How can I stop a man's unwelcome advances?

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How can I stop a man's unwelcome advances?

Jan 18, 2010 |Candice Watters
Question

I'm a Christian female in my late 20s. I recently moved to a great church with a wonderful group of young adults who have become good friends of mine. I noticed a guy at the church who seemed to be a solid, godly guy. In the last two months we've spent time together with the group. However, recently, I've had a few concerns about him. Firstly, he refuses to disclose any personal information to the group, even something as basic as age and last name.

Secondly, I'm really concerned about how he relates to me — he's put his arm around my waist several times when we were walking. I didn't say anything the first time it happened, because I didn't want to shut him down, but it did make me a bit uncomfortable. As well, his text messages are increasingly flirtatious and suggestive. I've largely ignored them or waved it off, but I really don't want it to continue.

The more I get to know him, the more I believe he is not the sort of man for me. I don't believe he's behaving honorably and being clear about his intentions. I'd like to draw some lines in the sand about what is acceptable and what isn't, and am trying to figure out the best way to do it.

I don't want to make things more dramatic than they need to be and would rather just say something the next time he repeats any of the behavior. The last time this sort of thing happened to me several years ago, the conversation became more intense than I'd like. I really would like to avoid something that would make things overly awkward for us or change the dynamics of our group. At the same time, I would like to be firm and deal with this, because it's only progressing with time.

I would appreciate any advice you have.

Answer

Thank you for writing. I understand why this man's behavior makes you uncomfortable and think you are wise to address it now, rather than just waiting to see where it leads. Based on what you've said, his behavior is inappropriate for a relationship that is simply friends in Christ and needs to be addressed.

I agree with your plan to try and avoid drama. The best approach seems to me the simplest and most direct: If he does it again, kindly ask him to stop. At best, you will discover that he meant no harm, possibly not realizing he was making you uncomfortable, and is happy to stop. At worst, you will find out his motives weren't pure before anything more happens. Either way, you win. And if he is the godly man you suspect, he will be edified by your efforts.

Thankfully you have a supportive group in which to walk this out. I'm not suggesting you bring this up at your next meeting, but rather that in addition to making it clear that his advances are unwelcome, you also talk to the pastor who leads the group. I think it would help a lot to meet with the leadership of the group (ideally, a married couple) and explain what's been happening, including showing them the texts and then asking them to help. Specifically, I'd ask them to pray with you for wisdom as well as for protection. Anything they can do to get more involved in this man's life without any mention of you and your conversation will be especially helpful. Apart from his behavior toward you, they would have every reason to ask for more details (his full name, age, etc.).

There's simply no reason to hide such basic information, especially in the context of a church body, unless he has something to hide. Any good leader would want to be sure that's not the case — simply for the benefit, as well as health and safety, of his group.

Don't be afraid of disrupting the group dynamics. If this really is a solid body of believers, addressing this situation graciously will have the effect of making the group stronger. And possibly helping other women in the same, or similar, situations. (And if it's not solidly Christian, it's not a good environment for you to remain in.)

The ease of texting, the generally accepted ambiguity between the sexes, even the lack of physical boundaries, have made such interactions common. But common or rare, they're inappropriate and if allowed to continue, could lead to trouble that far exceeds an altered group dynamic.

Standing up for a higher standard of conduct will hopefully raise the group to a better place.

As for your conduct with this man specifically, don't be alone with him. It will be much harder for him to single you out with forward behavior if you're only ever with him along with other people. The benefit of a group is protection — take advantage of this! This is also why it's important to make the group leadership aware of the situation.

Finally, don't delay. It may be tempting to give in to the voices that say you're overreacting, reading into innocent behavior and seeing something that's not there. It's never fun to deal with yucky situations, but when we don't, they typically get yuckier!

There's nothing gained from allowing this sort of thing to drag on. And quite a lot to lose if you do. I hope you're wrong about him, and if you are, he'll be a gentleman about the whole thing. But if you're not, nipping this in the bud is essential to bringing an end to it.

May God guide you and protect you!
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2010 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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