Is it Okay for a Woman to Initiate a Relationship?

In Dating, For the Ladies by Debra Fileta

I’ve spent many years sorting through the do’s and don’ts that Christian culture has taught me- trying to navigate through the world of dating in a way that honors God- sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding.

I grew up with the learned belief that a woman should never initiate a relationship and that the man should be the one to step up, take charge, and be a leader when it comes to discussing anything remotely relationship related.

That we even ask this question in the Christian community is a reflection of the fact that when it comes to dating– we’re always a few steps behind.  Some would say it’s the higher road, others would beg to differ.  But no matter what your perspective on “Christian Dating” one thing is for sure- it seems to come with a set of rules and a list of do’s and don’ts. Yet oftentimes, we bind ourselves with rules that God never placed on us, rather, rules we place on ourselves.

I used to believe I wanted a “take charge” kind of man who initiated our relationship, our spiritual life, and pretty much the direction of our entire relationship and marriage, because that’s what I was taught.  In pursuit of what the Christian culture called a “leader” – I misinterpreted the definition of that word as though it translated into “boss”.

With that, I went into dating with a certain picture of the kind of man I would marry.   I guess had a certain picture in my mind because of all the dating books I had read in which the man “led the way” and “took charge” of the relationship. And so I went into relationships with the belief that the man should lead…and, as my role, I simply followed. If a guy showed me interest, I would usually start following along. Oftentimes, following into hurt, brokenness and confusion. Following into heart-break, mixed messages, and pain.

It took me a while (and some needless wounds) to realize that God never intended me to be a blind follower, He intended for me to be a leader- as He intends for all of us as believers. As I grew and matured I realized that when it comes to relationships, I am the person most responsible for my relationships before God. I have a responsibility to lead myself to a healthy place, and my life into healthy relationships that honor and glorify God. I talk to so many women who spend months, and even years in “pseudo-relationships” with a guy who actually has no motive of pursuing them- never once questioning, asking, or challenging or seeking out the motives behind this relationship. Just blindly following, blindly hoping.

So, I finally started taking charge of my relationships, instead of always allowing others to take charge of me.

I’m married now, to an incredible man. My marriage isn’t what I would have imagined in my early 20’s, because I’m not married to a “take charge kind” of man. We have a relationship in which we are both equal parts to the equation: challenging each other, correcting each other, sharpening each other, encouraging each other and “submitting to one another” and leading each other closer to Jesus.  We have a mutual relationship- respecting and honoring each other as equals.

But I AM married to a “leader” in every way: a man that leads by example, and loves in a way that is overflowing with God’s Spirit.

I see the roots of our give-and-take relationship stemming back to our dating relationship.  Because let me remind you: what you see in dating, you will 100% of the time see later in marriage.  Throughout our entire relationship, we both shared our feelings with one another- I remember” initiating” the initial conversation about our relationship, and he followed suit with words and then with action.  He would tell you that he “initiated” the conversation by displaying the actions of loyalty, commitment, interest and affection that ultimately warranted such a conversation.

But no matter who “initiated”, one thing was always true: we kept communication open the whole way through, and that’s really important when it comes to dating.  So to everyone wondering if it’s okay for a woman to initiate a relationship, I say simply “why not?”, and then ask her to consider the following:

1.  You have prayed a LOT about this relationship and feel the Lord’s leading.

2.  You see lots of healthy things in the person that you are interested in, and there is nothing about this relationship in which you are compromising.

3.  You have felt interest on their part toward you they have shown loyalty, reciprocity, commitment, and have prioritized you throughout your friendship.  Relationships are always about give-and-take.  So if you have been giving and giving without receiving, stop and ask yourself WHY?  In just as much as you are giving these things- you are worth receiving them! So WHY isn’t this guy making a move (Check out my new eBook for 10 Reasons Why He Hasn’t Asked You Out)? (Which brings me to the next point…)

4.  You are okay with getting the answer “no” because that is always a huge possibility. And beyond getting a no, you are okay with letting it go after that rather than making excuses to bring it up again in 2 months “just to see where he’s at now”.  Let him know — and then by all means, let it go.

5.  You understand that how you act, react, and interact through dating is very indicative of how you will act, react, and interact in marriage.  So do it in a way that reflects the kind of communication that you want to engage in for the rest of your life. What you see in your dating interactions will always carry over into your marriage (So don’t be the kind of woman that does EVERYTHING to keep the relationship going yourself).

6.  And lastly, if you are planning on initiating a conversation- you better expect a response.  I always say that it doesn’t matter who starts the relationship with the first “word”, but it does matter that both people are continuing the relationship through their actions, feelings, and words from that point forward so that you don’t sink into the pattern of a one-sided relationship. Relationships always take TWO.

Above and beyond who initiates, it’s important to recognize that a healthy relationship is always made up of give-and-take.  One-sided relationships always come with pain, insecurities, and regrets. Whether male or female, seek to pursue a relationship in which you are an equal partners in every way.  Equally loved, equally valued, and equally respected.  Seek to pursue a relationship in which you are both giving and receiving.  Seek to pursue a relationship in which both parties feel loved, encouraged, and heard.  Jesus wouldn’t want it any other way.

*For a biblical example of “initiation in relationships” check out the story of Ruth– a godly woman who initiated a relationship, and the godly  man who responded to her initiation with unconditional love, action, and direction.  That’s my kind of love story!

*This post updated and adapted from an earlier version from 2013*

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter