Let’s talk (again!) about doing the pursuing…

A match aflame

Apologies in advance:  this is a particularly waffly post!  It is a subject that I struggle to understand, so I have literally thrown out all my thoughts on the subject in a way that might not particularly flow logically!

So we’re back to one of my favourite subjects on this blog.  And that is this issue of “let the man do the pursuing”.  I’m sure I have expressed this sentiment before, but my biggest confusion with this concept is that I simply do not understand how it works in practice.  And quite clearly, I myself have asked more than one guy out before – so there have been a few instances where I definitely did not let the man do the pursuing!
I was thinking about it once again today  (well yesterday now!) so let me once again do battle with this idea, to see whether I can squeeze out a little more light for myself.

So this is the possible revelation that just came to me just a few minutes ago.  When people say “let him do the pursuing”, what this really boils down to in practice is “let the man do the choosing”.  Let him choose you, and let him make that choice clear in pursuing you, then you as a woman can decide whether to accept or decline that particular man’s choice of you.  Which means that if there is any other man whom you might have chosen instead blissfully walking around unawares – too bad girl!  Which means that you have to wait for an appropriate man to choose you.  I guess on reflection this is not in itself a bad idea.  I guess the question is this:  if someone you would have chosen does not think of you “in that way” then why hasn’t he thought of you “in that way”? Perhaps that just shows that he has not chosen you. And yet if I am to be perfectly honest, perhaps the reason I have such issues with this particular idea is because I quite clearly expect to be actively choosing my husband, not just passively waiting for the right guy to choose me.  I’m not saying that “I’m the one going to be doing the choosing” but rather that I am definitely going to be doing some choosing of my own alongside his own choosing.

To me this is sheer common sense. As a woman with her own extremely ambitious life goals and her own dreams, then of course I am going to go out to deliberately find the spouse who most closely ties in with that.  Why should this even be controversial?!  And yet it is of course.  This is possibly the most offensive aspect of this blog, the idea that a woman might be a human being in her own right, not just someone’s potential help-meet, and that she should choose her husband as surely as he chooses her, to fit in with her own life goals. Surely marriage could successfully be about two people mutually choosing one another?

Let’s put it this way:  I am definitely going to be active about my life generally.  I am DEFINITELY going to be active about my choice of spouse, the single most important decision of my life, after following Christ – hello?!

Letting him do the choosing: advantages
I guess one of the biggest advantages of letting the man do the choosing is that you know that you are dealing with a man who is ready for a relationship.  This is a good thing!  And yet, there are so many issues with this idea which I have personally dealt with.  I hope to show you why in practice this blanket statement of “let him do the choosing” is largely impracticable, or at least it seems impracticable for me.

I have sat down and thought about marriage and relationships a very very very great deal.  From my personal experience of people and relationships I have sat down and thought up the two year thing. I confidently expect that I have thought about marriage far more than most men out there. This includes most men who would “choose” me, most men who have tried to make me their “choice” in the past, and even most men who I myself would choose, or could choose. We all have our strengths in different areas – yes?  I would not despise someone or reject him just because he has not thought about marriage as much as I have.  Because of the extent to which I have thought about relationships and marriages, my understanding about relationships and how to invest in them, and how to start them off might just be stronger than his – even if he will ultimately be the leader in the relationship.  I might just be the more natural leader in this particular aspect of the relationship.  Let’s say that he might want to start a relationship immediately.  However, I am insisting on the “Two Year Thing.”  That is one way in which he might practically have to submit to my idea or my “leadership”, or abandon the idea of relationship with me altogether. If he comes up with an idea that is better, I would be happy to listen to it, but only if it actually is better, not just because he is the man.   So that is one possibility, but it is only one possibility – I mean that I might be the one actively offering most of the suggestions about the relationship which he might choose to accept or disagree with.

