4 Reasons Why It’s Okay for a Woman to Initiate a Relationship

In Dating, For the Ladies, Relationships by Debra Fileta22 Comments

“A woman should never pay for a meal.  Nor should she ever pick up the phone and call.  He should always be the pursuer, no matter what.  She should always wait on him to take the lead.”

I don’t think those were the exact words she used, but that was the intended message.  I’ll never forget reading these words from one of my favorite authors.  She was the godliest woman I knew (and by “knew” I mean I read every single one of her books!), but she was quite old fashioned and set in her ways when it came to male-female interaction.

According to this particular author, a woman initiating a relationship or showing any sign of interest was borderline blasphemous- a “no-no” in the Christian subculture.  It meant that you weren’t trusting God, she said, because you were taking the lead. This “no-no” was a theme that I heard again and again in my formative years as a Christian.  It was a belief I held on to, and believed all the way through my young adulthood.

Even now, it’s a belief that many Christians continue to perpetuate.  A recent poll on truelovedates.com revealed that 35% of my audience (mostly 18-35 year olds) believe that it’s wrong for a woman to initiate a relationship. That’s a high percentage in light of such a contemporary group.

As I’ve evolved and matured in my relationship with God, I realized that there were a number of myths I had been believing as “truth”, that were actually rooted in opinion rather than scripture.  This is one of those beliefs.

I look at my relationship with my husband and I see a pattern of give-and-take that started from the moment we met, and had little to do with initiation, and everything to do with invitation– allowing God to be part of our relationship the whole way through.  As I reflect on this value that I held for most of my life, here are some things I challenge you to consider as you’re working through this question for yourself:

1.  The bible doesn’t say much about who should initiate a relationship.  I’ve searched Scripture for answers to this one, and I’ve come up with nothing that says a woman shouldn’t initiate a relationship.  In fact, the very opposite seems to be true at times as we look at the story of Ruth and her approach of her kinsmen redeemer, Boaz.  Throughout scripture there are examples of all kinds of initiating: a man initiating, a woman initiating, parents initiating, servants initiating (see Isaac’s story).  Each story is different, and each example carries one underlying principle: men and women in tune with God’s leading in their lives.  Whether you are a man or a woman- God’s Spirit is the bottom line.  May He lead the way in all our lives and relationships.

2.  This belief fuels gender inequality, by viewing the woman as a passive bystander and the man as the decision-maker.  One of the biggest problems I see with this belief is that it makes women feel helpless within their relationships.  I’ve interacted with countless women who are simply “sitting around and waiting” for the man they are interested in to pursue.  They waste their lives away waiting for him to make a move, many times waiting on something that actually never happens.

I believe that woman have just as much responsibility as men when it comes to pursuing and creating a healthy relationship.  We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be strung on for months, and years without asking for answers and clarifying intentions when it comes to our interactions with the opposite sex.  We are all decision-makers, created equally, with an equal responsibility to protect our hearts and make good choices.  I think it starts with taking ownership of our relationships, instead of allowing them to control us.

3.  Man or woman- we are all required to show wisdom and godliness in our actions and interactions with the opposite sex.  One thing I will say is that as women, we have the tendency to be impatient and driven by emotion.  When I refer to a woman initiating a relationship, I’m not advocating for rushing into something, or making decisions in haste.  It’s important to get to know someone really well before rushing into a relationship.  It’s important to be in tune with God’s spirit and direction, and give Him an invitation to be a part of this relationship you’re creating. I think whether man or woman, we all have a responsibility to be holy and to display wisdom in the choices that we make.  Godliness should always be our measuring stick.

4.  No matter who initiates a relationship, it should always be reciprocal.  The healthiest of relationships have very little to do with who said what first- and everything to do with are two people who are both giving and taking.  I don’t think it matters who initiates a relationship, but I do think it matters how that relationship progresses thereafter.  Both parties involved should be “pursuing” one another throughout the relationship in the form of communication, interactions, and emotional investment.  Relationships aren’t a one-way street, and for every initiative taken within a relationship, there should always be a proper response.

I think it’s time that we all took ownership of our roles within a relationship by acknowledging that God calls us to one standard alone: holiness. May we reflect Him in all of our lives, and may His reflection carry over into our relationships- no matter who does the initiating.

