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Dating & Relationships

Editor’s note: The CatholicMatch Institute is happy to announce our newest  contributor, Arleen Spenceley. Arleen is a Catholic blogger, staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and author of Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a VirginHere is her first column for the CatholicMatch Institute. 

In my then-boyfriend’s apartment, I smiled while I quietly asked a question:

“What crossed your mind the first time you saw me?”

He thoughtfully paused, and aligned his eyes with mine, before he answered without blinking (and, apparently, without thinking):

“I want a piece of her.”

You want a piece of me? The line led to fightin’ words, words that build walls between a woman and a man, which—in that case—was for the best. But the line also led to a realization: When a man likes a woman, he doesn’t do what that guy did (including but not limited to “objectify her”). So what should a guy do when he likes a girl? I’ll tell you:

1. Ask questions. Few pursuits bear less fruit than those of men who desire to find and marry the right woman but refrain from asking women questions. A woman needs to know who you are, but a woman also needs to know that you want to know who she is. We are generally delighted by a good guy’s desire to tell us about his life, but a guy who shares information and doesn’t solicit it does a disservice to a potential relationship. If a man likes a woman, he ought to ask what her goals are, and what she values, and how into comics she is before he lists all the titles in his collection. A man who doesn’t ask a woman questions sends a sign that he isn’t interested in her.

2. Use words. It is equal parts liberating and alarming to acknowledge this important truth: we can’t not communicate. A person says as much by not talking as he or she does by speaking up. But there is a big gap between somebody who doesn’t talk and somebody who does. A guy who crosses his arms, audibly sighs, and rolls his eyes over and over when he is frustrated speaks in code. A guy who tells his date he is frustrated is a grown-up. A woman can’t read anybody’s mind but her own, and a man who doesn’t give her a reason to try to read his is a man who spares her stress. By default, human beings constantly communicate. But when a man likes a woman, he uses words to do it.

3. Seek counsel. Dating is hard. Dating is potentially harder when half a couple seeks advice from somebody who isn’t qualified to give it. When a man likes a woman and needs advice, he considers a person’s credentials before he solicits it. If he wants to know what a woman meant by what she said, he doesn’t poll his friends; he asks her. If he isn’t sure he knows what his vocation is, he doesn’t tweet about it; he meets with a spiritual director. If he struggles to practice chastity, he doesn’t vent to his single but sexually active friends; he asks his friends who are good at chastity to hold him accountable. A man’s respect for a woman and his relationship with her is evident when he seeks counsel about it wisely.

4. Follow through. Actions indeed speak louder than words, but that doesn’t mean what somebody says is irrelevant. When a man likes a woman, he does what he says he’s going to do, and in doing so, he proves he is worthy of her trust. If he tells her he’ll text her, or call her, or DVR a How I Met Your Mother re-run for her, he gives her an expectation. But a man who gives a woman an expectation and then does not fulfill it gives her a reason not to trust him.

5. Save sex. A practicing Catholic woman expects a man to believe before he pursues her that preparedness for marriage is more important than preparedness for a wedding night. As Catholics, we are not called to have sex because sex is pleasurable. We are called to create a pleasurable sexual relationship with the person to whom we are united in marriage.

Marriage, a vocation, is designed to result in the destruction of self-absorption. Saving sex while we date aligns us with that purpose. When a man likes a woman, he does what he can to prepare for the patience, sacrifice, and self-denial that a marriage will require—and saving sex is an exercise in all three.

(This post has been read 9,432 times)

56 Comments

  1. Maria-194669 June 8, 2014

    Excellent article, Arleen.

  2. Meesch-691047 June 8, 2014

    Welcome to the Catholic Match Community!

  3. Juliet-913466 June 8, 2014

    A very nice and insightful post. Thank you.

  4. Jim-624621 June 8, 2014

    All of these are things are great advice, but most of this advice goes both ways. It’s a paradigm to think that all women are natural-born, effective communicators, just as much as it is to think that all men are out to objectify women. You could take many statements in this article that you have referred strictly to men and replace man with woman, and they would still ring true. Perhaps the circumstances or the instance may be different in the example, but the action or inaction of the one is just as much an indicator of his/her level of trust and interest and commitment as it is for the opposite gender.

    • Joan-529855 June 8, 2014

      Jim, feel free to write an article “When a woman loves a man; 5 Dos”. When asked, “What crossed your mind the first time you met me?”, not too many women would respond, “I want a piece of him”. Women are not nearly as visual as men, therefore their mind thinks differently. I honestly don’t believe that an article “When a woman loves a man; 5 Dos” would include all of the above. It might included SOME of the “dos”, however because men and women are different, some of the “dos” would be different as well.