So that is one very real and tangible way in which it might look as if I am the one taking the lead, or “doing the pursuing” simply because I am likely to be the one who is more deeply versed in this. I think that if we were to truly be real about this there is absolutely nothing wrong with a wife being stronger than her husband in any one part of the relationship, just because that is where her skillset lies. For instance, I am a webdesigner. If he has no experience of building a website, would you say I am “usurping his authority” because I sit down and explain “this is how we build a website, this is what we need to do, first this… then that”.  That does not change the fact that overall he is the leader in the relationship, but it is just that I will lead in this area because I am more knowledgeable about it.  That is sheer common sense.   In fact, to be candid, if I was more knowledgeable about him in everything and had to pragmatically take the lead in every aspect of life, that would not actually change the fact that he is the leader of the relationship. For instance he might be the one deciding that we need to build a website or deciding that we need to have kids or that we need to relocate or whatever, even if I am ultimately the one to take leadership in any (or all) of these aspects.

This is where you really need a man to be secure, to not feel that his leadership is undermined by the fact that my skillsets might naturally be stronger in some areas, by not needing to be better than me in everything (or even most things) to feel like the leader in our marriage, to be able to listen to me in the areas in which I am stronger and still be confident in the fact that ultimately he is the leader. This is the analogy that springs to my mind.  Say you’ve got a smartphone, and you ask your smartphone for directions to get to wherever you need to get to.  Do you feel at all intimidated by the fact that your smartphone knows how to get there, and you have to follow the directions of the smartphone?  No you don’t!  Do you feel like the smartphone is secretly the leader in the relationship because it has all the answers, and is generally so knowledgeable?  No you don’t!  At least, I am assuming that no-one out there is intimidated by their smartphone!  Why are are you confident that you are the leader?  Because you are still the one deciding where to go, when to go etc.  You are still the one making the decisions.  Without wanting to compare myself to a smartphone, that is a little bit how it could be in a relationship. To be candid there are just a few things I know.  If I say “I think we should go left now….now right…” I am not trying to take the lead. I am just saying that according to where you as the leader want to go, from the information that I know this is the best way to get there.

The Two Year Thing
This is one very, very practical example of how it might appear that I am taking the lead, or doing the pursuing, where it is actually more a practical application of my own understanding about relationships.
OK, so I believe in evaluating someone for two years sorry, I of course mean getting to know someone for two years before considering them romantically.  So say I meet someone, and he is a bit more “happy-go-lucky” about relationships, shall we say – or he appears to be. 
Let’s say that there is clear interest there between the two of us. And yet, he has not asked me out.  It might be that he would eventually choose someone else and never actually ask me out.  Alternatively, it might be that he would eventually ask me out, perhaps a couple of months or years down the line.  However, because I have thought of the two year thing, and he does appear to be potentially marriageable am I going to potentially wait for however long it takes him to eventually ask me before trying to get to know him, to evaluate his character?  I know some people are probably shouting at me now “YES Tosin, you must wait!”  Trust me I would not wait. Remember that this two year thing is not just about actively finding someone great, it is also about actively rejecting unsuitable guys. Now say that this “possible husband” and I were in the context where we would naturally be getting to see one another regularly, like we just happened to find ourselves in the same church etc.  Then that would completely minimise the problem almost to the point of cutting it out.  Because I could discreetly be checking him out, evaluating him, watching the way he interacts with everyone around us, not just me, without having to make the slightest overtures towards him.

But the big problem comes when it is simply not the case that we happen to naturally share the same context.  In that situation, I might need to go out of my way to create a context where I can regularly be evaluating him, and it is in that effort to create that context that it looks as if I am chasing him! She sighs.  I’ve made this point before.  Remember that he is not necessarily as deeply versed or deeply thoughtful in these things as I am!  If he were, and he were interested in me, then I imagine the likelihood is that he also would be trying to find ways to create the context where he could check me out.  But the likelihood is that he just has not thought of it! 
Another thing is that two years is a long time. So as soon as I meet someone, and there appears to be potential, I will try to create that context (instead of waiting for some indefinite time to elapse – and then trying to implement the two year thing.  By that time both of us would likely have grown impatient). So if I am evaluating him and the answer will turn out to be a no, I don’t have to wait for him to eventually decide to choose me (or not).  As soon as I have decided against him, I can just move on.  Simple.  Actually, even if I were to do something like turn up at his church one day (and stay) – would even that simple gesture not possibly be interpreted as “chasing him” or “making the first move”?

