What Women Want and What They Say They Want

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Dear Dawson,

I am glad your friend Lauren has agreed to go out with you again. Making it past the third date is a milestone. But you are still getting to know her, and she is getting to know you, and so you are both still navigating what can be a pretty treacherous path. Her dad is not a Christian, and is uninterested in any of that courtship jazz, and so you will have to be the responsible one in all of this.

So here is the challenge. While you are getting to know her, you are also growing in your sanctification. That means that you should be wanting to become the kind of person that the kind of person you would want to marry would want to marry. Shall I say that again, perhaps another way? You want to marry a godly, conscientious, and attractive Christian woman. Suppose you met one. Suppose that Lauren is that woman. What kind of person does she want to marry? Apply the golden rule. She too wants to marry a godly, conscientious, and attractive Christian man. When you meet the person you want, why would that person want you?

Now I know you love the Lord and His Word. You are a godly young man, and you really are conscientious in your walk with Him. So the black box in all of this, the mystery to be solved, is what goes into that word attractive. What makes a man attractive to women? You want to be becoming that while at the same time determining that she is the kind of woman you are interested in. And if she is that, then would she be interested in you? Complicated, right?

But certain aspects of this question are not mysterious. You take showers. You don’t dress like you ran through a clearance rack at Goodwill. You stand up straight, and when you do, you are taller than she is. You have decent table manners. You are not ugly. If you took a survey of 100 people, they would all say you were “that nice-looking kid.” So then, you have passed the pre-qualifying round. But that is all you have done.

So what is the mysterious part?

I am getting to that, but something else needs to be noted first. My topic down below is going to be addressing what women want as contrasted with what they say they want. But women, being members of the human race, are divided into two categories—regenerate and unregenerate. There are women who are walking with God and who honor His Word, and then there are women who refuse to walk with God and who refuse to honor His Word. Men are divided into the same two categories as well.

Because men and women have different natures, this means that their respective obedience or disobedience is going to be working on and with different materials. So you are navigating a sexual world that has four fundamental classes in it, not two. You have to interact with obedient women, disobedient women, obedient men, and disobedient men. The lay of the land can get pretty confusing because the obedient and disobedient from each sex share certain things in common, and they are wildly divergent in other areas. You need to know which is which.

This setup has created an opportunity for beta pastors to get in there and muddy the waters. They can say, for example, that obedient women want a man who is a “servant leader.” But what they mean by this is a man who leads by serving, instead of what they ought to be pointing to, which is the more biblical pattern of serving by leading.

A godly and obedient Christian woman is going to want a man who is capable of standing up to her. This is because she is evaluating the strength of his backbone. If he cannot stand up to her, then she knows, instinctively, that he won’t be able to stand up for her. She knows this in her bones. She wants a masculine guy, one she can look up to and respect. That is the creational norm. That is how God made the world. If God tells Christian women to respect their husbands, and He does (Eph. 5:33), then an intelligent Christian woman is going to want a man who does not make that respect an arduous or difficult task.

But things can get confusing, because the chances are good that if she grew up in evangelical circles, the sexual catechism she learned might be full of references to “marrying your best friend,” “servant leadership,” and “the most potent aphrodisiac is when a man vacuums and does the dishes.” In short, she may have learned all the beta-bromides, and simply think that this is what the Scriptures teach. But it is not. It is simply what a conspiracy of effeminate MDivs have been teaching. At the same time, she really does want to live the way God wants her to live. So it is your job to mess with the categories.

The confusion created by this kind of scenario is, I believe, what tripped up your ex-girl-friend. If she had a basic need for masculine assertiveness, and was not getting that from you, she could easily be tempted by an ungodly form of masculine assertiveness in the person of the jerk she wound up with. If someone is in a desert, dying of thirst, and they come across a pond that has posted signs about possible toxic waste contaminating the water, depending on how thirsty they are, they could easily be tempted, despite the warning signs.

And here is the difference between what a woman wants and what she says she wants. In the final weeks of your relationship, she explicitly told you that what she wanted from you was more sympathy, more sensitivity and more understanding. So you busied yourself with ginning up more sympathy, more sensitivity, and more understanding, all to no avail. So then she breaks up with you, and goes on to team up with a guy with half the sympathy, a quarter of the sensitivity, and no understanding. And there you are, scratching your head.

But she was not deliberately lying to you. She had been lied to, just as you have been lied to. The lies start higher up in the teaching hierarchy. But whatever the cause, there was a decided gap between what she said she wanted and what she actually wanted.

You are going to face the same issues with Lauren. Believe me. Trust me. At some point in the very near future, she is going to test you. By this I do not mean that she will consciously think something like, “We have had our fourth date, so it is time for me to test Dawson.” The chances are pretty good that she will be as unaware of the formal test as you would otherwise be. But if you listen to your uncle, you will not be unaware of it. If you listen to your uncle, you will be prepared.

And her testing you is not nefarious. It is a prudent thing to do. I alluded to this in an earlier letter. If you want her to walk across the frozen lake of your character, she has every right to know if the ice is thicker than a quarter of an inch.

I am going to walk you through a scenario here, and then state what I think that mysterious kappa element is. And that should do us for this round.

You should already know if she has a violent dislike of any particular food, and if you don’t, you should check. She’ll say something like, no, I like all kinds. Then you should say, “great, I’ll make reservations for somewhere nice.” While you are pulling in to the parking lot of that nice Chinese place, she will say something like, “come to think of it,” she really would prefer Mexican. This is your test. This is the moment. You need to say—without the slightest trace of irritation—that you would be happy to do Mexican next time, but that your reservations are for here. This tells her two things. First, it tells her that you are not a pushover, and it also tells her that there will be a “next time.” And you hop out of the car, and open her door for her.

I should mention in passing here that I know of a number of married men who, because they failed at this point, can only stand up to their wives by getting into sin. They get angry, or sullen, or go silent, or they flop in some other way. That is the worst. And the way they got themselves into that mess is by listening to the devil, abdicating themselves into a bad jam corner in the first place, and then they ask the devil to get them out of it. But you can’t sin your way out of a situation that you sinned your way into. If you sin your way into a bad situation by abdication, then surliness and bad grace won’t get you out.

So cheerful Chinese it is then. You will be tempted to think that you don’t care whether or not you have Mexican or Chinese. What counts is spending time with her. Of course you don’t care. She doesn’t care either. What she actually cares about (whether consciously or not) is finding a guy who isn’t pliable. The issue isn’t the food. Of course she wants a guy who is amiable, but that is not the same thing as pliable. So don’t be a pliable goober.

And this brings us to the mysterious element I have been alluding to. What makes a man attractive to a woman is the same thing that makes him attractive to women generally. You are not meeting one another as the only two people on a desert island. This is all happening in a social setting. There are other girls. There are other guys. People are watching. And when Lauren discovers that you have the horse power to lead her, she realizes that you would also have the horse power to lead other women too. And she begins to suspect that the others have probably noticed that fact. You have become, to use the parlance, “a catch.”

This is a reality that believers and unbelievers respond to differently. In the world of pagans, there are flirtation games, attempts to provoke jealousies, overt comparisons, and such like, and I am not talking about playing any of those sexual head games.

What I am saying is simpler than that. You have a circle of acquaintances and friends. It would be lawful for you to ask any number of girls out. You should comport yourself in such a way as that the average women in your circle would be interested in accepting the offer if you were to ask her out. And as a Christian, you don’t do this by flirting with all of them. Rather, you do it by standing up straight, walking into a room with confidence, tackling hard things, working with your hands, knowing your own mind, and getting Lauren to try the almond chicken.

Your uncle,