I'm pursuing a great, godly woman. We've been sociable for a few months now. Last week I stuck myself out there and told her my intentions to pursue her with the goal of eventual marriage. Luckily, she said she was very attracted to me, but she is hesitant.
She said she has a habit of getting involved too quickly with guys. She said I'm free to pursue her, but she also said that she enjoys the friendship we have now. So now I'm perplexed by this "gray area."
How long do I pursue her before we have another discussion about what this is? I feel like she really likes me (she compliments me constantly), but I also realize she doesn't feel a sense of urgency about making a serious decision toward marriage at this time.
I think the term "gray area" is quite appropriate for the situation you find yourself in. It sounds like you expressed your feelings and intentions, but the response you got, while somewhat encouraging, wasn't exactly clear. More specifically, it sounds from your question like you were seeking to initiate a dating relationship, but her response didn't quite sound like a "yes" to that. My suggestion to you, obviously based only on what you've included in your question, is to step up again and seek more clarity.
Rather than proceeding in the "welcome to pursue me" gray area, I would suggest another conversation soon in which you clarify that what you meant by "pursuing" this woman is to start a dating relationship to see whether marriage might be the right thing for the two of you.
I don't know what kind of church(es) you both attend, but it's possible, if her church is not one with a culture in which men are encouraged to show leadership in dating relationships and initiate deliberately, that she was a little taken aback by your first conversation. As you described in your question, she may also have had the experience of getting too emotionally intimate with a man too quickly (a failure of the man or men who encouraged that as much as it is a failure of hers) and then been hurt when it didn't work out.
If she really is interested in you but worried about these other issues, you might be able to alleviate some of her fears by laying out a little more fully the way you envision the relationship going, at least in the early stages. Also, this may sound a little awkward (and may actually be a little awkward), but if you yourself have encouraged undefined or premature emotional intimacy between the two of you during your few months of being "sociable," you may need to ask her forgiveness and reset the trajectory of your interactions and the relationship. Take the lead in suggesting a clear way forward and see if she's on board with what you suggest. Admittedly, it's possible you will get some undesired "clarity" with this approach, but risk is part of being a godly leader, and it may lead to something great if she responds positively to your leadership. Either way, it will ultimately be less hurtful and more responsible than proceeding in the gray area you've described.
So, let's take your question a step further. Assuming you get out of the "gray area" and she agrees to move forward in a more intentional relationship with you, what might a good, helpful level of interaction look like in these early stages — especially with a woman who has been burned before? The overall goal early in a dating relationship should be to get to know one another better without "wronging" or "defrauding" one another (see 1 Thessalonians 4:6) by creating too much emotional intimacy too quickly, such that the intimacy in your relationship implies a greater commitment than you've actually made to one another.
As a practical matter, I usually encourage couples early in a relationship to spend a significant portion of their time together with other people, such as your families or friends or people you know from church. When you are together one on one, don't immediately focus conversations on your deepest emotional issues or make one another the primary emotional confidantes in your lives. Talk about a book you're reading (you might even read one together), your interests, your faith, things going on in your life. Talk about your values and priorities, ambitions and plans you may have, your families and things that are happening in your church or in the world. If you're interested, I discuss this more fully in an article called "Biblical Dating: Navigating the Early Stages of a Relationship."
This path may sound a little less exciting than the race to intimacy that has become the dating norm these days, but if you stick to it, you will be showing leadership that should be attractive to a godly woman. You will also be loving this sister in Christ well and helping both of you make a wiser decision about where things should go between you.
I will pray that the Lord will give you wisdom as you pursue this godly woman.
Copyright 2013 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.