 Like this article? Check out “The Myth Every Christian Woman Should Stop Believing”

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life. You may also recognize her voice from her 100+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter

Additional Resources:

1. Are you ready for Love? Take my FREE Quiz right now to find out! 

2. Want to learn how to date in a healthy way that will help you find and keep love? Check out my book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life! Plus, read the Top 25 Dating Questions of All-Time answered in Section 4!!

3. The #1 Mistake singles reported making last year was not taking a risk to start a relationship! Why do Christians tend to be so passive when it comes to relationships? Join hundreds of other singles and take a course that will teach you the top lessons I’ve learned in my career as a Relationship Counselor, and totally change your love-life in 21 Days! Learn more: 21-Day Program to Jump Start Your Love-Life!

Comments

  1. I agree with what you, but I have backed off from initiating relationships because of my personality. I think I tend to get things done my way and I’ve skipped the courtship part so many times. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever been asked on an actual date. So after a few fails on this matter I’ve decided to 1. be friendly and open but 2. not taking the lead.

    Love your articles btw
    thanks

    1. Author

      M, I really appreciate your thoughts actually. I went through the same stage when I was single and I felt God asking me to step back for a bit. I think that’s the beauty of it- there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this topic. We have to be open to God’s leading and sometimes He tells us to move forward…other times, He tells us to stop. Totally appreciate you sharing this!

  2. The stark truth is that on too many occasions, men who are approached by women look down on these women and take advantage of them, cashing in on their vulnerability and openness as an open check to satisfy their lust or egos. And the timeless truth remains that men value women they had to put an effort into getting.
    My conclusion therefore is that it may be okay for a lady to initiate friendship and say hello, how are you. But when it comes to the level of relationship and marriage, I would prefer she trusts God to send the man that will take the clear lead. Waiting around for a man to speak is not a useless waste of time. Because is able and willing. He has done it for others and will do it for ladies in this generation.

    1. I agree on u Uduak. It happened to me last time. The sad part was, the guy who did that was my cell group leader (I.e., A guy having a high position in ministry doesn’t necessarily mean he’s mature spiritually). After that incident, I guard my heart more.

      Anyway, appreciate your thought on this, Deb. I’m certain it has blessed many women

  3. Exactly! I would rather put the question out there than sit on my hands for years waiting and hoping he will initiate. I spent too many years waiting on men that never pursued me, and I wish I had been upfront with them from the beginning of the friendship. Knowing they didn’t like me would have saved me a lot of grief!

    Now, I just ask! 🙂

  4. I definitely hear your heart to challenge women who are paralyzed by the culture-induced do’s and dont’s of relationships over God’s leading. It’s something that I battled through and is important to confront especially since each relationship is SO different from the next. But whether or not it’s “okay” for women to initiate relationships today is less important than if it’s actually biblical.
    Reading this, it sounds like you’re talking about two different things; 1. Women “sitting around and waiting” and 2. Women initiating a relationship. And to the former, I would agree, is a product of us singles being uninformed but also overly consumed by the idea of marriage to the point of bondage. And I think you really want to see single women more free and confident in our Jesus while on our romantic adventures, amen! However, to the latter – regardless of how acceptable it may feel, has not been God’s heart for the woman. As evidenced in Genesis 3, when God curses Eve, he tells her that her desire will be against her husband and he will rule over her. Although that’s specifically within a marriage relationship, it showcases a woman’s natural propensity and will to seek control. As women, that need for control is certainly in me so reading this kind of pulls at my flesh. With regards to Ruth, she was under the spiritual covering of Naomi and even in all of that; Boaz still had to tell Ruth what needed to be done. Not to mention Proverbs 18:22 suggests that a man has to do the finding in order to obtain the “good thing” that a wife is.
    Although, I see and have experienced how our culture has abused the differences between men and woman; when it comes to marriage; the scriptures show us time and time again; (From Hosea and Gomer, to Christ and his bride) how husbands ought to pursue; Not as a cultural mandate but as a holy calling from God.
    Now I can see and experience the struggle unmarried women might have in maintaining the right posture since all these marriage scriptures don’t seem to immediately apply us; but consider how while we were yet sinners Christ died; he pursued us before we even considered Him Lord. And I think while we are yet single, we can still assume the positions God set apart strictly for His daughters. Now, I would agree with you that it doesn’t have to look the way the author you quoted made it seem and definitely begs for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit but it certainly should not move us to neglect what scripture has consistently (and pretty clearly) laid out for the believer.

