I understand the basic idea that women want to be pursued by men to feel that they are desired, respected, and valued for their personhood. Alex, my husband, actively pursued me on CatholicMatch, and I appreciated it.
Often, men like to pursue and to express to a woman their love and affection through simple acts of service. However this doesn’t mean that there are hard fast etiquette rules to how husbands and wives meet, date, or act when married. This idea that men should pursue women often boxes people out of relationships, and ultimately, out of their happiness and fulfillment. So what’s the problem in women demanding to be pursued by men?
Here are seven concerns I have:
1. It’s a demand. Reread: 1 Corinthians 13. You’ve already lost love if you demand, and go on a dating strike until these etiquette rules are met.
2. Everybody’s definition of “pursue” is different. Some women think pursuing means that the man should contact them every time, including the first time and all throughout their courtship. The women only reciprocate, but never initiate any contact. Other women think pursuing means the man must initiate the introduction and first date, but that’s their only requirement. Other women think traditional pursuing is antiquated, and they have no problem directly showing their interest in a guy first, and if the interest is mutual, then from that point on he will pursue her. Other women don’t have an opinion either way. They’d just like to be married already! No one can read minds. So with this many varying thoughts, opinions, and definitions floating around, how is anyone going to know to which definition you support?
3. We can’t reverse generational expectations overnight. How can we judge these men by dating standards that are not part of popular culture, not specifically supported by individual parishes, or even in families anymore, or anywhere else but in our own heads? Sometimes it’s subtle dirty looks when they try to hold a door open, or ask someone out on a date, but men have been rejected and ignored. Men are not going to keep trying a method over and over if it doesn’t bring desired results. Men, take these opportunities to act courageously, hold that door, and call her today.
4. Men may actually think they are pursuing, and in the same instance, the woman may not feel pursued, and will then respond in ways that will make him feel rejected. Where in the Catechism does it say that happy holy marriages ONLY start with a specific formula of who calls first? Men, keep trying. Email her today. Women, be clear. Let him know if you’re interested, or let him go if you’re not. If you’re interested, it’s okay to be obvious. Your subtle hints may not be working.
5. Women, you could be objectifying men. They are not here solely to make you comfortable, or to be your personal event planner. You don’t know them; you don’t know their story, or why they are the way they are. Show respect for men by letting them show their interest in their own personalized way. Tell him verbally, not telepathically, how he can best show his interest for you. End the dating strike. Smile, flirt, strike up a conversation. Let him know you’re available. Men, ask for her phone number, and then use it before some other man does.
6. Are these unspoken rules of pursuing etiquette helping us become saints? Or are they just our scapegoat for challenging our comfort zone? Our decisions should be advancing us towards marriage. Are you willing to sacrifice the life to which God is calling you, because your preconceived ideas about romantic relationships are being challenged? Are you open to marriage on God’s terms, which are often mysterious, or only your own?
7. Women, if you do initiate contact in the beginning, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to do all the planning, dating, and pursuing all the days of your married life. Men are human beings, apt to grow and change with you, not puppets following a script. Be encouraging. He is risking as much as are you.
Remember at the end of our lives, we are not only responsible for the things we’ve done, but also those things we didn’t do. Women, be merciful to yourselves. Give men a taste of what unconditional love means (not, only if you call/email/ask me on a date first). And men, my advice to you is simple: date. Don’t waste time or those opportunities for love.