    • Arleen Spenceley June 8, 2014

      Thanks for the feedback, Jim! Certainly we could replace “man” with “woman” in this post multiple times and my points still would ring true, but “When a Person Likes a Person” didn’t have as nice a ring to it. ;)

      In seriousness, you’re right: I never wrote in this post that women could use to do the same things. But I also didn’t write that they shouldn’t, nor did I write that they always do. I chose to use this post to share with men what women (generally speaking) look for, ’cause I thought they’d like to know.

      • Rodney-1037137 June 9, 2014

        I want to know what to do when I love a woman! Thanks for the insights, Arleen!

  5. MariadeJesus-318567 June 8, 2014

    Exactly! When a person generally does what it says, this person is coherent and consistent and builds confidence. And when a person is interested , looking to find the words to communicate, no matter the time, distance, etc..
    Thanks for the article!

  6. Joan-529855 June 8, 2014

    Very well written article!! I especially liked the “ask questions”. I was married to a man for 25 years who rarely asked me anything about myself, both before the wedding and after. While going through divorce he said he didn’t know anything about me; my goals, my desires, ect. I reminded him it was because he never asked me and the times I tried to share with him those things about myself he always turned the conversation back to himself (he was a “manipulative” communicator, according to the counselor).

    If a man doesn’t ask you about your goals, interests, or desires….run, don’t walk away. Their only desire is for you to meet their needs and they have no desire to meet YOUR needs.

    • Arleen Spenceley June 8, 2014

      Yes, Joan! The “ask questions” is so important. After a while, if it’s his intention and even if it isn’t, a guy who doesn’t ask questions strikes me as a guy who isn’t interested. Here’s hopin’ we meet men who ask questions. :)

      • Abbey-937473 June 8, 2014

        I totally agree with the “ask questions” being very important in having a conversation and getting to know a person in whatever stage your relationship is…. although, i am not sure if majority of the guys really doesn’t asked much questions because they are not interested or they don’t want the question be tossed back at them? :-X

  7. Linda-807057 June 8, 2014

    I feel a bit sorry for your then-boyfriend…he answered with honesty and candor! Maybe it was not the deepest or most thoughtful answer, but it could also be taken as a compliment!
    : )

    • Arleen Spenceley June 9, 2014

      Thanks for this feedback, Linda! I’m of the opinion that objectification is objectification, even when a person doesn’t think he or she is doing it. If I accept it as a compliment, I’ll thank a guy for it — but if I’ve thanked him for objectifying me, I’ve reinforced objectification. I’ve communicated not solely that it’s ok to use words and phrases that degrade us, but that I like it when he does.

    • David-1054431 June 10, 2014

      Let’s be realistic. For a very large portion of the male population, perhaps even a majority, their first thought as seeing a woman they’re attracted too would be very much in line with the then-boyfriend’s answer.

      His mistake was in being too candid. I know that sounds like I’m advocating dishonesty. But we all tell little white lies and give rhetorical answers to many questions. It’s the oil that lubricates social interaction. None of us could stand literal honesty all the time. If I were in the then-boyfriend’s place and that was what leaped to my mind upon hearing that question, NO WAY would I actually say it! I value my life!

      I agree the then-boyfriend answered in bad taste. I don’t blame Arleen a bit. That’s why if I were the guy, I would have given a different answer whether it was literally truthful or not!

      • Ann-69118 June 11, 2014

        I agree with you on this one. I think the question asked differently may have gotten a more diplomatic answer. If you seeing someone or involved with them most of the time it’s going to be because there was an attraction there. The way he worded it just didn’t come off well.

  8. Scott-51331 June 9, 2014

    the 1st thing guy has to do/say to a girl he likes, is that she has to want to have a conversation w/. him to begin with… step 1

  9. Dan-1002097 June 9, 2014

    Thanks for this insightful, well-written article, Arleen. It’s the best blog article that Institute has put out in weeks, and I hope it gets many views.

    All I would have added is to suggest caution against “grading too hard” on Number 1 (the asking of questions) upon the first meeting. Some sincerely interested and well-intentioned people might deliberately refrain from questions that are ultimately important, but perhaps ill-advised if too early on (e.g., “What sort of life are you looking to find from meeting someone?”). It’s not just that they don’t want to appear too probing. It’s also that they realize it is entirely legitimate that the other person has not fully formulated an answer in her/his own mind yet, might even be looking to their dating experiences to help resolve what they should expect, and would be put on the spot if asked to “own up” a response too soon. But, you are right, not asking any manner of even modestly personal questions would likely be a bad sign.

