“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong,” my friend told me, with tears in her eyes. “I’ve been praying for God to bring me the right man ever since I was about 15 years old. But here I am, more than 20 years later, and there are no prospects in sight. I know I should be content with God’s path for me, but I really want to be married.”
My friend Liz is like hundreds of single Christian women I have met over the years: She is bright, beautiful, funny, godly, a great catch … which the right guy has yet to pluck out of the sea. Since she knew I’d studied how men think, she approached me for advice knowing that it might not be “her” but still wanting a reality check just in case there was something she was doing (or not doing) that was preventing her from winning a man’s heart. Although I haven’t started the in-depth research project on singles that I’m planning on undertaking shortly, I’ve spoken to enough men over the last 12 years to know that these things matter to them:
Don’t just look for the right one; be the right one.
Finding the right man is important. Finding the perfect man, however, is completely unrealistic. What’s more, guys can often tell you’re subconsciously expecting a Superman that they can never live up to, so they back away.
Instead, find a great man by being a great woman. Don’t just look for the right traits in him, but work on the right traits in you. And that starts with your own relationship with God.
“You can’t force a woman into a right standing with God, no matter how cute she might be,” Mike, a single guy in his mid-20s, told me recently. He added, “I think truly godly women don’t try to get attention for being that way. There is a certain feeling a man gets when he is being drawn in by a truly godly woman. She can’t fake it.”
So work on yourself. Face the fact that you tend to snap at people under pressure, or stretch the truth when cornered; that will pay off in a more appealing character and confidence anyway.
Be confident in yourself, not desperate.
Ask your close friends — the ones who will be honest — whether you come across as confident or as desperate around guys. The first is attractive; the second a turn-off. You may find you’ve been signaling desperation by something as simple as always putting your hand on a guy’s arm or always trying to sit next to him when the gang goes for pizza.
Most of all, don’t look to a guy to make you feel complete. Only God can do that; only He can handle that pressure. Instead, relax and be confident in who you are and who He has made you to be. As Mike mentioned earlier: That’s attractive.
Take care of yourself.
When promised total anonymity, the men in my research for For Women Only were honest about something awkward to discuss but important to know. The brain wiring governing attraction simply functions differently for a man than a woman; most men have to be visually, physically attracted before they can see a woman as anything other than a friend. Which means it is vital for him to see that a woman takes care of herself physically.
That doesn’t mean she has to be a supermodel. In fact, the guys emphasized they loved our individuality and wished we weren’t so paranoid about it. But it does mean that the physical “spark” more likely comes when a woman takes care of herself and stays healthy (which is also another signal of that confidence we talked about earlier).
Quietly let him know you’re interested in him.
So now let’s move to the next level. Suppose you are in fact in a good place physically, spiritually and emotionally, and a certain someone has caught your eye. What do you do now? Well, the best thing you can do is get to know him as a friend but in a way that lets him know you prefer his company over others. That way he won’t feel it is such a risk to try to move beyond friendship.
Many men told me that when it comes to women, “guys are chicken.” They won’t risk humiliation if there’s a chance they’ll be rejected, so they need to have a pretty good idea that you’re interested before they’ll take that step.
“For me, body language goes a long way,” Mike said. Then he laughed, “And I don’t mean sexual body language. That means she needs to be drawn closer to Christ, which means I need to switch to personal ministry instead of personal chemistry! But if I can see a confident, yet relaxed expression on a woman’s face, coupled with signals that indicate she is being more than ‘just friends’, I can certainly take a hint! And for a more direct approach, I would personally prefer an invitation to a group gathering or low-pressure date like coffee.”
I asked another single man, Dave, what the more-than-just-friends “signals” were. “She can spark my interest by not being pushy, encouraging me, and doing things that I enjoy.”
Now you may think Dave’s advice sounds pretty generic, but as you’ll see shortly, some vital wisdom is buried in those words — both to begin a relationship and as you deepen it.
Let him lead.
As you saw from Mike, it’s not that guys always dislike a girl making the first move. But if a girl does that consistently, it allows a guy to be passive. Actually, it encourages him to be passive. Guys are stirred to action by both sensing a woman’s interest and by feeling the need to be the leader in the relationship.
That means not pursuing him, letting him make most of the first moves to ask you out or turn a friendship into a romance, and — perhaps hardest of all for us gals — stopping yourself from rushing or forcing your relationship over time.
My husband, Jeff, and I met during what was my first year of graduate school and his last. We got to be good friends over the course of six months, did a lot of things together in groups, went to lunch after church with just each other, and spent a lot of time hanging out — all with absolutely no signals from him as to whether he was thinking about anything more. It drove me nuts. I wanted to make something happen, especially since he was about to graduate! Didn’t he realize that if he graduated without any kind of definition to our relationship that the distance would sink us?
Well, this was my first lesson in learning how to respect and trust a man: by not trying to control everything, which, since respect is a man’s greatest emotional need, is what a man most needs to see in a woman for a long-term relationship.
What I didn’t know was that Jeff was pondering the exact same things and praying about it. For months, he had been talking to his pastor and friends in-depth behind the scenes. It was torture for me, but thank God I didn’t try to take matters into my own hands. Like most guys, Jeff needed a woman who would be willing to trust him both initially and for all the years to come.
With that said, pray for discernment and guidance. If he doesn’t seem to be interested in deepening your relationship (even your friendship), there’s always the possibility that you’re holding onto a hope that isn’t going anywhere. If so, you would do far better to open yourself up emotionally to others. It may help to seek counsel from wise friends (who know both of you), and be willing to listen if they break it to you that he just doesn’t seem interested “that way.”
Men love hearing that you admire them.
Finally, as you deepen your friendship and eventually your romance, the guys were very clear about what most appealed to them: They love knowing that their woman admires them.
Another thing my research taught me is that no matter how confident a guy looks on the outside, on the inside he is always afraid that he’s going to be found out as an imposter. Every day he worries that someday, someone is going to realize he has no idea what he’s doing at work, as a boyfriend, in his activities, and so on, and everything is going to fall apart. The secret cry of a man’s heart is, “Do I measure up? Does anyone think I’m good at what I do?” And he is looking to those around him for the answer to that question.
And that most especially includes you, his girlfriend. You have a unique ability to speak life into a special man. And in doing so, you will touch his heart in a very deep way.
Tell him you’re proud of him for being so good at something he does well — whether it’s his job, the way he handled that difficult situation at church, or even beating the last level of his favorite video game. If you think he’s godly, romantic and funny, let him know. Don’t leave him guessing at how you feel about him. And believe it or not, the most important words that will win a man’s heart are not “I love you,” but “thank you.” Thank him for what he does for you (“thanks for coming over and fixing the sink for my roommate and me; you’re awesome”) and that will win his heart more than almost anything else.
I know it may sound like you’re just puffing up his ego, but this isn’t about ego. For a guy, it’s about knowing that a special woman believes he can take on the world. A world he ultimately wants to share with a special woman, just as much as you want to share it with a special man.
Copyright 2014 Shaunti Feldhahn. All rights reserved.