    Thanks again, for your ministry. I sincerely benefit from your commitment.

    1. Author

      Kat I appreciate your thoughts! I love your thoughts and I really appreciate you taking the time to give your feedback. I always enjoy the give-and-take conversations on this blog! As for your points, I don’t feel comfortable applying Genesis 3 to the simple fact of a woman initiating a relationship by a) asking a guy to get together, b) questioning/clarifying his interest in her. They are two separate matters, and I believe that confusing them has been the reason why so many women believe it’s not their role to take a step in the direction of a relationship with the opposite sex. As for Proverbs, I get the wording there about a man finding a spouse, but I also see that it reflects a lot of the cultural components of the arranged/male-driven marriages in ancient times- and I think the underlying principle in that verse isn’t about initiation at all- but that a godly spouse is a good thing to find!! Amen to that 😉

      I think marriage represents a lot of truths about our relationship with God, and the male-female roles within marriage are crucial. I just think we tend to over-apply those principles to relationships that are not covenant–like, a budding friendship between a man and a woman, or a dating relationship. I think we both agree that at the end of the day, sensitivity to God’s Spirit is really important, and guides us the whole way through our relationships.

      Thanks for your input!! Love the discussion. Thanks for your kind words about the ministry here, and I’m so glad to hear that you’ve enjoyed it. Blessings!

    2. I’m just curious, which version of the Bible do you read from? I’m a fan of the New International Version, and I also read some from the King James and New King James Versions. Those say “Your desire will be for your husband.” Not against. Not trying to be rude, simply curious.

  5. This could not have been more timely of an article for me to read. I have known this certain guy for almost 3 years now, and been in a friendship with him for almost 1 year now. I decided tonight that, in order for our friendship to continue, and for my mental, spiritual and emotional health to be maintained, I need to clarify his intentions and interest. I need to let him know of my interest, in order to “move on” and have a good, authentic friendship with him (if he is mature enough to handle that as an outcome). Next week, I hope I have the courage to ask him some questions and emphasize how much I value our friendship, but that I can’t be a “real friend” without clarity. Since we already have good boundaries in our friendship, it will probably look the same after this conversation, but it will help me be ready for whomever the Lord has for me. This man is traditional in his gender role outlook, so he probably will not be interested any more/will have never been interested, but that is the risk I must take. Also, want to be with someone who likes me as much as I like him. This man has had DTRs with many girls, some he has only known a few months, but never with me. I spent so many months/years worried that if I told him, he would reject me because I “initiated”. One of my close friends pointed out that if he rejected me because of that reason, he would not be the type of man I would to marry someday. She is totally correct. I am taking a risk, but like you wrote in this article, it is about the Holy Spirit’s leading, our holiness, and building each other up. If I can’t be honest and communicate now, what makes me think it will be easier for me after he initiated a relationship? Honesty, self-advocacy, and encouragement are key. I also just finished your book, and loved every principle I read. Thank you, Debra, for allowing the Lord to use you in these beautiful ways.

  6. I completely agree that it’s ok for women to initiate; however, my struggle is HOW to do that, and how to make it known that you’re interested – especially in “sensitive” situations (i.e. with someone at your office).

    There’s a guy at my office that I talk to on a regular basis. From my perspective, we flirt and enjoy talking to one another, while still maintaining professional boundaries. One of my coworkers observed us together one day & gleefully inquired to me in private about our clear connection. Then I question, is he really flirting with me or is he just a nice guy? When a working relationship is involved, I think it’s so much harder to express interest because there can be actual consequences (or discomfort) if you miscalculate.

    I would love to figure out a way to make it clear that I’m interested without risking looking unprofessional.

  7. I’m with K on this one! What are some ways for a woman to initiate. Specifically, what if a woman has observed a man’s character but there isn’t a solid friendship. The guy I am speaking specifically of doesn’t have close relationships with female. He has solid character and integrity and a passionate love for the Lord and I am interested in him, just don’t know the next steps to take.