    • Arleen Spenceley June 9, 2014

      Thanks so much, for the feedback and kind words, Dan! Glad you liked this. Stay tuned for more.

    • Pat-5351 June 10, 2014

      Dan, the kind of questions being referred to here are not deep on a first date…they are “so, where did you go to college? Oh really, how did you like that? Were you in a sorority? Oh that is nice, I was in a fraternity…which sorority? etc etc.” Not deep questions, just questions that show the man cares about this person sitting across from him , in other words, making conversation instead of sitting there like a bump on a log, or talking non stop about oneself to the detriment of the other getting any “air time.”

  10. Michelle-989480 June 9, 2014

    Loved your first post, Arleen! Thank you and I look forward to more.

  11. John-1027301 June 9, 2014

    Arleen – I think most of the advice here works both ways and is true for men as well as women. Honestly, I can’t think of too many commandments in the Bible that apply to only one gender. I also don’t think your boyfriend’s answer to what he first thought about when he met you is representative of Christian single men. Even though it is popular thought today, I don’t think men are any more visual than women. God gave both sexes eyes and everything he created is good. Thinking that men are more visual just plays into the notion that all men are mindless animals, controlled by only what flashes in front of their faces. It reinforces the drama-driven society we live in today. I also don’t think asking questions is so important when you first meet someone. Some men are naturally quieter than others. I’ve asked my dad several times over the years why he married my mom and his answer has always been the same – “because she could speak for me.” They are in the 80s and have been married 55 years. My dad is a quiet man. I don’t think all men can be compartmentalized based on the number of questions he asks or what counsel he seeks. One thing that I think does reveal the character of a man is what he does with his free time. I really like what you said though on number 4 about follow-through and consistency. I think trustworthiness is so important and not rated high enough today.

    • David-1054431 June 10, 2014

      John, I like most of what you said. That’s a touching anecdote about your dad. I think you make a good point that not all guys are big talkers yet they could still be great husband material for some lady.

      But, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you that men are not any more visual than women. I’m sorry, but I really think we are. Was Playgirl ever anywhere nearly as big a seller as Playboy? Who looks at pornography more? I can be in a gathering with other guys and if someone mentions having a new lady in his life, the first thing out of someone’s mouth will be, “What does she look like?”, even if they’re smart, politically correct guys. I’m not saying women don’t respond to guys’ looks, but it’s not to the same extent at all.

  12. Julie-917308 June 9, 2014

    Upon reading this, I thought, “Amen, sister!” You communicated a lot of complex issues in a succinct and clear way. All of these points apply to either gender and are important for clear communication, namely, because we can’t read each others’ minds!

  13. Esther-532964 June 10, 2014

    Great article! Looking for a wonderful catholic man is hard work. I’m looking for a nice man who can wait like he is suppose to wait. (5. Save Sex)

    • Arleen Spenceley June 10, 2014

      Thanks for reading, Esther! It is indeed hard work (but hey — that’s good practice for the hard work we’ll all face in marriage :) )

  14. Karen-348528 June 10, 2014

    Awesome post Arleen! You hit the nail on the head. Keep up the good work!

  15. Tom-995241 June 10, 2014

    It seems every article that I’ve read in catholic match mentions something about sex at some point. Does anyone else find that to be true or is just me?

    • Arleen Spenceley June 10, 2014

      Thanks for this feedback, Tom! What do you like (if anything) about the fact that posts here discuss sex a lot, and what don’t you like about it? What do you want to see more of here? I’d be happy to hear your thoughts as I prepare to write future posts.

      And I can’t speak for other Catholic Match contributors, but for the record, I do tend to write a lot about chastity and sex (here, and at my personal blog: arleenspenceley.com, and in my forthcoming book).

      • Tom-995241 June 11, 2014

        Hello Arleen, I’m sure you and all the writers on this site are very nice folks, but is it really necessary to through in sex on all these articles, I guess it’s important to the younger folks on here, but for seniors? I don’t know.

        • Arleen Spenceley June 11, 2014

          Hi, Tom! I’m intrigued. This conversation is gonna help me come up with future posts. When you say discussion of sex is important to the younger folks but — as you’ve implied — not as important to seniors, I’m curious as to why. In your opinion/experience, is discussion of sex not relevant for seniors, or is discussion of saving sex for marriage not relevant for seniors? Why/why not?

          • Tom-995241 June 12, 2014

            I’m going to say that for younger people it’s on their mind a lot more than seniors, also the possibility of unwanted pregnancy is not a factor for seniors. And finally many of these forum topics have really nothing to do with sex, yet somehow if ever so briefly it still appears in the article. This is just my opinion of coarse.

        • Arleen Spenceley June 12, 2014

          Thanks, Tom! This is good conversation. My next question (sorry for so many — just trying to grasp what underlies your opinion!): Do you also believe, then, that it’s ok for Catholic seniors who date each other to have sex with each other?

          • Tom-995241 June 12, 2014

            I’m going to say that sex for older folks is not a really important factor that makes a relationship meaningfiul, although monogomy and comitment is the key at any age, again thats my opinion.

    • Cynthia-875784 June 11, 2014

      Unfortunately, in our culture these days, sex is often considered a part of dating. I’m not sure what you consider “seniors” but I probably qualify. I was married to the same man for 33 years and plan to remain celibate until (or if) I remarry. Many men my age assume that, because I was married and have had sex, I am open to sex in a dating relationship. To me, it’s important for them to know otherwise as soon as possible so as not to waste anyone’s time or emotions. While I would like to think that once a man got to know me and possibly fall in love with me he would be willing to wait for marriage, I’m not going to assume that would be the case. Better to find out at the start than to get my heart broken. That’s the best thing about online dating sites. You can let that be known right away. When you meet someone in person, how do you even broach that subject?

  16. Kevin-975826 June 10, 2014

    I was planning on meeting a new women on CM for our first date, but her father passed away the same weekend so it has been postpone for a bit. She was trying to think of some fun things for us to do which may happen in the future, but after talking to her on the phone and messaging, I suggested that we just find a nice quiet place to go and sit with a bottle of wine and just talk and ask questions of each other to find out who we are and if we are compatible. She thinks that would be a great idea. So we shall see. I have had 2 marriages, and as I get older I have found out, it more fun to just chill and talk then to site see on the first date.

  17. Teresa-944496 June 10, 2014

    I enjoyed Robyn Lee’s letter which led me to Arleen’s article…

    I have corresponded with a growing number of men on CM, and I have come to recognize a definite pattern in that just about all of these potential “matches” do not step forward to adopt and practice the masculine attribute of pursuit.

    I suspect the damaging effects of radical feminism might be responsible for this phenomenon and that men truly do not know what women expect or want in a relationship so they are “frozen” or afraid to make a move. I have lost count of the number of CM men who have offered their phone numbers to me after a brief and rather superficial correspondence and say, “No pressure… Just call whenever you’re ready!” Say what?? Where’s the pursuit in that?? Needless to say, I am still an unattached member and none of these contacts has gone anywhere.

    I would just like for a man to make a start from the perspective outlined in Arleen’s article, and I would be happy to see where it leads!

    • David-1054431 June 10, 2014

      Speaking as a man – and as a single unattached man – I think you make an excellent point. Yeah, it’s hard for guys to know what the rules are nowadays.

      Nevertheless, I think a guy would have to be pretty dense to give his phone number to a lady and expect her to call him!

      • Teresa-944496 June 10, 2014

        Thank you, David, for sharing your view of what I described as happening with my CM experiences. It helps to hear a man’s reasonable opinion on these things!

  18. Kevin-975826 June 11, 2014

    There may be different reasons for a man to give out his number and have the women call him, i recently did this to CM member explaining that I even though it was too early for phone numbers, but because of death in her family I offer her help in trying to get through it since I have experienced it all too many times recently with my mother and then my wife 5 months later. She was very greatful for the help i provided her.

  19. Cynthia-875784 June 11, 2014

    My favorite sentence in the article is this one:
    “If he wants to know what a woman meant by what she said, he doesn’t poll his friends; he asks her.”

    Of course, it goes both ways.

    I get so frustrated watching movies or TV shows where the whole plot is built on either miscommunication or no communication. I know there would most likely be no story otherwise but is it really that hard for people to talk to each other?

  20. Joseph-924851 June 24, 2014

    While the article is competently written and makes a few pertinent points, it opens with an exchange that immediately put me on my guard even when reading it. There are few things a man can’t stand more than being raked over the coals for providing an honest if thoughtless answer, and while it wasn’t quite a, “Does this dress make me look fat?” question, I rate it only a notch or two above. If that’s what he thought, it would be a lie to say otherwise. Any man who *is* a man has looked at a woman with lust, and while it’s not a particularly noble quality, it is the nature of the beast.

    But thinking you’re hot and/or that he’d like to bed you is not the sole or primary consideration, if he’s a person of substance, and calling them “fighting words” smacks almost of entrapment. You can’t always help what you think. You *can* help how you act on it, of course. Did you ask a probing question or two, or simply leap to “righteous indignation” mode? Grace is not only about standing firm in the face of modern permissiveness, but doing so with that important aspect of grace: graciousness.

