What does it look like practically for a guy to lead? Does this mean that he is the one to always plan the dates? Or the one to always pick up the girl and drive to the destination? And the one who always picks up the tab? What part of this is actually leading, and what part is just social chivalry?
I do not want to deprive him of his role as a leader and am willing to follow his lead. But what if I also like to plan dates, especially ones that wouldn’t pop into his mind? Is this OK? Or should I express my desire to go bowling, for example, and then wait for him to plan a date that includes it? What if he’s not a good planner?
Is it OK to offer to split the tab? I would think that investing in a relationship without getting any investment in return would grow tiresome and discouraging to him.
Thanks for your question about protocol for Christian dating. I assume that’s what you’re asking given that you say you agree with the guy initiating a dating relationship. Before we jump ahead to how things should work once the relationship is established, however, I think it’s helpful to review what it is you “wholeheartedly agree” with.
It’s true that waiting for the man to take the lead used to be commonplace. It’s what everyone did, regardless of their religious convictions. But no more. Why then, in this age of cultural egalitarianism, where men and women are believed to be equal in every way, would it make sense to wait for a man to initiate a relationship?
If it’s just a cultural convention, then it seems the bolder or more interested or more organized of the two (man or woman) would naturally be the one to suggest a date. For the Christian, however, it’s not cultural conventions that limit initiating to men. For the believer, Scripture is the norm. And God’s Word is clear that men are given a unique headship role in the home and in the church (Ephesians 5:1, 22-33, 1 Timothy 2:11-15).
While this call to “lead in love” doesn’t begin until marriage, the dating relationship presents a useful opportunity to observe a man’s capacity for godly leadership. This includes planning and paying for dates, but it’s not a rigid formula. Once he’s initiated a relationship, and you’ve agreed that you’re dating for the purpose of discerning if you’re a good fit for marriage (that’s what Christian dating is for), you should have opportunities to influence how you spend your time together.
I wouldn’t recommend dating someone who never asked your input, who never inquired about places you’d like to go or things you’d like to do. Conversely, I would avoid a man who never had any suggestions, whose only question after “what are you doing this weekend?” is “where do you want to go?” A man needs to be able to come up with the activity, make the reservation, provide transportation, and pay for any expenses involved. Not every single time, but that should be what’s typical.
He is responsible for leading the relationship, not commandeering it. This means he should be talking with you ahead of time about your interests and preferences.
One thing you should look for is a man who is open to your help. Helping is not the same as taking over. Rather, it’s making suggestions, pitching in with planning, and even offering to do some logistical legwork. For example, if he says he’d like to take you to dinner on Friday night, you might mention that there’s a new restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. Is he open to the idea? If he already has a reservation for this Friday, does he tuck your idea away for next time? Are you flexible and willing to wait to do what you had in mind?
Now to your question about occasionally planning the whole thing. Once you’re in a committed relationship, not just hanging out (this is important), then it can be fun to initiate a specific activity that you think he would enjoy. Your goal shouldn’t be to do that one thing he never thinks of that you really want to do, but rather to bless him by thinking of what he would enjoy. Think of it as “love of neighbor” lived out in dating. Again, it’s essential that you already be in a committed relationship and not just coming off the second date before you suggest that “next weekend (or whenever it works to do this), I’d like to plan a special outing.” The temptation is to do this too soon, risking setting a precedent for taking the lead.
What I wouldn’t recommend is volunteering to plan all, or most, of the dates simply because you’re better at it. It may feel exciting in your dating days, but your goal shouldn’t be excitement or maximum entertainment. It should be assessing his aptitude for leadership as your potential husband. If his planning abilities are lacking, it’s important to know that now and to decide if it’s something you can live with or if it’s a character flaw.
As for your question about who pays, again, it’s helpful to remember what dating is for. It’s quite possible to assess your marriage compatibility on a very small budget. Church outings, study dates, walks in the park, conversations in a coffee shop, all of these sorts of activities can be had for little to no cost.
You’re right to be sensitive to his financial limits and to not want him to break the bank on fancy dates. But the solution isn’t to kick in 50 percent or more so you can satisfy your expectations of the dating life. Nor is it your job to invest equally financially. He bears the primary responsibility for leading, and that includes providing the means for the time you spend together. Far better to see what he’s able to do on however little, or much, that he has.
This doesn’t mean you invest nothing, but your investment is relational, not financial. Pray for him, ask good questions in order to deepen your friendship, build him up in the faith. Walk humbly and modestly alongside him, ever aware of your power to encourage his purity as his sister in Christ. These are the investments of a strong, godly woman who is demonstrating her aptitude to come alongside as helper.
If you marry him, you will be vowing to live with him “for richer, for poorer.” Are you willing to live within the means God provides through what he earns? Dating is the time to wrestle with such questions.
I pray God will give you wisdom.
Copyright 2015 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.