In this installment, I need to provide some operational stipulations:
(1) This is directed toward those singles who ARE otherwise inclined to marry. I am not in the mandatory marriage crowd, and–if you wish to remain single–that is your call and I am cool with that.
(2) I am not an egalitarian with respect to marital roles. That understanding is nowhere to be found in Scripture.
OTOH, let’s look at the common complaints of the single women in the Church:
(a) The men won’t commit. In my discussions with Debbie Maken, she had seen that dynamic at all of her church experiences: the women outnumbered the men, and the men used that to their advantage.
MrsLarijani–during her time at Covenant College–also tells me that this dynamic was prevalent, as the women outnumbered the men. (Oh, and from what I saw from my few times on the campus, I believe her. There was quite a selection. And those gals are overwhelmingly from conservative Christian backgrounds.)
Right before we got married, MrsLarijani and I were at a singles forum at Covenant. The room was pretty evenly distributed with single men and women. The women ranged from very good looking to moderately attractive. I’ll bet I could have torn a page from Sun Yung Moon and paired every guy with a gal and everyone who wanted to be married could have been married. And yes, everyone in that room wanted marriage. That was obvious. And yet, there was zero pursuit going on, in a forum where the men were expected to be pursuers.
So yes, I do not doubt the accounts where the women complain of men not committing or pursuing.
(b) The men are spending too much time looking at porn. Again, this is not surprising. I could devote several posts to this very topic alone. It is a serious problem, and the men need to face it front and center.
(c) the women complain that the single men aren’t going to church. While I’ve had the opposite experience in my single life, I am seeing more of that dynamic now that I am married. I’m seeing some single women in my church, and there aren’t men for those women at that church. The single men I know in the church are already dating or engaged.
(d) the women complain of the “player” culture among the men. This is a problem, but–sadly–the women are part of it. Still, the men have some soul-searching to do on this one. I’ll address that.
To the men:
ONE ONE HAND, YOU HAVE BEEN SCREWED!!!
If you grew up in the church, you probably have been sold an emasculated Jesus. Your sorry excuse of a pastor was probably a total wuss who doesn’t have the stones to stand up to his own wife, let alone the women whose tushies he kisses, who sit on the committees that can fire him.
You have been taught to be nice Christian boys, who never get into conflicts, are always agreeable, and never fight with anyone. When you deal with the ladies, you are on eggshells, not wanting to disagree in fear that you will lose her. Your idea of “servant leadership” means you do whatever she wants.
If you keep that up, you will either (a) remain single, as no decent gal will be remotely attracted to you; or (b) end up in a very unhappy marriage if not divorced.
(One of our small group leaders–an Army chaplain who has extensive experience in marriage counseling–says that a lot of women, in divorce, have a chief complaint: that their husbands never disagreed or held the line, and merely acquiesced at every turn.)
Just as Adam lacked the stones to contest his wife as she was deceived by the serpent, many men lack the stones to pursue conflict when it is the right thing to do. As a result, they lose any respect they hoped to get from the women before they even get out of the gate.
You can complain of the women being engulfed in feminism. And while that complaint is not without merits, the proper response to feminism is not passive indifference, but rather strength. Fact is, even a panty-waist feminist liberal will otherwise want a strong man in the house.
How do you project strength? That’s easy: show utter contempt for their displays of feminism. Even if you’re not interested in dating them, you’ll gain their respect.
I can vouch for this firsthand. From my days at Southern Seminary, I often went toe to toe with feminists over a variety of issues. What’s funny, though: those feminists knew who to come to when they needed tutoring for their upcoming exams.
Another way to show strength: pursue the gals. Some of you are on eggshells and worry about rejection. In this case, you have two choices: do nothing and be GUARANTEED to remain single, or ask a gal out and have the POSSIBILITY of getting married. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE! If she says no, you’re no worse off. Put off the fear and go with the LOGIC.
What else can you do? Well, many of the things I recommended for the women ALSO APPLY TO THE MEN.
(1) Get involved in a good church, and start building a network of friends. College or no college, you need to do this.
(2) Just as with the ladies, study your Bible often. Especially Proverbs and the Epistles. Many people grow up in the Church, but never get a full look at books like Proverbs, which is a shame because the wisdom literature of Scripture has a treasure trove of practical insights that–heeded–will save you from blunder after blunder.