If I actively decide against him, then that means that I can actively dedicate my finite resources of time and effort to evaluating someone else! Instead of just hanging around waiting for anyone to possibly notice me (or not) – anyone in particular, or anyone at all, I can use that time to actively seek out potentially excellent spouses, evaluate each one one myself, and move on if need be.

Relying on my prayer life?
In short, I am not the kind of person who relies on my prayer life in making romantic decisions.  So many Christians will talk about praying and “hearing from God”.  But in this context, where there is possibly deep and mutual attraction, I just cannot trust myself to hear accurately from God. To be perfectly candid I have met so many strong and holy Christians whose spouses just seem so…inappropriate.  And those people prayed. And they still ended up with inappropriate partners. I am not saying “Don’t pray.”  My goodness, I pray.  I just believe that that same prayer needs to be accompanied by solid observation time for better understanding.

OK, if we are going to be going to the Bible, let’s go there. There is absolutely nowhere, nowhere in the Bible that mandates that a man must be the one to take the lead in instituting a romantic relationship.  Or if I am wrong, I would welcome someone showing me. What the Bible does insist is that the man has to be the head of the marriage.  However, it in no way follows from that that the woman has to sit on her knowledge about relationships and wait passively for the man to make all the moves. This to me is just yet another instance of Christians creating man-made doctrines that don’t actually exist in the Bible.  I guess the point I am making here is this:  just because one person has to be the leader does not mean that the other person has to be passive. 
Additionally, people are always giving women advice about how to be proactive in saving their failing marriages, people seem to expect women to take the lead in this (or possibly to care more).  No-one EVER says “Let him do the chasing!” in this situation. No-one ever suggests that you might be usurping his authority. If it is acceptable for the woman to take grab the lead in this way during marriage when the man is already officially the leader, why is it so unthinkable that a woman should be proactive in demonstrating leadership before the marriage, with a man who is not yet officially her leader (and might never be), to hopefully prevent herself from embarking upon an unwise marriage in the first place?

However, the big danger in all of this is that the man might not understand why I am doing it.  So he might also think I am chasing him.  So his behaviour might change accordingly.  However, this in itself might be quite telling. If he tries to start taking advantage of me and of my apparent interest in him, that in itself would show an immaturity in his character.  Ideally the best response would be for him to “get” what I am doing, and to enthusiastically jump on board; to say “Wow Tosin, that is a great idea, let’s do this!”  This indicates someone who would be open to listening to me in areas in which I am stronger than him. Or even not listening to me specifically, but rather trying to glean wisdom wherever it can be found, including from the woman he happens to be married to. Which would be an amazing character trait in anyone, but especially in a husband. Another amazing trait would be for him to admire and cherish, rather than resent his wife, because of the wisdom that she has and brings to his life. Conversely if he does not jump or board or chooses not to recognise any great ideas in all the ones I have presented then that could be another telling sign of insecurity.

“I’m a man, Tosin, I’m intimidated!” Honestly, I have no words. All this could be the difference between a good marriage and a phenomenal marriage, and you are going to let your “being intimidated” get in the way of that?!

In “letting him do the chasing” I can agree that you can let him be the one to actually ask you out. What I am saying in this blog post is that I am going to actively evaluate him. If that comes across to him or anyone else as if I am chasing him, unfortunately that cannot be helped. Why does one person have to actively chase and the other have to be pursued anyway? Why can we not be in mutual enthusiastic pursuit of one another?! (I guess there would be no pursuit in that case!) It is almost as if passivity is celebrated as a good Christian feminine ideal. Is it that I need to prove to myself that I am desirable in that someone would want to chase me? That is ultimately suggesting that a woman’s worth is based on if a man wants to chase her. I don’t know about you but I am inherently valuable in my own right, regardless of whatever any other human being might choose to think or not think about me.

