Men, Godly Women (Rightly) Expect This From You

Part One Of Two

man hiking photo

Guys, when godly women think about godly men they might date, what do you think turns them off more than anything else?

That’s the question I (essentially) asked them in a recent survey I conducted.  I asked women to respond honestly – not how they think they ‘should’ respond, but how they probably would.  In addition, I personally emailed about ten women I respect for more input.  

Two responses received far more attention than any other.  Any guesses as to what topped the list?

(For a related post, check out ‘Should I Date A Godly Woman I’m Not Attracted To?‘)

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Survey: Reasons Why Women Wouldn’t Date A Godly Guy

rejected sign

After publishing ‘Should I Date A Godly Woman I’m Not Attracted To?‘, a number of people expressed interest in this question from a female perspective.

In other words, should a woman date a godly guy she’s not attracted to?

Women, please help me get ready for an upcoming post on this topic by taking this one-question survey.  Thanks so much!

Should I Date A Godly Woman I’m Not Attracted To?

dating photo

It was the weirdest dating advice I had ever received.

One of my friends was telling me about a recently-married, mutual acquaintance who had just two criteria.  I figured simple = good, especially coming from this acquaintance, someone in ministry I respected.

‘He wanted a godly woman, obviously’ my friend said, ‘and she had to look good in a little black dress.’

As a single guy in my early twenties, I found his comment confusing.  On the one hand, putting so much emphasis on appearance seemed really worldly.  But our mutual acquaintance was a pastor I looked up to, and we’re supposed to be attracted to someone we’re dating… right?

Twenty years later, it’s easy to see that our acquaintance’s comment was seriously misguided.  But it illustrates the confusion Christian guys are facing in how to evaluate the relative value of physical appearance when dating.

While we cannot – for any reason – approve of objectifying women, the culture around us makes that challenging.  (For men and women.)  Movies, television, and the internet are giving us the message that image is everything.  Although most churches and Christian circles acknowledge that message is wrong, sometimes in practice they don’t give much guidance.

The Tension Between Character And Appearance

So if you’re a single, Christian guy, I can totally see why you’re wrestling with this tension.  You want to honor God and the women you date.  You don’t want to objectify them, and you understand that her character matters more than her dress size.

But you also want to have real desire toward the woman you may marry.  After all, God created beauty.

And yet, you sense that physical appearance can be too important to you at times.  Maybe you struggle with lust or pornography, and sense that your heart has the potential to lead you astray.  (Good call; it does.)

To make things even more complicated, you have some female friends who are seriously godly, but you’re not attracted to them.  And you have other female friends who are not so godly, yet – if you’re honest – are pretty physically attractive.  You feel kind of guilty on both counts.

So what do you do with all this?  To sharpen the point of the pencil, let’s ask two more specific questions:

  1. What roles do godly character and physical beauty play in pursuing a potential spouse?
  2. Should you date someone you’re not physically attracted to?

Let’s look at these briefly, in turn.

God’s Good Design

It’s hard to deny that men are visual creatures.  For example, research shows that for men, vision is the dominant perceptual sense, while in women the different senses are much more balanced.  When women lie in their online dating profiles, it’s most often by posting pictures of themselves when they were younger – and thinner.  In other words, women know what guys want.

But Scripture makes it plain that physical beauty is part of God’s good design.  For example, when we meet Rebekah, she’s described as a ‘young woman… very attractive in appearance’. (Genesis 24:16) And again and again, the Song of Solomon celebrates physical attraction, often in terms that make us blush.

When my wife and I do premarital counseling, we’ll often ask couples what first drew them to each other. The guy will always mention her godly character, but eventually admit that ‘she was cute’.  (I don’t think I’ve ever heard a woman mention that.)  Usually, guys feel sheepish when they say that, but they shouldn’t.  Guys, God made you that way.

Warning Label

At the same time, guys, we know that physical beauty should have a warning label.

The same bible that praises physical beauty also contains tragic stories of its misuse.  Samson and Delilah (Judges 16), David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), Solomon and his thousand-women-harem that ‘turned away his heart after other gods’ (1 Kings 11:3-4).

Proverbs states the danger with classic simplicity:

‘Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain.’ (31:30)

Beauty is vain in the sense that it will fade.  As Pastor Matt Chandler puts it,

Gravity always wins. We are all wrinkling. Our nose and ears never quit growing. It is only a matter of time till that little component that we are basing so much on starts to vanish and must be replaced by attraction founded on character and covenant.