(3) Be diligent. Get a job, and work at it. Again, it doesn’t matter if you’re flipping burgers, delivering pizzas, or building a company. What matters: earning your keep, being gainfully employed, making an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Much has been said of female hypergamy–their tendency to want to “marry up”. While those asssessments are correct, we must not always count it as a negative thing, although it often is. For example: an aspiring SAHM would be right to want a man who demonstrated the capacity to be hard-working and gainfully employed. That brand of hypergamy is a good thing.
(4) Just as with the ladies, so it is with the guys: make every effort to get and stay out of debt! If you must take out student loans, take a very small amount, something you can pay off within a few months after graduation or–better yet–in the summer in between terms. If you use credit cards, keep them paid off every month.
(5) Even more so for the guys: STAY OFF THE PORN! While its use among women is rising fast, porn still does most of its damage on the men. This is because of the way men are wired: the effect of porn on the brain is similar to that of cocaine. Dr. Judith Reisman has dubbed that the erototoxin effect.
For the men, it is like adding liquid hydrogen to a barbeque grill. The worst case scenarios are nasty: every year, a couple hundred deaths occur due to autoerotic asphyxiation. This is overwhelmingly fueled by pornographic activity.
Even if you aren’t even close to the worst-case, if you’re a user of porn, you need to get out of that culture. I realize that every red-blooded male reading this has had some porn exposure, and I also realize that porn–combined with the hormonal full-court press known as puberty–can have a devastating effect on a guy that can take years to learn to master.
I’m not here to shame you–other evangelical leaders already do plenty of that–but the sooner you learn to master this, the better off you will be. If you are having trouble in this area, please do get some help, sooner rather than later. You’ll be better-off for it, and your future wife will also appreciate that.
(6) I don’t care how much you get razzed, or looked down on, regarding your sexual inactivity, DO NOT PLAY THE FIELD OR ENGAGE IN THE HOOKUP CULTURE! BTW: one way you will know if a Christian gal is a good catch: if you are sexually inexperienced, she will not look down on you for it. Moreover, as Susan Walsh has recently pointed out: male promiscuity is also potentially damaging to a future marriage. (I say this because men often point to female promiscuity as high-risk behavior. While this is true, it is also true that male promiscuity is low-percentage behavior.) So, just as with the ladies, eschew non-marital sex.
(7) Be willing to challenge the women. This is where knowledge of Game can help. Sometimes, women will screen men out–using “tests”, also called other things in less polite company–and this will cause the “nice guys” to move on. In fact, what she is often doing is telling you, “If you have the stones, I’m available!” In that case, she is actually giving you the green light to pursue her!
(And yes, a woman can do that even if she is not part of the hookup/player culture. This is because women are hard-wired to “test” men: they are in fact trying to make sure that a potential suitor is unflappable.)
How do you know if she is really saying “no”? If you ask her out more than once and she tells you she’s not available at that time, then she’s not interested. Don’t worry about it: just move on. If you ask her out and she says “no”, the it’s no. It’s no skin off your back. Just move on. You’re no worse off than you were before.
You need to adopt the mentality of a top baseball player. The best hitters in the game are those who bat .300 or higher. You know what that means? It means they fail almost 70% of the time! But you have it better than they do: you only have to be successful once to get married.
(8) You need to cultivate your leadership skills. If you aspire to be a husband, you are aspiring to a leadership role. Even if she has feminist leanings, she still will–most of the time–want her man to be strong. Leadership isn’t about being “large and in charge”, but rather about being able to exert influence and persuasion.
Sometimes, that means being able to deal with difficult people, because–women, laugh all you want, but you know I’m right–the gals can be difficult at times. They will get discontent easily; that comes naturally. They will challenge your authority to lead; that comes naturally. They will challenge your knowledge of everything from laundry to Scripture; that comes naturally. They will challenge the wisdom of many decisions; that comes naturally.
If you want to respond to such challenges with a “Screw you, I’m in charge!” type of retort, that will go over like a fart in a church service. (Complementarian does not equal one-way autocracy. She is called to submit to you as to the Lord if she is your wife; that does not, however, make you Omniscient and Omnipotent.)
OTOH, if you respond by asking them why they are questioning this, or asking them what they would recommend–then, after they give their say, discuss the merits of the approaches with them–that is higher-percentage. This gives them at least part-ownership in a decision, and they are going to respect you more.
