexually? How many times have you heard this statement from men that a woman’s sexual “no” actually means “yes”? With this “pursuit mentality” this kind of thinking is almost inevitable. This could result in sexual pressurisation, or something even worse.
To go back to this question of getting to know someone well, I think that the pursuit mentality works a bit like this. This pursuit thing is all about winning the respect of this man, yes? And making it clear that he has to apply a bit of effort to win your affection, that you are not “cheap”. When people encourage you to allow the man to pursue you, to me it sounds as if they are almost conceding that the man might have poor character. But if you make him run around for a few months, then he will respect you! Is it not better to encourage a woman to make sure that the man has excellent character, before going out with him? I hope I am not stretching this too much here. However, it is almost as if people are accepting that there are not enough guys with amazing character out there, or there is no guarantee that you will cross the path of someone with excellent character who will want to marry you, so your next best bet as a woman is to take on almost anyone with possibly questionable character, but make him pursue you, so that he will respect you.
I think that my approach is better. I am possibly one of the people in the world who most wants to get married. Not because of status, not because of what people think, not even for the honourable reason of making my family proud. But rather because I so want to be with someone. And yet. And yet. I have made up my mind that the man I will be with must be outstandingly excellent in terms of character. Otherwise I will remain single. If there are not enough amazing men for me to get an amazing man, then single it is! When people advocate a different approach, then I can’t help thinking that they must think singleness is so shameful for a woman, that it is better for a woman to get into just any relationship with just any joker, possibly to be mistreated there, than to remain single, avoiding those jokers, even though this latter option offers the hope of winning someone truly excellent in the future.
This post is already so long, and I am so tempted to break it off here. However, I really want to finish these points while I am still in flow. (And then break up the post later).
Assuming that the woman is attracted to the man and does want to be with him, this “pursuit mentality” also seems to be suggesting that there is something shameful about being upfront about what she thinks, or what she wants, as if no respectable woman would eagerly enter into a relationship, but must rather be dragged reluctantly into one. So then, at what point is a woman allowed to honestly express what she wants, to admit that she had liked him all along? While still courting/dating? While engaged? At some far off point within marriage? Extending this mentality a little further, this then also lends itself to that silly thinking that it is not respectable for a woman to want sex, that it is slightly shameful, whereas a man is of course allowed to want whatever he wants.
For the benefit of my future husband, I am not going to be playing those games. By the grace of God, I hope and plan to be completely upfront with you from the very outset, and I hope that you will be upfront with me too.
For the benefit of everyone else, please understand that when I say “I am not interested”, that is exactly what I mean. Please do not persevere. Please. I do not want to have to be rude to you.
Talking then about my own approach, and why it might unfortunately come across as if I am the one doing the pursuing (oh dear!) Please remember that I do not understand why either party should have to be in pursuit of the other!
As a person who happens to be female, I endeavour to be proactive in different aspects of my life. Why would that be different about my marriage, which just happens to be the single biggest decision of my life – after accepting Christ? Or would you expect me to be passive about this, just waiting to see whatever or whoever just happens to show up? Writing this blog is an expression of my being pro-active. So yeah, with me (oh dear, blushing some more!) with guys, I have made up my mind that I am not going to be asking anyone else out beyond the guys that I’ve essentially asked out in the past. We’re only talking about three guys, and this number is tiny compared to the number of guys who have expressed an interest in me, Or at least that is how I justified it to myself at the time. (And of those three I was only really really attracted to a single one of them! So…why?!!!! It’s a very long story!)
So by the grace of God I am definitely not going to be asking anyone out anymore. And yet guys that I could reasonably consider are so rare, that if I do meet one, I am still going to be proactive in trying to get to know him. So that I would know whether or not to want this relationship to take off. And this is what can unfortunately give the impression of being in pursuit. Dear me, this can be so tricky. Especially when you are dealing with someone that you don’t really know. How can I communicate this to you that I am sincerely not pursuing you? I am not asking you out, not least because I simply don’t know your character, and I don’t believe in getting to know anyone’s character in a romantic context. What I am doing is trying to indicate my interest in getting to know you further, because you seem like someone I would like to get to know! If amazing guys were everywhere and surrounded me daily without my having to make any effort whatsoever, then I would not have to do this. Because this is not the case, then I do have to make this effort. So what Tosin, when you were telling him that “you live for the dream of his hug” that was simply about trying to get to know his character, was it?! No, that was being honest about the reality of emotional attraction. I cannot pretend that this “hoping to get to know you” thing is devoid of romantic undertones. Actually, due to the circumstances of this particular situation, I cannot pretend anything! I’ve kinda been forced to be completely open about everything! However, if it so had so happened that our daily lives had naturally and easily coincided, then we could both have carefully resolved to quietly evaluate one another without either of us having to say anything at all!
Finally, if our marriage is ultimately to be a partnership, then why do we not approach it as a partnership right from the outset? Why should it be the case that one person should be doing all the work and this is seen as the right thing? For me, the idea of collaboration means that both parties are invested, working together to see whether they could move forward. Remembering that this is something I want. In other aspects of life where people are considering partnership, or moving forward in a joint venture, is it not healthy and sensible and totally to be expected that interest and queries and enthusiasm come from both sides? At different times, different sides of the interaction will be asking the questions. In which other partnership of life would it seem reasonable for one party to sit down and wait for the other party to do everything? So this is how it is with me. Marriage represents something that I am enthusiastic about. This is something that I want. This is something that I am eagerly looking forward to. So when you as a man show up, yes I am going to be enthusiastic about finding out whether you could be the man that I could move forward in life with. And if you are not to be this man, then it would be great to quickly find out as soon as possible, so that I could then move on to the next man who might be Mr Right! This is also why I am upfront in telling you as a man as much as I can about myself, so that if necessary, you could also quickly judge me unsuitable and move on!
As I have been writing this, I have been asking myself whether this is essentially a case of semantics, regarding what I mean by “asking someone out”. Perhaps what I call “indicating my interest in getting to know you further” is what someone else would call “asking you out”. And yet, to me they are not the same at all. This to me is the big distinction between these things. When I am saying “I’d love to get to know you better”, then yes, I do have to admit that yes, there are ultimately romantic hopes underlying that, at least in this particular situation. However, in the getting to know you stage, because we are still evaluating one another, there will be no actual romantic interaction. Or at least that is the theory. Somehow, I can’t help envisaging a few “friendly” hugs, and hands “accidentally” grazing one another endlessly. No no, it is an absolute coincidence that we both just happen to be here, at the same houseparty, catching the same sunset together! (Why do you have such huggie arms anyway?!) No no, we’re definitely not holding hands, we were just helping one another cross the road! OK, you can let go of my hand now! Yeah, stuff like that! Where people have had to be so upfront beforehand, then even before you start, you are so sure of the strength of your attraction to one another that that whole “getting to know you thing” can seem almost like a formality. But at least in theory the idea is to check one another out in a very objective and romantically neutral way, so that you could easily and cleanly walk away, if you turn out not to be right for one another.
Whereas when you are asking someone out, you are immediately asking them into a romantic interaction with you. So if they say yes, from that point onwards you have a relationship. It is like you have already seen all that you need to see to know that they are right for you and you can jump straight into acting like you are romantically committed to one another.