It’s also vain in that physical beauty has no value without a foundation of godly character.  In what has to be one of the best bible verses ever, Proverbs 11:22 tells us that:

A beautiful woman who lacks discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.

Marrying a gorgeous woman without godly character doesn’t make any sense.

Younger guys ‘know’ this… in theory.  In practice, with our culture’s obsession with appearance and our own fallenness, keeping physical appearance in its place is easier said than done.

Let’s go back to Proverbs 31:30 – the whole verse this time – for the proper relationship between character and physical beauty when we’re evaluating a potential spouse.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

There’s no contest.  If beauty and character were to fight, character wins every time.  At least in the long run.

I Know, But Should I Date Someone I’m Not Attracted To?

Great question.  Lots of guys ask me if they should date a woman they’re not physically attracted to. They usually have someone specific in mind, a friend with godly character.  They have a real chemistry, but ‘I just don’t find her attractive, and don’t want to lead her on.  What should I do?’

My short answer is ‘no, you shouldn’t start dating her.’

No woman wants to feel like a consolation prize, someone you ‘should be’ attracted to, but aren’t.  If you pursue the relationship, she will get hurt and you will feel guilty.  Your hearts will get entangled, and disaster is likely to occur.

At the same time, I’m not just giving you an easy out.  Here are two suggestions for what to do if you find yourself in this situation.

Pursue personal purity

If you’re not physically attracted to a godly woman, I don’t want you to feel guilty.  At least not automatically.  Different guys will be attracted to different women, and that can be from the Lord.

At the same time, we are broken and fallen, and we should be suspicious of ourselves.  Is it possible that you’re not attracted to her because you’re taking your cues from the culture’s standard of airbrushed beauty?

If you’re using pornography or giving into fantasy, now is the time to stop.  Repent when you fail, and receive the forgiveness and new power to obey that God loves to give (1 John 1:9).  Confess honestly to a friend, and ask him to help you in your fight (James 5:16).

If we resist pornography and an impure thought life, if we ‘flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart’ (2 Timothy 2:22), we’ll be better able to keep physical beauty and character in their proper balance.  So that we’ll be attracted to the right kind of woman.

Pursue regular friendships with godly women, and hope for more

Again, if you’re not physically attracted to a woman, don’t lead her on.  Don’t spend (much) time with her alone, where she might get the idea you’re singling her out or have interest.

But that’s not necessarily the end of the story.  Chandler gives some more great advice:

Godliness is sexy to godly people. And so, if you get in proximity, and you see the godliness and character of a woman, you begin to take compatibility and godliness and gospel partnership more seriously than just physical attraction…

So, pursue [godly women you’re not physically attracted to] as friends and hope that it grows into more. Want it to grow into more. And I am confident that, over time, character and godliness will win the day.

I can’t promise you that you’ll develop physical attraction for a particular woman, but there’s a good chance you might.  And if you do, you’ll have confidence that it’s a relationship that’s grounded on what really matters and endures: godly character.

For reflection:

  1. What relative importance do you place upon godly character and physical attractiveness when you think about women?  Be honest with yourself.
  2. Are you spending significant alone time with women you’re not attracted to?  Do you need to step back, or change how you’re doing things?
  3. Who are some women you could get to know in group settings, prayerfully hoping God will take one of them in the direction of marriage?

For a great perspective from the woman’s side, check out ‘Should I Date A Guy I Don’t Find Attractive?‘ by Phylicia Masonheimer.

9 Surprising Reasons Your Wife Doesn’t Want To Have Sex With You

“Anyone who believes that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach flunked geography.”

     – Author Robert Byrne

So today we’re going to talk about something really important to men.

Sex.

Man sleeping on couch.

Photo credit: bp6316 via Foter.com / CC BY

In fact, research shows clearly what the quote above suggests indirectly: that sex is the most important part of marriage for about 80-90% of men.  (No doubt many of you wives can confirm this!)

Despite Hollywood’s portrayals, though, sex is also one of our biggest areas of frustration.  For most couples, there’s a difference in sex drive, with guys typically wanting it a lot more than most women.

But you already know that.  This post is about 9 surprising reasons our wives may not be as interested in sex as we’d like them to be.  And, what you can do about it.