Anyway the final thing that I have against this whole idea is this: if we were to follow this thinking to its utter conclusion, then men would have to take the lead in every single interaction with women – every single one, for fear that a woman might look as if she is chasing a man. (I hope I am not overstretching the idea here.) Let’s think about that. Say for instance, you as a woman are contacting a man that you have never met, because you love his work, you want to connect with him professionally, or some other thing. But no, you can’t do that, because it might look as if you are pursuing him. You’ve heard of him, but he’s never heard of you. So of course you would be the one to try to contact him. Say you sincerely have not the slightest romantic interest in him, but truly just want to build a friendship with him. Would your enthusiastic one-sided efforts count as “chasing” too? Surely there are cases where it makes perfect sense that you would legitimately be more interested in a man than he is in you. And even in trying to build the friendship – no no, you mustn’t do that as it might look as if you are chasing him.

So in short what am I saying? I am not advising women out there to chase men. Where I have previously asked guys out in the past I definitely do not encourage that! However I do not regret it either because that was the extent of my understanding at the time and those experiences have directly led to the understanding that I now have about relationships, which I am very very happy about.  What I am saying that is I am going to be active in evaluating potential spouses, and I encourage other women to equally be active. This includes actively rejecting them possibly before they have even worked out whether they could be interested in me. And above all, it also involves actively creating the context where I can evaluate them. So this is the thing that might surprise guys – I imagine that many women are indeed active like this already. They are just more subtle in their approach than I am, that is, they don’t go around blogging about it!

I imagine that the right man would be so happy and excited about the additional strength that this kind of deep, practical thinking might bring to our future marriage, and eagerly embrace it. That does not necessarily mean that he would agree with every idea (on some days, even I don’t agree with every idea on this blog!) Rather he values the whole concept of trying to build your marriage on a great foundation, and will eagerly looking for ideas we can implement together.

To be honest this is a complicated issue for me and I am not convinced that I have complete clarity about it yet. I guess what I really am saying is that women should not be afraid to proactively create the contexts where they can check guys out. I honestly sincerely believe in this two year evaluation thing – I think it can only be helpful and it would help cut out so many ill-advised marriages. If the man does not know enough or has not considered relationships sufficiently to try to create that context then I personally don’t (currently) see any reason why the woman should not try to create that context.

Addition added 18th October 2017
Well that was the original post as it was written and published!  I was obviously feeling somewhat defensive back then!  Thinking about it as I was re-reading it just now, I think I have been able to gain a little bit of extra clarity, although it is still an issue I find quite confusing. 

So imagine that you are in a situation where there are starting to be sparks of attraction between you as a woman and a particular man.  Or perhaps in different contexts of your life there are different men who are starting to look at you with interest. And whether you are dealing with one man, or more than one man, you suspect that someone will soon come to you and tell you that they have “heard from God” (that the two of you are to get married). What I am trying to say is that I believe that it would be wise or prudent to create the context where you can quietly check out these people, being as diplomatic and subtle about it as you can be.  OK, if someone has not started showing any subtle interest in you yet, it might be premature to go to the effort of creating a context to check him out. Otherwise, what would the alternative be?  At these signs of interest, you do nothing other than wait patiently.  And then when a man comes to you, you don’t know whether he truly represents excellence of character, because you have not given yourself a chance to check him out.  In that case, you might agree with him to check him out then  – but that can never be the same as when someone is unaware that they are being checked out.  Alternatively, you could rely instead on what you believe that you are hearing from God, what your friends and respected Christians say.  But if this person has any measure of standing in your local community, what else are people going to say?  I believe that most people would enthusiastically encourage you to go for that relationship.  Many, many people, despite what they might say, apparently believe that marriage is the highest destiny for a woman, and they would prefer you as a woman to be with someone who might be not “quite that perfect” – the kind of “imperfect” that would eventually cause you deep pain and frustration, if not worse – than for you to remain happily single.

To be honest, I have not always waited for there to be sparks between me and someone, and I don’t tend to wait, before checking them out.  I just check out everyone anyway, as best as I can.  This is just in case someone surprising or unexpected turns out to have phenomenal character.  I would definitely want them in my life.  If not romantically, then possibly as a friend.



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