While there are times where–as a husband, I have to pull rank on my wife and say, “Honey, I’m going to invoke Ephesians 5 on this and you need to trust me”–those times are rare. In a little over two years of marriage, I’ve probably done that fewer than three times.
Think of your potential relationship not so much as General vs. Private, but rather Lieutenant vs. Sergeant. (Any good officer will tell you that, if you want to be a good leader, you had better be ready to take lots of feedback from your sergeants.)
IF YOU HAVE BLUNDERED ON ANY OF THOSE MATTERS:
Like the ladies, all is not lost. Generally speaking, the ladies–ceteris paribus–are going to look for evidence that you are being responsible.
Consider these three things:
(1) If she’s interested in you–and women fall for men with blunders every day–and you are making good progress in cleaning up your messes, then past blunders won’t matter.
(2) If you’re on her bubble, then demonstrating ownership of past junk is higher-percentage.
(3) If you’re not even on her bubble, then keep cleaning your mess up anyway, and don’t worry about her non-interest.
Still, what can a man do, even if he has blundered?
Most of the same advice for the women also apply to the men, especially regarding financial and sexual blunders. I won’t repeat all of those here. Still, there are some things that I’ve observed that men need to keep hearing:
(a) Always maintain a learning disposition. Be willing to accept counsel and feedback. As you read Proverbs, you will find a great emphasis on the value of seeking counsel, making prudent plans, being deliberate in decisions. Seek wisdom and understanding. Learn from your blunders.
(b) Always keep your head. If you are single for any long period of time, you are going to go through periods where it will seem like the whole world is against you. You may find hostility in the Church; certain authors will blame you for the problems of others; certain authors may even call you a “cad”. You are going to be tempted to walk away. That is when you need to fight back and stay the course. The rantings of Debbie Maken aren’t God’s words: those are her opinions. She’s entitled to her opinion, but you can’t let bitter women like her drive you out of the Church. You can’t afford to get rattled by feminist shaming tactics, either.
In the Bible, Abram (later named Abraham) had a major blunder: he got kicked out of Egypt for lying to the Pharaoh. It was his own fault, and he had to own that junk. Did Abram respond to this by wallowing in pity, getting drunk, and doing other stupid things? No. He went back to Bethel and called upon the name of the Lord.
WHAT IF YOU HAVEN’T BLUNDERED ON ANY OF THOSE MATTERS, AND STILL ARE SINGLE?
In that case, I would offer you the same advice as the women, with one exception: don’t quit pursuing.
If there are women in your path, whom you have previously passed over, you may re-assess your reasons. Like the women, this is not about right versus wrong, but about reasonable versus unreasonable. There are no perfect answers here; these are matters for you to asses between yourself and God. I pass no judgments here, but merely call you to examine it for yourself.
Also, you may consider some unconventional means in your search. Toward that end:
(1) Maximize your mobility. If you do this, you can look into moving to other cities. If you find someone, you will be in a better position to relocate if need be. Toward that end, you may want to ensure that you are not too locked down in any particular job, to the extent that this makes sense for you. One thing I wish I had done was not buy a house. That hurt my mobility.
(2) Look outside your denomination. Expand your network to include folks outside your church. Strongly consider other denominations, provided that they are on the reservation.
(3) Don’t be afraid to attempt to hijack a cradle. The available gals in my age group were giving me the short shrift from eHarmony. Well, I killed my eharmony account after that experience in futility. Not too long after that, I took aim at Christina–almost 18 years my junior–who was receptive until she found someone in her ZIP code. After that, I landed MrsLarijani, who is 14 years my junior.
(4) Don’t be afraid to jump from your church. While I hate the “church-hopper” tag, I also believe that, if the people in your church are not helping you find a mate–and the prospects don’t look good where you are–then there is no Biblical rule that says “THOU MUST STAY AT XYZ CHURCH!!!” I’m not saying you HAVE to jump ship; I’m just saying that you may consider doing this if the situation is sufficiently exigent.
(5) Never forget that you must keep cultivating the qualities that are conducive to a successful marriage, in your singleness. As a single, I studied the Bible more than the average bear: I did a lot of teaching, and was a heavy participant in Awana. But ya know what? As a married man now, I look back and still wish I had studied the Scriptures more.