I took the lead; now what should I do?

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I took the lead; now what should I do?

Jan 20, 2013 |Candice Watters
Question

I read the article about women taking the lead, but it’s too late for me because I already did. There is this very attractive guy I attend church with. About a year and a half ago I approached him, and we begin to talk about relationships, and he told me that he was very attracted to me, but it was not the time in his life [to pursue me].

A couple of weeks ago we had a discussion, and I needed to come back to him and apologize. I bought him a chocolate rose, a small box of chocolate candy that he likes, and I gave him my number and told him to call me so we can hang out. He said OK, but it’s been a week, and I have not heard from him. I did see him at church since then, and he didn’t treat me funny and did the same thing he had always done: hugged me and had a short conversation.

I hope I have not ruined my chances or turned him off in any type of future interest in me because of my impatience. What should I do since I have already put myself out there?

Answer

Thanks for writing. I'm sorry that this friendship hasn't panned out the way you'd hoped — and you did have reason to hope. This man's comments early on gave you reason to think he would initiate a relationship when the time was right. But I think it's safe to say that his year-and-a-half of inactivity is likely to continue. The more time passes, the more likely it is that he won't do anything differently than he's been doing all along. Just as an object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest tends to stay that way, the inertia of your friendship is set. As you already know, even your attempts to encourage his activity seem to have fallen flat.

You say you already took the lead and wonder what you should do about it. But that's not what really happened. When a man takes the lead, he risks rejection by inviting a woman to join him for a meal or outing or event. He assumes responsibility for the outing, paying for the food and/or tickets, providing transportation, and setting the agenda. That's not because you're incapable of doing those things, but because by doing them, he's demonstrating his ability and willingness to provide for and protect a future wife and children (and that's essential to being a Christian husband, see Ephesians 5:22-33).

What you did — telling him of your interest in him, buying him a present, giving him your phone number and telling him to call you — wasn't leading; it was removing the risk he's supposed to take by letting him know that if he did decide to ask you out, you would say yes. You removed the risk, but that's not the same thing as leading. If you'd called him and invited him out for dinner and a movie next week and were planning to pick him up at 6:30 and had already bought the tickets to the movie, I'd say, yes, you're leading. And that's not good. But that's not what you did.

A biblical relationship recognizes that men and women have different roles to play in dating and getting married. He is called to initiate, and you are called to respond. Giving him your number and telling him to call you sounds like you were trying too hard to get him to ask you out. As a woman, God designed you to be a helper. In marriage, that means using your gifts to help your husband carry through his leadership.This definition comes from John Piper. I read it first in This Momentary Marriage and am deeply indebted to his writing both in this book and in Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood by John Piper & Wayne Grudem, for helping me to understand and embrace God's good design in making us male and female, as well as giving us distinct roles and responsibilities within marriage. We are equal in Christ (Galatians 3:28), but different, and those differences and distinctions affect not only how we conduct ourselves in marriage, but also how we go about dating and getting to marriage. In all of life, including dating, it means living out all the one-another verses in Scripture, as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to help one another grow in godliness. That's no less true when we're dating or hoping to date. His godliness, not your hope for romance, should be your primary motivation. You want him to lead and are trying to help him do it. And that's good. But what's your goal in all this: advancing his leadership or getting him to move your relationship forward? They may sound like one and the same, but the motivation is different. As women, we must search our hearts (they are deceitful, see Jeremiah 17:9) and pray against our tendency to manipulate things toward our advantage; something we women tend to be pretty good at (thanks to our fallen nature).

I can spot it, because I did the same thing when I was single. Once I reasoned it was OK to invite a male friend (whom I hoped would be more) to go with me to a baseball game, simply because the tickets were a perk of my job. I figured this was my chance to let him know I'd be interested, you know, if he decided he'd like to date me. I told myself (and him) that it was just a friendly outing with some tickets I got at the office. But I was lying to myself (and trying to manipulate him and the situation to my design and advantage). I'm not sure what was worse, waiting by the phone for him to call (which he never did) or hearing him say no when I called him.

In hindsight I'm glad he said no. If he'd said yes, I would have lost the benefit that risk provides. The risk incumbent on the man looms large at the start of a relationship, but in reality, it's paltry compared to what's required of him later, in marriage. A man's willingness to assume the risk is an essential (albeit small) test of his character and his ability to take on the role of husband. As I've written in the past on Boundless, "Risking rejection is merely a glimpse of a glimpse of a glimpse of that level of sacrifice [required in marriage]. Any man unwilling to take it is unworthy of a godly woman's consideration for marriage."

Rather than worry that your impatience will turn him off, I'd encourage you to think clearly about him. He has given you every reason to conclude that he is not interested in dating you now or in the future. Now that you've put yourself out there, it's time to pull yourself back. He was wrong to tell you he'd date you if the time was right. That lacked clarity and leadership. He shouldn't have revealed his feelings toward you if he wasn't prepared to act on them. But in the absence of any expressed interest or intention, you should have resisted your desire to move him along.

Clearly, from his lack of initiative, he's still not ready, willing or able to initiate a relationship with you. This is really all you need to know to move on to other possibilities. For the sake of your honor and integrity, it would be best to stop hoping that he's going to change. Stop treating him differently from the other men at church. Don't seek or single him out for intimate conversations, and don't rule out other men who may actually be up to the challenge of pursuing you, once you stop acting as if you're attached to a man who hasn't asked you for that commitment.

I pray God will give you the ability to trust His good design for marriage, as well as the path for getting there. Patience is something we're told is a result of walking in the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). The more you trust in the Lord, pray for wisdom, study His Word and love Him as Lord, the more patience you will display. It will be an overflow of your obedience and evidence of the Spirit's work in your life. And those are the very traits that will be precious in the eyes of a man who is similarly seeking God with all His heart, mind, soul and strength.

May God guide you,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2013 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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