    While I certainly think he could have answered the question more diplomatically, it seems to me that this particular ‘buzz’ promised him honey and gave him a beehive—or, rather, a hornet’s nest—instead.

    Have you considered that it’s just these kinds of ambushes that encourage men to either say nothing or lie strategically?

    Perhaps I’ve overreacted, but … the lead-in made me far less receptive to the rest of the article. Am I in the minority here? Decidedly. Do I have a valid point? Just as assuredly.

    • Arleen Spenceley June 24, 2014

      Naturally, I agree that a man should be honest. My lead here isn’t intended to call him out for saying the wrong thing. It’s intended to call him out for objectifying a woman. A man who likes a woman doesn’t objectify her.

    • David-1054431 July 23, 2014

      I think you’re making a very valid point. I’m imagining a scenario in which the guy restrained himself from saying “I want a piece of her” figuring (wisely) that he’d better not say that, but was thrown off balance and then fumbled around for something to say and consequently only mumbled something lame. I can imagine a woman’s reaction to that might be something like, “That’s all you can come up with?”. He’d be in just as much trouble!

  21. Joseph-924851 June 25, 2014

    Arleen, with all due respect, you’re not qualified to make sweeping, authoritative decrees on what men do. Insofar as I know, men and women *both* make mistakes/sin, and reacting with some objectification to a woman’s beauty because you’ve not put it into the context of the person she is occurs with most if not all men on a fairly regular basis—even those of us who genuinely appreciate a smart, spirited (and spiritual), sexy woman for *all* that she is.

    I imagine we’re agreed that to *genuinely* like a woman, you must know her. To *know* a woman (or a man, for that matter), you must have communicated and interacted with her (or him) in some appreciable manner. Your ex told you what he *felt* in the *instant* he first saw you, when all he had to go on was his instinctual, primal response to you—that you were attractive enough that bedding you seemed a delightful prospect. There’s really, upon scrutiny, little to nothing wrong with that, so far as it goes (though, again, he probably could’ve expressed it a little more subtly). Now if he continued to see you only as a prospective sexual partner and valued you only in that fashion *after* interacting with you for even a short time, your condemnation would be a *lot* more justified. (We just don’t know from the context that such was the case.)

    What he said was unthinking, and arguably even uncharitable … but by *your own account*, he was not reacting to how he felt about you after having gotten to know the extraordinary person I’ll presume you are. Instead, he responded as to how he felt upon seeing you *for the first time ever*. Condemning a snap reaction and an honest account of it is in my opinion excessively judgmental … and, as I’ve explained above, unjustifiably so.

  22. Arleen Spenceley June 26, 2014

    You and I are using the word “like” in different ways. You’re talking about the “like” that happens after you’ve gotten to know a person. I’m talking about the “like” that happens that makes you want to get to know a person. I’ve not intended to make any sweeping, authoritative decrees. All I’ve intended to do is to write what I’ve learned from experience, observation, and in the marriage and family therapy classes I’ve taken (my master’s degree is in mental health counseling) into a post that might be helpful to and/or resonate with readers.

    I’m of the opinion, however, that men are quite capable of valuing their fellow humans enough — even before they know them well — to think more of a woman initially than “I’d like to bed her.” When I refer to a guy who objectifies a woman, I’m not talking about a guy who lusts sometimes even though he doesn’t want to lust. I think we’d both be hard pressed to find people — good, Catholic people — who haven’t periodically lapsed into lust. When I refer to a guy who objectifies a woman, I’m talking about a guy who isn’t trying not to lust — a guy who doesn’t think lust is a sin. And since you’re wondering whether the guy from the column’s lead “continued to see me only as a prospective sexual partner and valued me only in that fashion *after* interacting with me for even a short time…” — he did.

  23. Joseph-924851 June 30, 2014

    “I’m of the opinion, however, that men are quite capable of valuing their fellow humans enough — even before they know them well — to think more of a woman initially than “I’d like to bed her.”

    We’re agreed, nearly … but I’m also just as sure that even the very best of us sometimes react with lust initially, before the better angels of our nature assert themselves.

    Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed your post and found it insightful. But I’d be remiss in my own responsibilities as a theologian—I have a degree therein, maxima cum laude, with minors in philosophy and history (as well as quite a bit of graduate work therein), since evidently we’re mentioning our credentials—to let pass what I thought was a problem in your post. In good conscience and with valid concerns, I responded.

    I look forward to your future posts.

  24. Vicky-355936 July 18, 2014

    Thank you all….we’ll done.

  25. Jackie-1115860 July 27, 2014

    fascinating,most interesting.
    thank you

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