A while back, I blogged about a series of 10 posts by a lady Christian apologist about her advice for young women on how to choose a husband. You can find the links to the 10 posts on her blog. Recently, she updated part 7 of the series (about relationship skills). So, I decided to share some advice with women about how I engineer situations like the ones she is looking for.
First, let’s see her updated post:
In the pathetically superficial age in which we live, women tend to place an inappropriately high value on qualities like height, muscles, and a handsome face, but these characteristics absolutely will not sustain a marriage.
[…]The far more important qualities for sustaining a healthy and thriving marriage for the long haul are relationship skills. Can he carry a conversation? Is he thoughtful and interesting? Does he share his thoughts? Does he ask open-ended questions and listen to the answer? When he is asked open-ended questions, does he have something to say?
You can’t possibly know the answer to these questions if you spend your dating relationship in front of a screen, at sporting events, or making out on a couch. It is absolutely critical to spend the relatively short season of dating doing the harder work of trying to figure out whether this person is someone you can enjoy being with for the rest of the your life, even when he loses his hair, his figure, and even his teeth!
The concern she has – and she has seen this with her competent Christian friends – is that women will mistake passive validation of their communication as proof of a man’s relationship skills.
… I’ve heard from woman after woman who enjoyed having the mic while dating, and then realized a few years (or months) into marriage that she had committed to spending the rest of her life with a passive man who had no plan for engineering interactions that develop her personally and help her to achieve goals. This, my friends, is a sure way to find yourself in one of the loneliest situations imaginable…for life!
So, today, I wanted to talk about some different things that I do to engineer “interactions that develop her personally and help her to achieve goals”.
1. Discussions about movies
So, the first one is movies. I don’t think it’s a good idea to go to the theater for movies, because you can’t talk, and they don’t let you stop the film to talk. I have a list of a few movies I like in my About WK page, and I talked about my favorite movie of all time in my interview with Apologetics 315.
Recently, I watched a movie called “A Patch of Blue” with a woman I’m friends with. It’s a movie featuring Sidney Poitier, who is a black actor. He befriends a blind white woman who is growing up fatherless in an abusive environment. I chose this movie because I felt we would each have a lot to say about it, and it would help us to work together. My female friend had a lot to say about the female character, who grew up in a bad environment with lots of yelling. And I had a lot to say about the male character, contrasting his mentoring of her with the qualities that women seem to prefer in men today.
I think it’s very easy for a woman to ask a man what his favorite movies are, and why. If a man’s favorite movies are just entertaining movies, that’s a good sign that the woman needs to move on.
2. Discussions about books
My “What I am Reading” page contains a lot of books that I am reading. I try to read a good mix of Christian apologetics, economics, social issues and military history. I try to read only non-fiction books, because fiction is just more useless entertainment that doesn’t build character.
If you’re a woman considering a man for marriage, you should ask a man which book he has read that formed his views on male / female roles and the marriage enterprise. Ask him: 1) what’s your plan for marriage and parenting, and 2) why me? what is it about me in particular that makes you think I would be good for your plan, and 3) what sorts of activities are we going to do that build me up, so that I am equipped to help you with your plan? It’s even better if he can explain how trends in popular culture, laws and policies are affecting his plans for his marriage and children.
When I was reading two famous books about American submarine captains Dudley “Mush” Morton and Richard “Dick” O’Kane, I learned that these men made good decisions because when they got back to Pearl Harbor from a war patrol, they requested all the after action reports of all the other submarine commanders. A good man makes good decisions because he can read the culture. And that only comes from learning from the experiences of others.
3. Co-operative problem solving
If a man has a serious marriage plan, then it’s likely that you’re not going to be the perfect plug and play fit for it. It’s likely that he will need to build you up a bit. Men are actually pretty good at this in the video game world – we are always picking battles to fight, and leveling up our characters to face even bigger challenges. Your job as a woman is to find out whether he has any plan to level you up. In fact, dating is not about fun at all – it’s about a man explaining his plan to you, demonstrating his ability to make you better, and to help you achieve more than you could on your own. Communication is a big part of this leading process.
Co-operative problem solving will show you whether a man is good at communicating with you to involve you in solving problems. I got a female friend of mine to help me build a desk and some exercise equipment. She was able to observe how I work together with her, and how I lead. She could see I communicated, and how I responded to her communication. And she could observe my tone and responses to successes and failures. Co-operative online games are great for practicing communication. You can learn a lot about a person’s relationship skills (and willingness to learn) by playing “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes“.
4. Interview questions
Women should look for men who ask them questions to evaluate them for the tasks he has in mind for them. I have a list of 10 questions I ask to see if a woman even understands what marriage is about. Then I have another list of 10 questions to check if a woman is suitable for my marriage plan in particular.
Most women I show these questions to object to them. They don’t like the idea that women are being judged by a man, and possibly excluded by a man. Many women see men as accessories, and they think that handbags shouldn’t judge. They want a man who spends money to entertain them, makes their friends envious, makes them feel good, etc. They don’t want a man who will impose structure on them, and give them work to do to achieve specific marriage goals. Women with STEM degrees and private sector jobs seem to have this problem less than other women, in my experience.
When asked what they are bringing to the table, many women answer “I am the table”, which is just a way of saying “I am already fully equipped for marriage to any man, because I have a vagina. My job is to be cute, fun, and give positive vibes”. Men pick up on this, and they stop asking women questions. A man who asks questions has relationship skills.
So, the author of the post I linked to is concerned that women will be tricked into mistaking passive validation for actual relationships skills. Women really need to stop going along with their peers and culture, and think for themselves about what they are looking for in a long-term relationship. Men are not clowns. Relationships are not entertainment. What fulfills a woman in the long run is feeling that she is part of a unit that achieves goals, that the people she has relationships with value her contributions, and that the goals she is achieving are meaningful. Men need to evaluated for their ability to lead well. Communication is a huge part of leadership.
A woman cannot easily convince a non-communicative man to change into a communicative man. That’s why she has to look past what her peers and culture says about which man is best, and choose what is best for her. Start by asking the man what movies and books formed his views on important topics. Then ask him what co-operative activities you can do together to solve a problem.