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We Want to Be Pursued!
Men, did you know you hold in your power the key to solving every single woman’s No. 1 frustration?
You don’t have to be among Christian single women very long to hear one common refrain: “We want to be pursued”—followed close on the heels by “Why won’t the guys ask us out?” As I sifted through the survey data for my book, Where Have All the Good Men Gone?, and started tallying responses by women, this one topic took up so much space, literally, that it demanded a leading position in the book.
Today many would argue that women enjoy the right, even the freedom, to pursue men if they choose without ruffling any societal feathers. A woman can be the first one to call a guy she’s just met. She can flirt with him via email. She can even ask him out on a date. And all the secular women’s magazines will applaud her for her gutsy behavior. Yet almost every woman surveyed for this book expressed feelings that are polar-opposite to this bold stance: They want to be pursued, or “wooed and won” as an earlier generation called it.
I once read a magazine article with the opener: “How did a generation of women grow up wanting to marry Edward Rochester?” The protagonist of Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre is dark, brooding, intelligent, quick-witted yet cynical. Still, for all his negative qualities (Jane herself describes him as “not handsome”) Rochester manages to captivate not only Jane but thousands of female readers who have read the novel during the nearly two centuries since Bronte penned it. The same could be said for Jane Austen’s elusive Mr. Darcy. Brooding, arrogant, disagreeable… Yet one key attribute sets both men apart—and, I suspect, keeps the women who read about them yearning to encounter just such a man in real life: Deep inside, both Darcy and Rochester are deeply passionate souls, and in the course of their respective stories, they step up to the plate and let their romantic feelings for the girl be known. They arrive at a point in time where the ardor of their affections forces them to “declare themselves” to the girl or woman of their choosing. In short, they pursue.
There’s something very attractive about being pursued with intent. In fact, most women in my survey cited this as a feature that might entice them to date someone. One woman, aged 30-34, wrote in her survey response, “Before my present boyfriend, I had a series of 'confusing friendships' in which I spent a lot of time with certain guys and there seemed to be mutual interest (there was on my part and I thought I recognized enough 'signals' from his end to hope it was) that ended up going nowhere. During these friendships, these guys and I would call each other, flirt, talk on the phone, seek each other out in social settings, spend one on one time together, and even be seen talking excessively at parties or other group gatherings to the point where people commented on it and thought we might be 'hanging out.'”
She continues: “I think a big part of what attracted me to my current boyfriend is that he actually had the guts to ask me on a date, to make his interest known and to pursue me. After over five years in a church young adult group, he's one of the only ones who have actually asked me out. … I think guys need to buck up and ask girls out and not just rely on maybe seeing a girl at some church group event or whatever. ...”
Pursuit—ah, that’s it really, when it all boils down to the essence. As I scanned the responses from real women in my survey, I heard a repeated longing to be pursued, to be wooed, to be won, in the old-fashioned sense of the word. My own mother’s generation had another phrase for this courtship dance: “I chased him till he caught me.” Is there a hint of coy flirtation in that phrase? You bet. Is there perhaps an implicit understanding that women have an active role to play in the chasing-and-catching dance? Absolutely. But at its core this archaic statement speaks of what I simply call the longing.
What is it that feeds this longing within women? The source is as ancient as the dawn of time, and the setting is the Garden of Eden. Listen to God’s own words in Genesis:
To the woman [God] said:
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband…”
For me, this spells out—and makes sense of—the deep emotional need within woman that longs for the love of a man, particularly the love of one special man. In essence, woman is afflicted with this desire. Indeed, most women prefer the love of one good man over the attentions of many men.
The world may have moved on, become hip and high-tech and politically correct, but the old-fashioned values persist in our very makeup. We can’t get away from who we are as women—created with a longing that goes deep. Some men may enjoy the season of “sowing their wild oats” and jockeying from one woman to the next, but it’s rare to find a woman who actually prefers multiple men to one good one. So it’s all the more frustrating when we see men we like, send signals that we’re interested (eye contact, lively conversation, hair-flipping, flirting, etc.), and they do nothing. The frustration can even send well-meaning and sincerely searching Christian women to other wading pools beyond the one marked “Christian” only.
All this talk about longing to be pursued begs the question: What does pursuit look like in the modern-day world, the real world we inhabit, not the one Jane Austen lived in?