By the way, guys, if you’re not married yet, this post is for you, too.  I had no clue about most of these things and had to learn the hard way.  I hurt my wife along the way big-time, too.  You can avoid a lot of that by learning from my mistakes.

If you are married and experiencing some frustration in your sex life, putting some work in on one or more of these areas will help.  And, more importantly, bless your wife, too.

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5 Early Marriage Hurdles & How To Overcome Them

The early days of marriage are awesome.  You get to wake up every day with your best friend, experience physical intimacy and enter into everything you’ve been waiting for.

But it’s not all butterflies and violins.  Many couples go through some really deep waters during their first few years together, trials they were not expecting.  Let’s talk about the hurdles you can expect, and how to handle them so that your marriage thrives.  (Even if you’ve been married for awhile, a refresh never hurts!)

hurdle photo

My wife and I had a really tough time our first few years together.  We had some conflict before the wedding, but afterwards it got worse. Much worse.

We argued about which way to put the toilet paper on the rack.  Whether or not we’d turn inside-out laundry right side out.  How much time I’d spend on my studies.  And… you get the idea.

The hardest part, though, was that we didn’t expect all of that.  Older, battle-tested couples told us that it wouldn’t be easy, but looking back we didn’t really believe them.

5 Early Marriage Hurdles

But you don’t have to be as naive as we were.  Here are some of those early-days-of-marriage hurdles you can anticipate.  Later, I’ll talk about how you can handle them in a way that helps you move forward, together.

Preferences

When you live together, you find out that you do things differently.  These aren’t issues of right or wrong, but little things you’ve taken for granted (like the toilet paper) when you were single can become surprising annoyances when you have to work a bunch of them out with someone else.

How much time you’ll spend together

Almost invariably, one person needs more alone time than the other.  It gets tricky to work out how you’ll spend discretionary time you’ll spend together.

Differences in how you spend money

When you get married and share finances, all of a sudden this area comes into focus. Early on, my wife was much more generous than I was, and we had some conflict around that.  With limited resources, how we spend money reveals our differences in priorities, which can be painful to work through.

Disappointment from experiencing the other person’s flaws

The key word here is ‘experiencing’.  Before you’re married, the other person’s weaknesses and flaws can annoy you, but now there’s no escape!  Also, when you were dating, you were trying to impress each other, and willing to do the kinds of things that make a relationship great. Over time, you discover that this wasn’t sustainable, and, that you’re both more selfish than you realized.

Arguments and conflict

When you put two sinners together, fighting of one kind or another is bound to happen. If you grew up in a home where conflict was avoided or swept under the rug, this can be especially discouraging.

I’m sure you can add to this list, but these are some of the things you can expect after tying the knot.

How To Overcome Your Early-Marriage Hurdles

But what do you do about all the problems?  What difference does following Jesus make?

These are the things that helped my wife and I, and the things we share with the couples we meet with for premarital counseling.

It’s totally normal to have disappointment and conflict

In fact, if you’re not having any a few months into your marriage, you should probably check your pulse.  When two people who are deeply committed to themselves come together, there’s bound to be some eruptions.  Adjusting our expectations helps a lot.

Look for God’s work in the challenges

‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20) applies to your marriage, too.  Instead of wishing whatever’s negative would disappear yesterday, start looking for what God is doing in you and your spouse. For example, when my wife and I were fighting daily, God showed me he was exposing how much I wanted everyone (especially my wife) to like me.

Look for the issues of your hearts

In Mark 7:14-23, Jesus makes it clear that he’s ultimately concerned with our hearts – our innermost selves.  In marriage, we tend to focus on what we can see.  Like an angry comment or ongoing disrespect.  But Jesus says that these things come from a heart that is ‘evil’ (see Mark 7:21, 23).  When we own that and seek God’s forgiveness and healing, then our behavior starts to change.

Pray

We prayed before we got married, but the early challenges we experience there show us how much we really need God.  Let that lead you to ask for God’s help, on your own and together with your spouse.  It does wonders for our trust to see Him come through time and time again.

Listen first

When someone calls us out, our first response is to be defensive.  God tells us to do the opposite: ‘let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger’ (James 1:19). When we look for what’s right in what our spouse is saying, we become more like Christ, they feel loved, and our marriage flourishes.

Seek forgiveness when you blow it

Don’t let an offense blow over… it doesn’t.  Ask God to help you be truly sorry for what you did, then go and confess it as soon as you reasonably can.