  8. Wow, I stumbled upon your site and started reading your posts. I have loved them all, but this one especially hit home for me. Seriously, just what I needed at exactly the right time. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. Author

      Glad to hear it! Welcome to the site and I look forward to getting to know you!

  9. I believe if I waited for years but the guy never speak up his intension, i might be waiting for the wrong person. if the Lord really told you that he’s the one for you, then God will also reveal this to him, from here GOD will give him the courage to pursue you.

    1. So you’re saying there is a soul mate out there for all of us? God just predestines who we’re supposed to marry? I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that. I haven’t seen any evidence for that. It seems to be wishful thinking to me. Of course God’s word gives us wisdom concerning the type of standards we should hold, but dating isn’t eternal. Our spouse isn’t going to be our spouse in heaven. ” When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” Mark 12:25 Relationships take initiative. Of course if you can show me scripture proving otherwise I’ll agree with you.

  10. Song of Solomon 8:4
    Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.

    1. Author

      I don’t see how this verse would disagree with the above.

      What does this verse mean to you, Bethany?

  11. I found this blog when I was doing research on just this question. I have been advising a younger single friend, and had been out of the dating scene for a while. Truly I was shocked to find that so many Christians believed only a man was to pursue in a dating relationship. Actually, it was the whole idea of pursuit being necessary in christian dating at all that shocked me most.

    I really don’t think their is any clear mandate in scripture about whether a woman can pursue a dating relationship. Dating didn’t exist. The Christ and the church example relate directly to how husband’s are to love their wives. I dont find pursuit anywhwere in those pasages. The Bible also tells us to “seek” Him, so one could spin it that it is the woman’s job to initiate , if we base it on our relationship with Christ. The church is certainly never forbidden from pursuing Christ. But that is entirely beside the point. Where does it say anyone has to “pursue”? Shouldn’t a relationship be more of a coming together which requires initiation from both parties?

    My relationship with my husband developed this way. It was a give and take on both sides. No one needed to pursue, it was a coming together. We took turns according to the bent of our personalities, seeking each other and moving the relationship along. A kind, considerate man may want to have some idea of the woman’s feelings before he initiates. Just as a kind considerate woman should have some idea of a man’s feelings before she pushes a relationship to the next level. Patience, honesty, and moderated expectations should all come together to make it ok for anyone to thoughtfully initiate.

  12. I believe that men and women should have an open and clear communication. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and initiate good conversations. Our relationship with the Lord is key, He will lead us. If a man is really interested in a woman he will pursue her and if the woman is also interested she will respond. Sometimes it just flows naturally. In my opinion if a woman likes a guy and he is just being a friend and not making a move, then He’s not interested. But somehow as women we are afraid to ask where the friendship is going and keep on believing and giving him time to discover how great we are or we just won’t accept that he isn’t interested. There are also guys who will not say that they don’t see a future with you, but keep you in between till they find the woman of their dreams. Before you know it years are wasted and hearts are broken. As women we should be braver in asking crucial questions, initiating deep conversations and moving on when things are not clear.

  13. Malkia

    I agree this is a very sensitive topic within our Christian circles… Every case is different in my view but the thing that stood out to me in the blog is the point of depending on the leadership of the holy spirit. He knows us and if it’s of him he’ll speak to you clearly whether to just wait or pursue. It’s not cast on stone who should go first….The scriptures say that God works in us both to will (to want or desire)and to do(to actualize) according to his good pleasure.
    So his divine enablement will follow whichever instruction he gives.

  14. For the first time ever I gave a (very shy) guy my number and told him i like him bc im pretty sure he likes me but is too shy to ever make a move. This was terrifying for my inner shy kid but also very liberating. I faced my fear and If he doesn’t call then it wasn’t meant to be. Guys, I got to walk in your shoes for a minute and feel the pressure, anxiety and fear you must feel when you like a girl. I never realized how hard it must be, especially for you shy guys. Ladies, i want to encourage you. If there’s a special guy in your life, take a chance on him bc he is probably just as scared to tell you how he feels as you are of revealing your feelings to him. It may lead to love, it may not. But you won’t know unless you try!

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