Wednesday, April 15, 2015

AWPATT XVII: February 18-April 15 (Thoughts 263-320)

Not vulgar, but addresses sexual subjects. Recommended
for those of 'dating age' and older.

263 I remember specifically that in spring 2009 I was suddenly hit with boob fixation. Thankfully that waned. But it was weird to notice such a dramatic change in what turned me on. Even so it’s less strange, and far less encouraging, than what I’ve shared before about finding ‘older’ women attractive, not for their bodies’ sake but something about their confidence and motherly/wifely qualities that they radiate. I’ve chosen to take hold of that as a sign that I’m being guided toward marriage, and refuse to see it any other way (e.g. that I want to have flings with married women: that would be the wrong interpretation)

264 And that’s not to toot my own horn and claim to be a superior being. I’m definitely a sexual creature, and because I’m very visual in my thought process, not to mention intelligent (which is to say, with a capacity for vivid imagination), I have no doubt in my mind that sexual lust is one of my chief weaknesses and places where I need the Lord’s forgiveness and sanctification. I just don’t openly confess the specifics of my sins or gray areas (which would make them sin, if I feel convicted about it), because I don’t think it’d be edifying. There are certain past sins that I believe would do more to harm my witness and inhibit my service to God than they would do to glorify Him in the confession thereof. I believe God alone deserves our confession, because all our sin is ultimately against Him. I believe confession is only purposeful to others if it was a sin against them, and maybe even only if it’s clear it’ll edify them. In some cases, it’s abundantly clear that it would not, and I think that offense is unnecessary; the Gospel is more important.

265 [answering why I didn’t approach one of several girls who seemed to be checking me out at the gym] : Oh, just ‘cause I’m not interested at the moment. Sure they don’t look repulsive but they’re giving “don’t approach me” signals. Plus, I don’t have anything to say BUT shooting the breeze or complimenting them, and girls get suspicious from that. And finally, I’m not interested relationship wise, because of how they dress and look. ‘Might as well be naked. I’m sure pantyhose breathes even better than UnderArmor, and that’s all they’re wearing. Old habits die hard, and it’s just logical to not want someone you’re together with to flash others their private parts. In short, being inappropriately dressed is a sign of unfaithfulness. Yeah I’m a bit hardcore in my screening process.

266 That’s not to be rude, just methodical. Girls who want wholesome guys can let them know very easily. Wear overclothes. Talk intelligibly. Don’t have “I love abortion” bumper stickers on your car. Don’t wear thongs. Don’t pierce your tongue, or have excessive jewelry. Don’t talk about getting wasted, high, or for that matter curse. Don’t have someone’s name tattooed on you. Simple stuff. It makes it very easy to rule out the lousy girls. The shocking part for me is that they don’t realize how unappealing they are. My list above would strike them as offensive because they think it’s normal, acceptable, part of their personality. It very well may be, but it’s not a sign of a wise woman. And that’s the sort I’m interested in.

267 Just because you’re together with someone doesn’t mean other people can’t love you. They’ll just love you in different ways.

268 Though, if they show themselves incapable of it, then it becomes your prerogative not to willingly place yourself in situations where they’ll be tempted with opportunity to sin – whether this be an old friend who is a gossip who’s envious of your closeness with your spouse, or if it’s someone who was interested in you and hasn’t gotten over that, e.g. “I still want you” – run. And comparing these two, you reveal my approach to things:

269 A. Have a standard of idealism. B. Have a contingency plan for every possible failure of others to meet your expectations. I talk about romance in ideal terms, and also in realistic terms. It’s not too terribly hard to tell the distinction. When I’m speaking idealistically, I’m making moral statements about a) what someone should do, and what I fully expect that I and my wife will succeed in doing in practice. And when I make cynical statements or statements showing my mistrusts of others, that’s b) a realistic understanding of the unideal situations I or my readers are likely to encounter. I’m not naïve. I don’t, for example, believe that romance is as lovely for others as I describe it – but if they followed God’s plan as given in Scripture—in other words, if everybody approached romance the way I comprehend it, then you would indeed have a better experience for all. So the ideal is very much something worth promoting. People’s failure to meet the Christian ideal is not a failure of the ideal, but a failure of people to attempt to pursue it.

