By JD Gunter
The “Just Talking” Phase
Why are guys afraid to give up this pre-dating phase of the relationship called “talking”? What purpose does it serve? “If we jump right into pursuing the girl,” guys have told me, “she might get her hopes up about the relationship.” So your solution is to keep your intentions hidden, let her get her hopes up anyway, and when you walk away because you were “just talking,” her heartbreak is not your problem? This is a bad plan.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks “talking” is a bad idea. Last week, I exposed this pre-dating phenomenon for what it is: an invention of indecision that “normalizes relationship without responsibility; closeness without clarity; cultural manhood, not biblical manhood.” Broken-hearted young ladies from all over the country sent messages to the effect of, “I’ve been hoping someone would say this!” I’m more convinced now than I was when I first wrote: going on date after date for week after week while leaving ladies guessing your intentions is cruel. Women are made in the image of God and we have a responsibility as men to cherish and honor them. We can do better.
“Talking” exists simply because men are not acting like men in their relationships with women. Guys are afraid to define the relationship. These boy-men don’t make their intentions clear, shifting the responsibility to women and leaving them guessing. He takes her out, builds a relationship with her but doesn’t want to obligate himself, and the lady is left to define the relationship on her own. She’s not being pursued, she’s not being cared for, she’s not even being clearly communicated with. A woman may then “get the wrong idea,” and the guy wonders why she seems so heart-broken when he stops calling. “What’s the big deal?” the guy thinks. “We were just talking.”
Responsibility Means Intentionality
Biblical commands about relationships don’t cease to apply when a man decides he likes a woman. You must ask yourself from day one: what are your intentions with God’s daughter? Her heavenly Father is watching and you have a stewardship, whether you like it or not.
Some guys have said they are afraid to seem too forward too early. And they don’t want to have the responsibility of protecting the heart of a young lady they hardly know. What if she freaks out because he seems to be moving too fast? What if he soon determines he doesn’t want to move forward at all?
I understand the sentiment, but it’s naive. The reality, men, is that if you have a relationship with someone you are commanded to love her as you would be loved (Mark 12:28-31; John 13:34-35). This means you are already responsible for protecting her heart. The only question is whether you will be faithful to do it or not. If you can’t handle that kind of obligation and responsibility, maybe you aren’t as ready for marriage as you thought you were. Your responsibility and duty to a sister in Christ is immense, but it pales in comparison to a man’s duty to his wife (Eph. 5:25-31; 1 Pet. 3:7; Col. 3:19). If you can’t handle one, how will you handle the other?
What I’m advocating here is simple: clarity. If your goal is to get married, then your objective is to find a woman you want to marry and who wants to marry you. If the woman you are interested in is not interested in pursuing marriage, then she is not interested in you. If you find a woman you are interested in pursuing marriage with, then go on dates, go out to coffee, get to know each other; but have a clearly defined and openly communicated intention for doing so. If pursuing a woman intimidates you, then commitment intimidates you. If commitment intimidates you, then marriage intimidates you. If marriage intimidates you, then stop playing with the hearts of women. We need to treat our sisters in Christ with the upmost care and respect.
With this mindset, deciding to end a relationship is not a failure. As soon as you discover you don’t want to marry someone, stop pursuing marriage with them in the kindest, clearest, and most loving way possible. If the goal is marriage, deciding not to marry an individual and moving on gets you one step closer to your goal. Celebrate what God has taught you both and pray for each other to find a spouse.
Ladies, it’s not helpful to project marriage onto every guy that shakes your hand or buys you a cup of coffee. Expect him to take the leadership role and allow him to do so. If he won’t lead, don’t follow. If you decide he’s not the guy for you, tell him. Both of you are moving intentionally toward marriage, but you don’t have to step on each other’s hearts to get there.
God remains sovereign. You don’t have to be fearful and anxious about your relationships. In fact, God commands you to neither fear nor be anxious (Philippians 4:6; Matt 6:34; 1 John 4:17-19). These are not burdensome commands because they come to you from the Father’s love for you through the Lord Jesus Christ who reigns in kindness over you. “Talking” is a fearful and manipulative excuse for vagueness. Don’t be vague. Be clear and confident while resting in the sovereignty of God. If things don’t work out in this relationship, trust that God is still on His throne. He wants what is best for you. You don’t have to manipulate others to get it.
JD Gunter is a student and on staff at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before coming to seminary, he served in various church leadership positions in addition to spending fifteen years in the automotive and finance industries. He and his wife Tiffany have been married ten years, have two children, and are active members at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow JD on Twitter: @GunterJD.