Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Real Relationships: Is it okay for a woman to initiate a relationship?

Ephesians 5:21
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ...

I received a great question for the Real Relationship series I'm writing, by a young woman wondering whether or not she should share her feelings with a young man she has feelings for and can see a potential for a future relationship...in other words, is it okay for the girl to initiate? 

Maybe I like this question so much because it is one that I have struggled with in my dating years...up until I met the man I married.  I pretty much grew up with the belief that a woman should never initiate a relationship, that the man should be the one to step up, take charge, and be a leader when it comes to discussing these sort of things.  It was the "Elisabeth Elliot" mentality (though I love that woman's heart, old fashioned as she sometimes may be!) that gives the man this role from the start of the relationship and all the way through. 

I think there is something truly romantic about this way of thinking.  Deep down most women have a desire to be swept off their feet, and into the arms of a man professing his undying love for them.  It's the fairy tale story in which we are pursued and chivalry is eternal.  I think deep down we all think we want this kind of relationship, in which the man leads the way with emotions, and the woman follows suit.  It's what Hollywood movies are made of.

But to be honest, I think it sounds better than it actually feels.

Let me explain.  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.  Sometimes called a "leader" I think I misinterpreted the definition of that word, as though it translated into "boss".

My actual marriage is very much different than what I imagined it would be.  You see, I 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".  But to be honest, as I grew and matured I realized that my personality would never lend to such a one-sided relationship.

I'm not married to a "take charge kind" of man, but I AM married to a "leader" in every way.  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".  We have a mutual relationship- respecting and honoring each other as equals...

And I see the roots of this stemming back to our dating relationship.  Let me remind you: what you see in dating, you will 100% of the time see later in marriage.  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.  We kept communication open the whole way through, and that's really important when it comes to dating.

So the short answer to this question is (in my humble opinion): yes, it's okay to share your feelings if, and only if:

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.
3.  You have felt interest on their part toward you: (Ask yourself, why HASN'T he initiated up to this point?)
4.  You are okay with getting the answer "no" because that is always a huge possibility.  (And then 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")
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.

And on a side note, if you are planning on initiating a conversation- you better expect a response.  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.  

Hope that helps, and thanks for the awesome questions.  Keep them coming at debslessonslearned@gmail.com, with "Real Relationships" in the subject line.  

*For a biblical example of this, check out the story of Ruth...