Or put the way GK Chesterton once said it, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”

270 You can’t change someone by becoming intimate with them. I don’t know why people ever got the idea in their skulls that initiating a relationship with someone would give you more influence to change their character. Uh, that assumes that their character is already such that they would willingly let you have influence over them just because you’re intimate. That might be the case with some people—but it’s definitely not a trend that’s scientifically supported by observation. Especially among the unbelieving part of the population, who approach relationships as a tit-for-tat: they’ll make a limited amount of changes to get into a relationship, but they’ll have no incentive to do anything different when they’re in, because they’ve already achieved their goal. So what it really boils down to is this: the people you want to change, WON’T change because you start a relationship with them. And the people who would change, DON’T NEED TO, because they have such characters as already pursue how to be a better partner, and not just selfish ends. In logical terms, it is tautologically true that if you want to change someone before you begin a relationship, you lose that influence when you cross that line; simultaneously, if someone is willing to change, they’re willing to change for their own sake and are thus willing to change before they begin the relationship just as well as after, so in other words it is illogical to begin a relationship before a person changes the way you want them to. The only logical choice is to wait until you’ve seen the important changes you desire, before putting your future in their hands.

271 It baffles me when fathers uncritically buy their daughters birth control. I highly doubt they had to be asked. They likely just thought it was something to take for granted. And anyone who thinks that way, sends two bad messages to their daughters.

One is: “I can’t trust you.” You give them BC so they won’t get pregnant, which implies that you think they’re incapable of not getting pregnant if they don’t have birth control. So you’re basically saying you don’t trust them to make wise decisions and not have sex before marriage.

272 Of course, most millennials would reject that language, saying that they don’t expect young women to refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage. But that doesn’t change anything. You want me to believe that there’s a distinction between a father who thinks sex before marriage is a bad thing, and a father who thinks sex before marriage is a good thing, who give their daughters birth control? Well, if sex before marriage is a good thing, why give her birth control? It sure seems like there’s something undesirable you’re trying to prevent. If there really isn’t anything wrong with your daughter having premarital sex, let her have it, and then welcome your new grandchild with praise and thanksgiving!

Or not? Then you prove by your actions that either your conscience is provoked by a sense of shame, or you’re unwilling to face the consequences of your daughter’s behavior (selfishness and greed, with respect to the resources a new child would require), neither of which demonstrate a man who has a clean conscience and integrity. So fathers who give their daughters birth control are irresponsible and belittling their daughters’ equality of stature by sending the message that they can’t be trusted to make the right choices, while at the same time saying that they’re not expected to make those choices. You insult them by asserting that you think they’re immature and have no self-control. As a father, you’re a rank sexist if you supply your teenage daughters with birth control.

273 I also find it hugely ironic for dads to pay for birth control for their dependent daughters and at the same time, the “women’s movement” claims that any legal action to protect born and preborn children from murder constitutes “intrusion into a woman’s uterus by old men.” Funny how a 40-50-year old man inserting himself into questions concerning his daughters’ uteruses doesn’t stand out to them as a hypocritical state of affairs.

274 Marriage is not forever. Jesus in Matthew 19 explains that there is no human marriage in eternity. So marriage is to be seen as a commitment for an indefinite, but nevertheless temporary, time. Just like your very life is on loan to you, for you to use wisely and then return to its owner, so is your special relationship with your spouse. It is a temporary blessing and responsibility for you, to use as best as possible to demonstrate God’s love for His Church, but because of this, when God is reunited with His Church on the New Earth, there is going to be no such need for a less-than-perfect model of the real thing to be on display. When Jesus Christ returns for His saints, the only marriage that matters is the one between Him and His.

275 Re: Thought 270 – the only One who can change a person who doesn’t already have the condition of being willing to change in their heart, is the Holy Spirit. So apply what you’ve learned: People who are not ideal partners are either willing to change or not. If they are willing to change, then they don’t need to be baited with promises of intimacy in order to change. If they are not willing to change, baiting them with promises is only going to get you taken advantage of, because they have no intention of changing, anyway. And if you want to make someone who is unwilling to change, willing to change, then you cannot do it by your own devices. Only God can change human hearts. This also shows that the best way to guarantee you’re going to be partners with someone who is open to changing in positive ways is to make sure you’re marrying someone who is a truly saved Christian. Isn’t it ironic?

276 Piggybacking on #270 – while it’s a good idea to be cautious in approaching a relationship, it’s foolish to expect a person to perfectly meet your perfect ideal before marriage. Where they should click with you most is their character and beliefs, and where you should be more willing to forgive is in their personality, physical appearance, and “yes-man” habit. What do I mean by that last one – that you should not expect 0 disagreement as a precondition of marriage. In fact, if you have no disagreements at all, going in, then you have had no practical experience resolving conflicts, which are inevitable to occur sooner or later. What’s more important than always agreeing at the outset, is in being able to deal with each other respectfully and reasonably and achieve agreement through practicing submission and self-sacrifice. Naturally, where you should not compromise is in the area of theological truths and the character of your potential partner which is derived from this. I speak of being able to work together as two separate brains – you can’t expect perfection, but you can expect each other to have the right approach to pursue perfection, without stagnating from refusal to let go of their cherished independence.

277 It’s interesting to look at Shakespearean language and KJV translations of certain Bible passages, because you find that “maiden” used to be synonymous with “young woman.” You also find that it used to be synonymous with “virgin.” It’s not synonymous with one of these anymore, now, is it? (If anyone even uses it in private discourse). That’s because it’s not a fair assumption to make that a young woman will have “kept her maidenhead,” any longer. So whereas once upon a time, the Bible passage where Paul talks about “he who marries his virgin does well, but he who does not marry her does better,” it’s meant to be equivalent to an unmarried woman – nowadays someone looking at that passage would take offense that it implies unmarried women have to be virgins.

Well, not just unmarried women. Men, too. The Bible couldn’t be clearer on that subject. But the reason the notion of “saving yourself/waiting for marriage” causes offense is because the Culture has so departed from Biblical morality that most people take it for granted that virginity is passé and unrealistic, and they don’t expect anyone to be one – so if you as a young person are like me, you’ll find that depending on your present company, you might be rhetorically questioned, “you’re a virgin!? Really?” – and some say ‘good for you,’ and some say ‘why?’ They can’t comprehend it. They haven’t been brought up in the Scriptures. If someone asks you why, are you prepared to answer “because the purity of the marriage bed is symbolic of God’s exclusivity, that He will not join Himself to someone who does not belong to Him, and that I preserve my virginity because I wish to honor God in my marriage”? I myself am convicted by this. I am waiting and hoping to do right the next time I get the opportunity.

278 Religiosity in young-20s women is by and large not an encouragement to me, but something that brings despair. You’re unlikely to find young-20s guys caring about ‘faith’ at all, being fully caught up in a ‘carpe diem/you-only-live-once’ mindset, and avoiding thoughts of death lest they face a crisis that drives them to face ultimate reality, which might end their present enjoyment of life as they see it. But when it comes to the women, foolishness goes in the other direction. There’s a lot of eclectic and ‘Christianity lite’ memetic behavior among women my age from what I can tell. They tend to be emotionalist and not commonly doctrinally solid. Since you can’t tell by looking at someone what the state of their salvation is, when someone says ‘oh, this tattoo means ‘He is greater’,’ the vagueness means you can’t grab them by the shoulders and say “Oh so you’re a Christian, too?” with glee, but instead statistics imply they’re likely as lost as the cavorting young men, just somewhat more blind to it because she thinks she’s ‘spiritual.’ So I bite my tongue. I’m stuck in a gray area and don’t know anything more about the person than I did before.

279 Relevant to the aforementioned thought, if the tendency of certain young women is to be very interested in religious things, but wholly inept in their discernment process, then if you’re looking for a wife among mainstream religious 20somethings (rather than, say, in a Presbyterian Church of America or Southern Baptist church congregation), you’re unlikely to find someone who knows the truth, but will have to gird up and teach it to her. If you’ve found someone who’s receptive to this, congratulations, you are witnessing and/or teaching her. In the sense that you’re rescuing her with wisdom, either from false religion (if she’s unsaved) or from doctrinal error and confusion (if she’s saved), you are in a literal sense the ‘savior of your wife.’ That’s a very appropriate symbolic representation of the fact that Christ is the savior of the Church. I don’t know what the likelihood is that I even care for a confused religious woman, but if no doctrinally orthodox ones could be found, I have by the preaching of the Word, the opportunity to “create one,” through faithful witnessing and teaching. And it would be a delightful thing, to sweep a woman caught in false teaching and vain spirituality away therefrom and bring her to a solid foundation. You might expect her to cherish and appreciate you for it. The husband, I believe, in many cases in modern society, might very well turn out to be the savior of the wife by turning her away from error and toward truth. Few things are quite as adequate representations of God’s heroism, in my view.

280 I came across a useful Focus on the Family broadcast that addressed domestic duties and shed light on what the Biblical model was. The observation was that you often hear it joked about how the wife is “too tired, not now honey,” and has no energy for quality time with her husband at the end of the day. The analysis was that this is in part due to the tendency of women (or at least wives) to have a list of things they want to get done, and get worn out pursuing it, which is actually a failure of priorities. Fundamentally, quality time with the husband is more important than picking up a lego on the floor. And then there were the applications:

First, the wife does not need to finish every task that needs to be done before quality time. She can stop, and finish it after. This is crucial to comprehend, for all the hardworking women out there. You can’t put ‘quality time’ after “everything else,” because “everything else” will never get finished. So it’s imperative to be able to take a break from your obligations.

281 To aid in this, the husband isn’t passively sitting by in some room, impatiently waiting and wondering “how much longer til you load the dishwasher, honey?” No, he’s helping her. This is the key role that the husband can play in helping to relieve the wife about ‘all those things that need to be done.’ He’s not saying “ignore it.” What he should reassure her of is that all the things she’s concerned about will get done, because he’ll help her—after they spend time together while they’re still awake, alert, and have the time and energy to pour into each other without stressing about other things, or being stressed from having done other things. The husband will work with his wife, and that’s because:

282 The wife’s “job” is not the wife’s job, it’s the husband’s job. He’s ultimately responsible. Because he is the head of the family, that means that he takes responsibility for everything that every other family member under his authority in the household needs to do. That doesn’t mean that he literally does everything with his own hands—his kids have to do their homework, his wife has her duties, and he has his own—but he has the responsibility to make sure that everybody is able to fulfill their obligations, and does what he can to enable them to succeed in it. As the leader, he is the servant of all. His wife has to do laundry, dishes, dinner, tutor the kids with their homework, make the bed(s), etc? So he engages with her and puts his own hands to work to help her finish those tasks. If he’s got nothing else to do, what is the value in resisting? Why should he not help her? Most men will understand immediately, when you connect the dots: “if I help my wife, she’ll get done what she needs to do sooner, and I’ll get to spend more time with her!” It’s a powerful motivator, when a man realizes that helping his partner with chores is not a punishment but a reward, and that he can show his love for her by blessing her through helping her.

283 And on top of that, working together means you’ll have the opportunity to be near each other more, and you can have time to talk while you’re working. Quality time with words. A foreplay to quality of time of a more directly intimate sort. Why wouldn’t a man want to work with his wife, if it means he gets to grow his relationship with her every time he does it?

How to Approach Dating when Dating isn’t the Focus, Goal, or Objective

284 How to decide if you ought to be interested in someone: You want to evaluate someone to see if they have the mind and character to be a fitting partner for you. Therefore, you need to get to know them personally before you “officialize” a romantic relationship with them. Therefore, you need to be fully convinced in your own mind that you don’t want to jump into a ‘boyfriend-girlfriend’ relationship with someone you’re interested in. That means that if the other person wants that, then you need to push back. Explain your approach – if they don’t respect it, then they are not someone you ought to be interested in. How easy was that? Very.

285 So we know we’re not interested in people who do the “boyfriend-girlfriend” thing. Then if someone who is reserved and still shows an appropriate level of interest in you is anywhere to be found, wisdom would direct you to initiate an acquaintanceship with them by suggesting that you’d like to get to know them better, with the intent of determining whether the two of you are a match in character and beliefs, so that it would make sense for you (if you are the man) to pursue a relationship with her.

286 What should immediately disqualify someone: not being Christian. The Bible tells us to “not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” That is with reference to spiritual unity – when corporate, it has to do with church leadership, evangelism, and anything else having to do with declaring the Gospel or preaching the Word; when individual, it has to do with marriage. Since you’re not foolish enough to engage with someone you don’t intend to marry, then if someone is not a Christian, then you cannot pursue them with the intent of marriage, because your unequal status. One of you is a son of God, one of you is a child of the devil; one of you is a child of God, one of you is an object of wrath. Can it be well in your house if you choose to unite two things that cannot go together?

If you fail to agree with the statement that you should not marry a nonchristian, then it is highly recommended that you assess your own spiritual condition and “examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith.” You might not be a Christian yourself, if you see no problem with being unequally yoked.

287 There are plenty of good reasons to avoid marriage even when an acquaintanceship or courtship has begun, on the basis of errant doctrine in your person of interest. You can always educate them otherwise, and it’s wonderful if you can win your brother or sister in Christ, but if they are unwilling to part ways with errant beliefs on fundamental doctrines, it’s foolishness to allow that person to be the one who will indoctrinate your children into what you consider error. Isn’t it? If they are unwilling to change, cut your losses and refrain from marrying the until they do. See points 270 and 275.

288 How to talk to each other: The less explicit you can be in your discussions initially, the better. Ultimately, because I’m a diehard believer in unmitigated honesty, I’m persuaded that at least for my marriage’s sake, I want me and my fiancée to be able to know each other fully, so that there is nothing important left untalked-about before finalizing our commitment. This would take place after already becoming very comfortable with and finding that we can trust each other. Perhaps you, like one of my friends, believe that some things are worth never speaking of. The only exception I can make for that is if it’s a past sin that will stay in the past, and which confession will not edify – and will probably hurt – your partner. I mentioned before that some things are only necessary to confess to God. If anyone knew every little thought in our head, they’d be appalled. The fact that there’s a mouth-barrier to cross before a thought becomes “real” for someone else is a blessing to us, and it’s there for a reason. While you should be as honest as possible, provided you’re not lying about or misrepresenting yourself, it’s reasonable to withhold certain hurtful statements, but do not do so deceptively: I recommend acknowledging that there is something, if the other person can sense it, and justifying not revealing it based on the above rationale. At that point, since you should know and trust each other’s character fully, they will be at ease and not nervous about that unknown thing. And you will be free from the temptation to be deceptive.

But that’s not what I initially began writing in this point. It was:

289 Try to avoid talking about sex/sexuality for at least your first 100,000 words together (the AWPATTs up to this one, so far, comprise about 40,000 words, for reference). Get to know how each other think when your minds are turned toward subjects that don’t interfere with your normal reasoning quite as much as that subject. That way you have a reference for “how s/he normally acts/speaks,” and will have established barriers—if not explicit barriers, at least de facto ones, by virtue of getting used to relating to each other in a certain way. This is the major benefit, in my view.

290 The second benefit is to avoid offense. Sex/uality is a sensitive subject, and one or both of you may have trauma or sore spots in your memory of the past that touches on this, and someone’s innocuous statement or adamant categorical description of something could rub the other person the wrong way and cause them to be hurt, or mistrustful of you. That’s once again a good reason to get to know each other and build up trust before addressing heavier subjects.

291 A third reason to avoid talking about sexual subjects early on is perhaps the most obvious one: temptation. Assuming you’re not in a physical position where inappropriate behavior can occur, then talking about your personal views of sex, or your histories or experiences relating to it will undoubtedly have the tendency to provoke you to think of each other “in sexual terms.” That is unhelpful to maintaining a standard of purity. Now, as I hinted at in #288, honesty about your pasts is helpful in mitigating the chance of being hurt by deception, unintentional or intentional, but this is ultimately unnecessary until very close to making a decision to pursue marriage. There is no reason to know anything about each other’s sex drive/opinions on toys/fantasies/thoughts about each other, etc, until you have come to a point where you’re fully convinced that you want to marry this person, except for that you don’t know about the shadows of their past. That will not happen early on, unless you’re doing something wrong. See point #284.

292 Ultimately, once you cross the barrier of talking about a certain subject (any subject, doesn’t have to be potentially inappropriate), bringing that subject up again becomes easier. Evangelism, Creation, sports, politics, eschatology, marriage, and yes, of course, sex. Also, whatever subjects interest you the most, in terms of what you spend most of your time thinking about, are going to be the ones you preferentially engage in conversation about. In other words, since you are sexual beings, please consider the fact that once you talk about that subject explicitly, it might make it dominate a huge proportion of your private conversation from that point on. This may have the detrimental effect of making it hard to find time to focus on other subjects of importance, and hinder relationship development around those topics. This is yet another great practical reason to avoid talking about sex right away. In the time you’re still getting to know a person, you might find out you’re not interested, and then it’s just as well that you didn’t tell each other “what you like,” etc. Your conscience is cleaner and you haven’t said anything that would be embarrassing if the other person gossips about you. Not that they should. But the world isn’t ideal.

293 How also to talk to each other: be as formal as you can, because politeness will go a long way toward demonstrating your respect for each other. It also avoids slipping into explicit talk as mentioned above, following the stepping stones of ‘vernacular,’ then ‘vulgar,’ then ‘vile’. Use big words; these encourage (demand) you to be creative, and keeps you from being lazy in compliments. It keeps your guard up and makes you feel both respected and respectable – fewer regrets.

294 Still on this subject: don’t whisper/mumble. If you’re not having inappropriate conversations, don’t be afraid of anyone overhearing. Speak in such a way that you wouldn’t be embarrassed if someone overheard, particularly if that someone were one or both of your parents, friends, etc.

295 Vocalize your feelings. Not “emotionally.” I simply mean, rather than saying “hey,” “hey,” and looking away uncomfortably, express yourself with words. Narrate the situation if you must: “I’m glad to see you again. It’s been too long since last time. It’s hard to find the words to say, to express this, but I simply enjoy being around you.” Be a dork about it. I don’t think anyone was ever offended by direct, childlike language like this, unless they sincerely abhor intelligent people with command of grammar and vocabulary. If you’re not interested in one of them, then don’t fear. They’ll appreciate it, and you know you would too if they spoke the same way.

296 How to progress the relationship responsibly: And that is to also say, that by behaving in a certain way toward the other, you encourage them to reciprocate. You can set the tone for the relationship by always acting a certain way, and always avoiding acting another way – whatever those ways are. For example, I had a casual friendship with a young woman who was initially quite infatuated with me. She indicated to me later that she was, perhaps as an artifact of personality or past experience, open to submitting to whatever avenue I chose to take her down. We were fairly close (this is a story in its own right), but she told me afterward that she had never felt as respected as she felt by/around me. The reason is straightforward: though I didn’t refuse her hugs or hands on my back/shoulder (which is playing with fire, generally speaking), I refused to touch her in certain ways, or certain places, etc – not that she was asking me to. But she was resigned to whatever would happen. This is a bit of a frightening thing to me (I hope I raise my daughters not to be so passive), but there is no better place to be so vulnerable than in the presence of a guy like me, because he’ll respect you despite what you’ll let him get away with. Lesson being: while I don’t know how widespread among women this passivity and resignation to the will of their love-interest is, I know that as a man, I can set the tone of the relationship by my own actions, by choosing to place limits on where we should be together, whether we should be alone together, how I’ll touch her or let her touch me, etc etc. Even if the woman does not assert conservative behavior, she will generally follow the leading of the man she’s interested in. So if he doesn’t take advantage of her openness to his will, she won’t be taken advantage of. It’s really that simple. And because it is generally men who are initiators and women who reciprocate, and because even the woman most willing to fall into sin will still follow the leading of the man, it is a distinct responsibility of every man to have his personal integrity well-established before romance, and to restrain himself even if the woman would allow him to take advantage of her if he so wished.

297 Avoid being alone together. Self explanatory.

298 Don’t kiss. Compare #s 176, 242, 259.

299 Try to limit physical contact to a handshake/high-five, tap on the shoulder to point at something, or something similarly non-sensual. The less you touch, the less of a bond you make. Physical contact releases oxytocin, which is a chemical that encourages bonding in the brain. So for the same reasons as in the previous thought, try to avoid physiologically manipulating yourselves, so that your decisions will be made with a clear mind and not detrimentally influenced by your feelings of closeness to each other.

300 I already mentioned involving other people (#242-245). One way you can do this is by telling at least one other person where and when you’re going to go somewhere where your person-of-interest is going to be, and who else will be there, and what you’ll do, and when you expect to leave. Aside from the practical benefit of saving your life if you get kidnapped (unlikely if you met in a church), it burdens your conscience to do what you said you would, since now other people know. You can’t “change your plans,” and decide to sleep over at one or the other’s house with no one else present, for example, without ‘giving the appearance of sin,’ and hence, if you’re truly concerned with not causing your brothers to stumble, you’ll be helpfully influenced to avoid doing anything potentially inappropriate by sharing your intentions with others beforehand and then abiding by them.

301 At every point, when you think your relationship is ‘getting to the next level,’ you should vocalize what’s on your mind, clearly, to the other person and get their feedback/input. “I’ve gotten to know you pretty well, and I’m thrilled that we have so much in common. I think we could be a good match, and I’d like to court you with the intent of evaluating whether we would do well to get married.” Don’t make assumptions about what the other person is doing, or how they see the relationship. And ask questions. And move as one unit. One of you can’t think “s/he’s the One!” and the other “they’re a nice person but I’m not sure I can see myself marrying them.” You’ve got a lot of discrepancies to reconcile.

302 Actually see each other in person. Texting and email isn’t really wrong, because it’s just a more immediate form of what paper letters used to be, but if you communicate solely by those means, you’re not growing the way you could be – ultimately, your intent is to live together in physical proximity, no? So you’re going to have to spend time in the same physical location to tell if that’s going to work out for you, obviously.

303 How to resolve issues:  TALK to each other! #s 270, 275, 276 address this. First, you need to submit to Christ. Then, you should spend time apart and pray. Then, you should come together and pray. Pray for each other, thank God for each other, pray that you might bless your partner and not cause them to stumble. The simple act of saying this in front of them makes it harder to be angry with each other. You’ve already reorganized your priorities around doing 1) what God wants and 2) what is best for the other person, and that makes it difficult for both of you to be selfish.

304 When you talk through the issue, avoid using accusatory language. Don’t totally ignore “you,” but if you’re just airing a list of complaints, stop before you start! Focus on what the real problem is that can be changed. Say what you think could be done to fix it. Ask for their input. Collaboration is preferable to compromise. Compromise is giving up something you want and getting less than the perfect outcome. Collaboration is working together to make sure both sides get not only what they want, but possibly an even better result. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game and shouldn’t be seen as one.

305 “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” That means that you should go to bed not angry. Not fighting. It does NOT necessarily mean you need to resolve an issue before bed. Staying up to do that can cost you in sleep, and your brain functions less adequately when you get tired, so your decisions are not going to be the best anyway. Sleeping and resuming a discussion in the morning can often yield a completely different perspective and even resolve an issue with the realization that something you were bothered by doesn’t matter. What this verse DOES mean is that if you can’t finish an argument before bed, STOP. Go to bed. Love each other. Pray over each other. Wake up, pray for each other again. Then pick up and see if you can’t resolve your conflict with ease.

