I always recommend trying to be friends first when looking for a potential marriage partner. It worked great for my wife Judy and I. We were friends for seven months, then best friends for ten, then we got serious and romantic and knew we would get married.
All of that supported getting to know each other as people. I knew Judy was a quality person who loved God, and had all the right priorities, and that is what is far more attractive (or should be) than looks, personality, how much money someone has, common interests and all that other usual stuff.
Of course, Judy happens to be a very lovely, beautiful woman as well, so I didn’t have to give that up. It’s not a non-factor. We usually need to be physically attracted to someone, to marry them. And it’s a protection in this wild world of lust and obsession with sex (that we all have to deal with on a daily basis). But it’s always better to get to know the opposite gender before the haze and bubble and often, irrationality of romantic love sets in, because “love is blind,” etc.
If the solid friendship / mutual respect aspects are taken care of before romantic love starts, then you don’t have to worry about being misled or fooled, and the anxiety of possible rejection is also far less, leading to extraordinary security, contentment, and happiness. Oftentimes, the worry about rejection and “high risks” can — sadly — sabotage an otherwise solid relationship.
It’s worked for us for 35 years and counting. We’re as happy as we’ve ever been.
Whether flirting occurs or not, there are always nonverbal signals sent to indicate an interest in another person. It could be as simple as smiling a lot, listening a lot, gravitating to a person in a room full of people, asking someone a lot of questions, to get to know them better, laughing louder at someone’s jokes, visible nervousness . . .
Bottom line: we have to get to know the whole person, and these frivolous things (though harmless if not manipulative) don’t help us do that.
Of course, for the most part, attraction simply sets in: almost involuntarily, and then it’s off to the dog races of romantic love and all that goes with it (and, heaven help us all, if premarital sex results: then we have the cart before the horse and greatly jeopardize the long term success of the relationship).
I realize that, but for some reason that didn’t happen with me and Judy. I had been attracted quickly to girls in the past, like just about every other guy has. I’m no different. I had this notion in my head of what my “type” was (mostly having to do with outward personality aspects), and Judy didn’t fit it.
But I have discovered that she actually is my type. I just didn’t know it yet when we met, or even for some time after that. I knew she was a great person and friend, but wasn’t thinking in terms of “potential marriage partner” for almost a year-and-a-half. Looking back, I think I must have been blind, but that’s how God wanted it all in His providence, given both our past histories.
We can still, in any event, cultivate friendships with the opposite sex, and then from that may develop more serious relationships leading to marriage. If they do, they are on a lot more solid ground, I think, on many levels. It’s good to know a person as a person first, rather than as merely a “man” or “woman.” We’re all human first (things we have in common) and a gender next, in the scheme of things. Loving God (or not) or being morally traditional or loyal (or not) or whatever, are traits that are present or not present in all human beings, irregardless of gender.
This ties into the aspect of viewing a woman as a human being first, rather than as a mere sexual object or “conquest.” That’s not love; it’s lust and selfishness and manipulation of another person for one’s own selfish ends.
All kinds of things can happen. It is possible to start as “buddies” or friends and to move onto a serious romantic / marriage relationship. It sort of blossoms or develops over time. It is a fact of my own experience, and of many others. And I think these marriages are mostly successful.
At present, it seems to happen in only a small number of cases, proportionately, but perhaps it is worth thinking about more, as we see the wreckage of the current shallow dating approach / cohabitation / fornication scenario all around us. We can’t do any worse than the way we’ve been mostly doing it: so try something new!
Isn’t it common sense? What is more wise and intelligent (as a generalization) and likely to succeed?:
1) Being starry-eyed and smitten instantly and seeing mostly outward physical and personality attributes (and often becoming too physical before marriage) and then seeing everything through that lens.
2) Getting to truly know a person and all the most important things about them, and allowing the possibility of that turning into romantic love?
I know all about attraction, believe me. I’m not advocating some pollyannish, unreal thing. I’m just saying: don’t rule it out, and be aware that putting attraction (rather than friendship and more basic relationship-building) first in the scheme of things has many dangers and often, ill results.
Nor, I might add, was this the way that most cultures throughout history dealt with partner selection. Our modern “dating” approach is basically only a child of the 20th century, if not mid-century. We take these things as given and gospel truths when they are not at all.
It’s just one method, and a rather unsuccessful one, judging by the sky-high rates of divorce and unhappy marriages.
(originally 6-10-13 on Facebook)