I grew up with the learned belief that a woman should never initiate a relationship and that the man should be the one to step up, take charge and be a leader when it comes to discussing anything remotely relationship related.
There are plenty of different views and opinions when it comes to who should take the initiative in a dating relationship, and different things work for different couples. But I think, sometimes in our attempts to figure out “Christian dating,” we bind ourselves with rules God never placed on us—rather, with rules we place on ourselves.
I used to believe I wanted a “take charge” kind of man who would initiate our relationship, our spiritual life and pretty much the direction of our entire relationship and marriage. In pursuit of what the Christian culture called a “leader,” I misinterpreted the definition of that word as though it translated into “boss.”
With that, I went into dating with the belief that the man should always lead and I should simply follow. If a guy showed me interest, I would usually start following along, even if we hadn’t clearly communicated the nature of the relationship. This meant I often followed into hurt, brokenness and confusion. My resolution to simply follow led to heartbreak, mixed messages and pain.
The Responsibility to Lead
I talk to so many women who spend months, or even years, in “pseudo-relationships” with a guy who actually has no motive of pursuing them—never once questioning, challenging or seeking out the motives behind this relationship. Just blindly following, blindly hoping.
It took me a while (and some needless wounds) to realize God never intended me to be a blind follower, He intended for me to be a leader—as He intends for all of us as believers. As I grew and matured, I realized that when it comes to relationships, I am the person most responsible for my relationships before God. I have a responsibility to lead myself to a healthy place and my life into healthy relationships that honor and glorify God.
Taking responsibility for your own health and the health of your relationships doesn’t necessarily mean you’re taking charge of everything or negating your significant other’s ability to be the “spiritual leader.” It might just mean being willing to initiate a conversation about where the relationship is heading, or realizing that “spiritual leadership” might look different than we tend to think.
Submit to One Another
I’m married now, to an incredible man. My marriage isn’t what I would have imagined in my early twenties, because I’m not married to a “take charge kind” of man. We have a relationship in which we are both equal parts to the equation: challenging each other, correcting each other, sharpening each other, encouraging each other and “submitting to one another” and leading each other closer to Jesus.
But I AM married to a “leader” in every way: a man who leads by example, and loves in a way that is overflowing with God’s Spirit.
Throughout our entire relationship, we both shared our feelings with one another. I remember” initiating” the initial conversation about our relationship, and he followed suit with words and then with actions. He would tell you that he “initiated” the conversation by displaying the actions of loyalty, interest and affection that ultimately warranted such a conversation.
But no matter who “initiated,” one thing was always true: We kept communication open the whole way through, and that’s really important when it comes to dating.
It’s OK to Initiate
So to everyone wondering if it’s OK for a woman to initiate a relationship, I say simply “why not?” and then ask her to consider the following:
1. You have prayed about this relationship and feel the Lord’s leading.
2. You see lots of healthy things in the person you are interested in, and there is nothing about this relationship in which you are compromising.
3. You have felt interest on their part toward you. They have shown loyalty, reciprocity, commitment and have prioritized you throughout your friendship. Relationships are always about give and take, so if you have been giving and giving without receiving, stop and ask yourself why. Just as much as you are giving these things, you are worth receiving them!
4. You are OK with getting the answer “no” because that is always a huge possibility. And beyond getting a no, you are OK with letting it go after that rather than making excuses to bring it up again in two months “just to see where he’s at now.” Let him know, and then by all means, let it go.
5. You understand that how you act, react and interact through dating is very indicative of how you will act, react and interact in marriage. So do it in a way that reflects the kind of communication you want to engage in for the rest of your life. What you see in your dating interactions will always carry over into your marriage (So don’t be the kind of woman who does everything to keep the relationship going yourself).
6. And lastly, if you are planning on initiating a conversation, you better expect a response. I always say it doesn’t matter who starts the relationship with the first word, but it does matter that both people are continuing the relationship through their actions, feelings and words from that point forward so that you don’t sink into the pattern of a one-sided relationship. Relationships always take two.
Give and Take
Above and beyond who initiates, it’s important to recognize that a healthy relationship is always made up of give-and-take. One-sided relationships always come with pain, insecurities and regrets. Whether male or female, seek to pursue a relationship in which you are an equal partners in every way. Equally loved, equally valued and equally respected. Seek to pursue a relationship in which you are both giving and receiving. Seek to pursue a relationship in which both parties feel loved, encouraged and heard. Jesus wouldn’t want it any other way.
*For a biblical example of “initiation in relationships” check out the story of Ruth: a godly woman who initiated a relationship, and the godly man who responded to her initiation with unconditional love, action and direction. That’s my kind of love story!
This article was originally published on truelovedates.com.
Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor, relationship expert, speaker and author of several books, including True Love Dates. Debra is also the creator of the popular relationship advice blog TrueLoveDates.com, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.