Q: What’s up with Christian men not making a move?! Why is it that nonbelievers come across as so driven, while Christian men can seem so passive in relationships?
In today’s guest post, I invited Justin Megna, a male reader of TrueLoveDates.com and blogger, to offer his perspective on this question. Give it a read! — Debra
Why is it that many Christian men are hesitant to initiate romance and are bad at it once they do? I’ve come to suspect that perhaps the biggest reason is because, over the last 25 years, the American church has held them back in three significant ways:
#1: By Eliminating Casual Dating…And Skill Building
In the 1950s, American dating culture was very different than it is today. Going on casual dates with many different people was typical, encouraged, and usually started before high school. In fact, Thomas Umstattd writes, “by the mid-1950s, the cultural standard was that young men ‘earned the right’ to [pursue an exclusive relationship] by going on dates with lots of different women.” (Courtship In Crisis, p. 31) Young people would gain skills for interacting with the opposite sex one-on-one through these casual dates and thus become better prepared for pursuing a long-term relationship.
But the Courtship movement told the church that casual dating was unwise if not outright sinful. Courtship required young people not to touch romance until they were ready to commit to a serious, exclusive relationship for exploring marriage. As a result, young Christian men were obligated to pursue serious romantic relationships from a position of inexperience and lack of skill.
This requirement overlooked one serious problem: for men, being attractive to women isn’t innate. It’s a learned skill. No man is born with the smooth charm of Casanova. A man learns the social skills needed to pursue a woman in a way that’s attractive somewhere between birth and the moment when a woman happily agrees to a date. Some men have an aptitude for learning these skills intuitively and without much need for practice. Other men don’t have it so easy. Many men need to develop their skills for pursuing romance through practice. Courtship took that opportunity away from many young Christian men.
The result is that some Christian men may be hesitant to pursue women because they don’t feel confident. Even when they do, lack of skill can make them come across as corny. It’s not because there’s something innately wrong with them. It’s because they’ve been robbed of the opportunity to develop well the requisite skills. Thus, the first way the church neutered her men was by removing casual dating and, thus, removing the means for her young men to develop the skills necessary for confident, competent, attractive pursuit of women.
#2: By Requiring Friendship To Be The One and Only Path To Romance
Courtship also requires that two people begin a romantic relationship from friendship. In other words, it says two people shouldn’t start a romantic relationship without already knowing each other well as friends. This was intended to prevent strangers from becoming romantically entangled too quickly. However, requiring an established friendship before beginning a romantic relationship tends to squash romantic relationships.
Easily building friendships with many single peer members of the opposite sex is a luxury of high school and college environments. This is because the average adult spends most of his or her time each week at work, home, or church. If you exhaust the pool of romantic candidates in these areas, it becomes difficult to build a friendship leading to romance with someone outside these arenas. That’s because building a friendship takes time. If a person can’t explore romantic potential with someone he or she doesn’t already know well, finding the potential for a lasting romantic relationship becomes very difficult.
Understand clearly, I’m not saying there shouldn’t be friendship between two people in a romantic relationship. My contention is with the claim that a strong friendship MUST be established before going on even a casual date. The truth is that friendship can (and should) grow through casual dating. The church held back her bachelors by preventing them from being men who pursue acquaintances and newly-met women with maturity and competence.
#3: By Requiring Romance To Be Serious
Courtship requires all romantic relationships to be for the express purpose of the couple figuring out whether they’ll marry. This causes the cost in terms of emotional and personal investment to be high from the beginning.
As a result, men become inclined only to pursue a woman they can see themselves marrying. This means ruling out any women who don’t seem to be marriage material from the beginning. This is a shame, because it’s a known phenomenon that attraction to a person can increase simply from getting to know him or her better. A man may discover that a woman he first thinks “isn’t someone I’d want to marry” is an amazing woman once he gets to know her.
Several years ago, there was a bachelorette my age at the church I attended. I knew a bit about her, that she loved Jesus and was attractive, but I just didn’t feel strongly about her. Since I didn’t feel strongly enough about her to pursue a committed relationship, I didn’t pursue her at all. Later, it so happened that I started spending time with her platonically. As I got to know her, my attraction to her skyrocketed. I regretted not getting to know her sooner.
When there’s no opportunity to explore the beginnings of romantic interest in a casual, low-investment way, the cost of initiative is driven up. When the cost of initiative is high, men tend to initiate less frequently. Thus, the church creates passive bachelors by causing them to be men who initiate cautiously and infrequently rather than confidently and regularly.
Repairing The Damage
We need to repair the damage done by the effect of Courtship ideology over the past 25 years.
Men, practice being a man who pursues Christian women with competence, confidence, and integrity. This means taking initiative. There’s no magic elixir that will make us competent, confident initiators overnight. We build our competence by actually asking for dates ,initiating relationships, and learning through practice. So don’t shy away from the challenge, even if you don’t feel like an elite initiator.
Ladies, encourage the men in your churches to pursue you by fostering a church culture that honors and rewards men who take initiative with confidence and integrity. Since you want men who are confident, capable initiators, be sure you and your church culture tell them so.
Comment below: Do you agree that the Church has played a role in enabling passivity in men? We’d love to hear your feedback below!
Justin Megna is a blogger and speaker on the subject of Christian romance and the creator of thatcrazychristianromance.com. He graduated from University of Valley Forge with a degree in Pastoral Ministry. He currently lives outside Philadelphia as he continues to take the adventures of life and love.
Want to actually learn how to do dating in a healthy way? Check out my book!