Rely on your friends

God makes it clear that we need others to do life well.  Make sure you’re really connected with other couples of a similar age and marital stage.  Let them in on your joys and challenges and invite them to do the same with you.

Find an older, godly couple

Make sure you have an older couple who can encourage you, share some wisdom, and (above all) model for you that God is faithful in the ups-and-downs.  And don’t be afraid to get biblical counseling if you’re stuck.

No magic bullets

The American poet Robert Frost famously said, ‘The only way out is through’.  He was right.  The only way to get out of your early marital struggles is to go through them.  One conflict, one forgiveness, one undeserved act of grace at a time. If you’ll be faithful in the little moments, they add up and your marriage will be transformed.

Remember what marriage is all about

When things get rough, remembering the meaning of marriage is like the North Star.  It keeps you on track and serve as a point of reference when life gets disorienting. Your marriage will make you happy at (many) times, but that’s not mainly what it’s for.  God’s primary purpose for your marriage is to be a living, breathing picture of God’s love for us (Ephesians 5:22-33).

So there you have it: 5 early marriage hurdles, and 10 ways to clear them.  I hope that your early days of marriage are filled with lots of bumps in the road so that you see God at work and become more like Christ, together with your spouse.

Questions for reflection:

  1. What hurdle are you facing most intensely right now?
  2. What would help you begin to overcome it?

5 Ways To Deal With Difficult People

Are you in a difficult relationship?

Actually, the real question is not, ‘Are you in one?’, but rather, ‘How many are you in?’

And, ‘In how many are you the difficult party?’  But I digress…

The truth is, whether it’s a boss, spouse, one of our kids, or an annoying neighbor, difficult relationships will always be part of our everyday lives.  So, we better learn how to deal with them.

Let’s look at 2 Timothy 2:24-26 for some practical, biblical guidance for how to navigate those relationships we’d rather not be in.  (Hat tip to counselor Jeff Stark for sharing this framework with me. If you live near Philly or Wilmington (DE) and need a solid biblical counselor, he’s a great place to start.)

oscar grouch photo

No doubt this is someone you know (and/or you).  Photo by al.star

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Marry Someone Who Will Call You Out In Love

‘Hey, I meant to tell you something.’

It was just a kind, casual comment. But years of experience had taught me that my wife had something important to say. Something I probably didn’t want to hear.

Without warning, I felt like I had two people inside of me.  The first was a ninja, ready to dodge any incoming criticism. (And maybe launch a counter-attack).  The second knew she loves me and had learned her criticism always makes me better.

I didn’t know who was going to win.

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Are You Friendly Distant?

How We Keep People At Arm's Length With A Smile (And How To Overcome It)

On a warm autumn day, for five minutes or so, we talked about our lives.  Our jobs, our kids, our weekends, and (of course) the football game later that day.  It was enjoyable, and we sped off with a smile and quick goodbye.

As I drove home, though, I felt a strange dis-ease about our interaction.  It was friendly and nice.  There was no tension.  And there was some back-and-forth.  It’s not like my friend talked my ear off.

But, our time together still felt empty.  We had held each other at arm’s length with a smile.

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9 Topics You Absolutely Need To Cover In Your Premarital Counseling

So, you’d like to get married.  You’ve heard that premarital counseling is a good idea. (Good call.)

But not all premarital counseling is created equally.  How do you make sure you cover the things that matter most?

happy young couple in field of yellow flowers

Photo by Micah Camara

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Should You Date Someone Outside The Faith?

Getting Ready For Marriage Series #1

‘Well, I’m in a relationship now.’

After over 15 years in ministry to college and (now) graduate students, my wife and I often hear this when we ask how they’re doing.  Our first response is to rejoice, remembering how thrilled we were on our first date.  Very few things in life are more exciting than a relationship that’s heading toward marriage!

At the same time, relationships are anything but easy, so we need to learn from those who have gone before us.  While my wife and I don’t have anything like a perfect marriage, we’ve had a little experience (since 1998) now.  Many older couples have poured into us.  And – somehow – a number of couples have told us our marriage and counsel about relationships has benefited them.  So, as promised, this is the first post in a new, monthly series about important topics to cover as you think about saying ‘I do’.

(To make sure you don’t miss a post, you can sign up right here.)

Before we dive into those key areas, though, we need to pause and ask a more foundational question:

Is this relationship one that you should even be in?

My stepdaughter's socks are channeling Flickr's logo colors Lee Bennett via Compfight

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