The one thing the ‘sex-mags’ get right is that having sex is the BEST thing to do when you’ve had an argument. It makes it impossible to stay mad at her/him. It washes the slate clean and proves to both of you that whatever your conflict was about, it wasn’t something that would destroy your love for each other. It cannot tear you apart. Be defiant toward your struggles and use conflict as an excuse to become even CLOSER with your husband or wife. Don’t let it breed resentment between you.

306 As a man, this is something I’ve had trouble ‘getting,’ but I’ll take a stab at it. I adamantly insist that rationality is the only valid way to solve problems. If you don’t have logic, you’re unreasonable. Being unreasonable is bad. It means you’re wrong. Simple, right? And women are clearly not incapable of logic, whatever our differences might be. But here’s where simplifications go wrong.

Women are not excused from being rational. But the stereotype is that they are “emotional.” This is a false dichotomy, because men have emotions, too. What’s really going on is that in general, women approach thinking about an issue through emotional pathways, secondarily through logical ones. Men approach thinking about an issue through logical pathways, secondarily through emotional ones. This means women have an innate strength when it comes to relating to other people—emotions rule. But it means they have a weakness when it comes to arguing for what they believe. Statistically, they’re not usually good at explaining themselves and are horrible people to get into verbal conflicts with if they’ve bought into the cultural lie that “women are emotional” and never bothered to develop their logical reasoning skills.

This is the synthesis: women are no less logical, it’s just not as obvious to the observer. When you are having a conflict with your partner, she’s more concerned initially with wanting you to understand how she’s feeling, than she is about you fixing it. To most guys, including me, this doesn’t initially make sense, because I see it this way: if I can just resolve what’s causing her negative feelings, I can make her feel better. Guys are fixers. We see Problem-->Solution. But when dealing with a fiancée or wife, my present understanding is that you first need to connect with her on a personal level before resolving the issue. Go for the issue, and she’ll feel left behind, as if you completely ignored her. Emote. It’s difficult, but use your logically hard-wired brain to express yourself verbally (thought #295). Use reflective listening: say that you can see that she’s feeling a certain way, and try to understand why. Help her believe that you are sympathetic with her and on her side, and that you want what’s best for her (not just to “fix” the problem and make her stop bothering you), and that you want the two of you to work together to resolve the issue so that it’s a satisfying solution for both of you. You have to do a little extra work to resolve issues of a human nature—it’s not just pushing buttons to solve a scripted dilemma—but persuade yourself that it’s worth it because it’s what the woman you love needs from you, and then do it out of love. This is one way that you show servant leadership, and “living with the weaker vessel, showing understanding” (1 Peter 3).

307 How to break off a relationship: If you’re concerned with being responsible in your approach to romance, then you’ll care about ending a courtship, or notifying someone you were interested in that you’re no longer interested, at the right time and in the right way.

The first objective is to avoid stringing someone along. If you reach a point where you’re convinced that you won’t marry that person, you should be honest and let them know. Very soon after you form that conviction. Do not keep waiting, while they believe that the two of you are still pursuing the same thing. Out of respect for them, set them free to pursue someone who is more willing/a better match for them than you.

308 Do not be vague or unclear. They should be able to understand what you are saying, so that they won’t wonder what you really meant.

309 Out of respect, do not broach the subject in the middle of a romantic date. Suppose he surprises you at your place with flowers and takes you to dinner, foots the bill, opens doors/chairs for you, takes you on a walk and sits with you on a bench under moonlight to wax philosophical. The times that are appropriate to say “I don’t think we should continue seeing each other as romantic interests” are before he even comes over, and after it all, on the bench. Not when he’s showing up on your doorstep with flowers, not when you’re in the car, not when you’re halfway through dinner at a restaurant.

310 The same thing is true for the gentleman. Suppose you’ve offered to take her somewhere that she’s excited about and she puts on (or even, goes to buy) a special outfit that she hopes you’ll think she looks pretty in, and is clearly bubbling over with nervous excitement. Do you tell her, moments after seeing her, or after taking her somewhere where she’s stranded with you, that “yeah, I don’t think this is working. You’re not the girl for me.” ? No, the most appropriate time is not on a date you invited her to, but before or after any such occasion.

311 In other words, a break-up, or disengagement, if you’re fairly involved with each other, should be a separate occasion and not masqueraded as a romantic date. At the same time, you shouldn’t dress it up as something negative, by being ominous or awkward. This is why confidence and openness is important: the less mysterious you are about broaching the subject, the less confusion and negative emotions you’ll provoke in the other person.

312 Don’t disengage by text or email, unless you’ve never met in person.

313 Remember, guys, what I wrote in #306. One thing that you learn very well in conflict mediation classes is that reflective listening is crucial and immensely helpful to making sure the other person is willing to listen to you, because they don’t feel like you’re talking past each other. Begin by saying that you’ve enjoyed the opportunity to get to know her. You think she’s great in x, y, z ways and you’d love for your wife to share those qualities. As you speak this way, she’ll probably begin anticipating where you’re going, and it will be less of a shock or upset. When you finish, you can offer one of the lines I’ll suggest below, to avoid being accusatory and to be encouraging even as you say something that might be hurtful (people are always hurt to some degree by someone’s disinterest).

314 If your reasons for disengaging are good, the other person is likely to sympathize with you, and have some helpfully critical things to offer you, as well, as reasons why they don’t think you’re a good match for them. This sort of parting is mutual and you both feel relieved that you respected and were respected by each other, and have no lingering doubts as to whether the other person might want to try again.

315 Ways to say “let’s not pursue romance.”

* “Knowing what you need from a partner, I don’t think that I’m ready or able, at the present moment, to be the man/woman who can give you those things. I believe you deserve to be satisfied with such a partner, and for that reason I’ll refrain from interfering with your chances of meeting someone who’s more right for you than I am.”

- this puts the ‘failure’ and ‘lack’ on you, without denigrating yourself. Relationships are very relative, and you can be wrong for someone else, without being lousy period. Phrasing a disengagement this way emphasizes that you’re concerned for the other person’s best interest, and will encourage him or her that they’ll find someone who’ll love them like you’ve loved them, but even better, in time.

This is really the best way to do it, and all other examples below are less ideal than that.

316 “I’m concerned about some theological views you’ve presented, and when I tried correcting you with Scripture, you were unwilling to change your stance…
(MAN): this is not good, because if I were to be your husband, I would be in spiritual authority over you, meaning that you should trust me enough to be willing to submit to my leadership and teaching on theological matters.”
(WOMAN): this is not good, because if I’m to submit to your headship in spiritual matters, I need to be able to trust you. I cannot submit to you if you go against what God has clearly taught in His Word, and this means we’d be off to a very bad start if you won’t change your views on the theological conflicts we’ve identified.”
“for this reason, I don’t believe that we should be yoked together, until both of us are in agreement about essential/fundamental doctrines of the Bible and how the Word should be interpreted.”

317 “I’m a bit ashamed to say this, but after my initial infatuation, I’ve struggled with being able to see you as physically attractive. This is no fault of yours, especially considering that “beauty is fleeting, and charm is deceptive” (Proverbs 31), but because I am mindful of my own weakness when it comes to attraction, I want to spare you from any trouble that could come from being married to me. I wouldn’t want you to have any less than my full devotion, and so long as there’s a risk of feeling regret over having “settled,” I don’t want to condemn you to whatever undesirable effects might arise from that. Because I am not convinced that I could love you as fully as you deserve, I don’t want to waste your time, and wish to let you take advantage of other romantic opportunities. I am sorry that I couldn’t commit my mind to being a husband/wife to you.”

Those strike at two big reasons that might be hard to vocalize, and the first (315) addresses all others in a single sweeping category. If you can’t be specific without being unintentionally hurtful, that may be the best one to go with.

318 If at any time after laying eyes on a person of the opposite sex, you have a reasonable suspicion to conclude that they are “not your type,” i.e. you can’t see yourself potentially marrying that person, then do not engage.

319 If at any point after engaging with someone in an acquaintanceship, friendship, or courtship, you can’t see yourself being married to that person, respectfully disengage, as discussed above. Do not waste their time. Do not waste yours. Do not waste your future spouses’ time by being unavailable. Make the best use of your time by pursuing marriage, and if marriage becomes an unattainable goal, cease pursuing it with that person.

320 Once you are married, you can’t quit. Commitment takes precedence over your ability or willingness to “see” yourself with them, or to “feel in love” with them. That’s why it’s important to make sure you are a suitable partner before marriage, and that they are the right person for you (and v.v.) before making the decision to commit. That decision is irreversible. Or at least, that’s how you should see it, so that you don’t enter into a marriage covenant with the dubious opinion that if the road gets rough, you’ll hit the road. By having a very high view of marriage and the commitment required for it, you will avoid causing problems for yourself and another person, by not marrying someone it would have been wiser to resist marrying.

This brings us to April 15th, and I think it was a pretty systematic approach to making decisions at every point along the road of romantic relationship.

~ Rak Chazak

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