“More and more men are choosing not to go to school, not to get a job, and not to get married. If similar numbers of women were doing the same, someone would raise the alarm, but since men are the ones opting out, the problem has been mostly met with silence.”
So says Dr Helen Smith, author of Men on Strike, in which she argues that men are acting entirely rationally in response to the lack of incentives society offers them to be responsible fathers, husbands and providers. In the video below, she presents six reasons why men are opting out of marriage:
They’ll lose respect
They’ll lose out on sex
They can lose their children and their money
They can lose their space
They can lose their freedom
The single life is better than ever.
Despite these powerful cultural trends, I still believe that a persuasive rational case can be made for marriage (see the early pages of Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage). However, this also demonstrates how a culture built on human reason rather than on biblical principles is always at risk of rapid disintegration.
The main question most people ask in marriage relationships today is, “What can I get out of it?” Especially, “What sex can I get out of it?”
And when the investment of time, money, emotion, and sexual energy does not pay off as expected?
And the search for a better return from someone else. Someone else who’ll fit into my life better. Someone else who won’t take so much of my time and money. Someone else who will fill me rather than drain me.
But if everyone’s trying to get more than they give, no one’s going to be happy and marriages are doomed to premature and painful endings.
In contrast, the Bible says that the most important question in marriage is not, “What can I get?” but “What can I give?”
And, strangely, when each party is focused more on giving than getting, the result is more getting for both parties. In marriage also it really is “more blessed to give than to receive.”
In Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul presents Jesus as the ultimate model of this self-giving love. Because He loved us, He sacrificially gave Himself for us. Because He loved us, He sacrificially submitted to His Father’s will. And what a union such self-giving created! And what a pattern for our marriages!
Paul’s basic argument in this passage is that the more we give of ourselves in the service of our husband or wife, the more union, intimacy, satisfaction, and fulfillment we will discover and enjoy in our marriages. Let the “What can I give?” question drown out and drive out the “What can I get?” question in every situation of life:
When you argue: What can I give up to resolve this?
When you’ve hurt one another: What apology can I give to heal this?
When on vacation: What can I give to make his vacation better?
When in bed: What can I give to enhance his/her enjoyment of physical intimacy?
When budgeting: What can I give up this month to give her more spending money?
When talking: How can I give her more of a listening ear?
When leading: How can I serve her better in my leadership?
When submitting: How can I give him more respect when I disagree with his decisions?
When filling free time: How can I give him most pleasure today?
When offended: How can I give him the benefit of the doubt?
When betrayed: How can I give him grace?
When you have no feelings of love: How can I do loving actions?
When she is not as attractive: How can I love her as the Lord loved the church?
When you see his ugly side: How can I help him become more beautiful?
When he’s depressed: How can I give him encouragement?
When she’s lost sleep: How can I give her rest?
Give, Give, Give
Give your mind, your heart, your eyes, your hands, your body, your money. Give financially, emotionally, physically, intellectually, sexually, and spiritually. Give yourself, your whole self, away. And if we believe the Bible rather than our instincts and our culture, we will be more blessed in that giving than in all the getting we can imagine (Acts 20:35).
The great aim of all this marital giving is that eventually we each give so much of self away, that each has all of the other, and the two become one; we lose so much independence, and become so inter-dependent that we become “one flesh” in every way.
Yesterday I posted What girls should know about guys, the result of a survey of about 50 teenage guys at Youth Camp. Today the girls turn the tables and pass on their tips for the guys.
Sometimes just a hug is better than words.
Girls do not enjoy your jokes about women in the kitchen.
I wish guys would understand that they are marshmallows underneath. It doesn’t matter, because we are too!
Please protect our purity.
When a girl says she is “Fine” take a second to break down that four-letter-word: Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional. When girls say they are “Fine,” chances is they aren’t!
Holding doors open and being the gentleman is completely cool.
When you ask me out, be ready to be the man of a relationship, and make me a top priority.
I wish you knew how much it means when you are chivalrous and do small courteous things for us (x4).
Girls like to feel loved and protected (x3).
We don’t always know what we want.
If you take charge, we will let you.
Take charge, be bold, and just ask us out (or ask for my Dad’s number).
Girls are emotional, they need to cry it out sometimes, even if they don’t like to let you see it, and if they don’t always want to talk about it (especially if it has something to do with you).
Girls want guys to respect them and to listen to them; not mock them.
Girls like attention, but not to the point where they feel watched or uncomfortable.
Girls can tell if a guy is constantly watching them. It makes just being around that guy very uncomfortable.
Girls, whether they want to or not, are continually pressured by the media on how they should look, dress, and act. Standards are set that are unrealistic and hard to meet. So guys, remember this esteem struggle girls have and could really use an honest compliment every now and then.
Make your own sandwich.
Girls hate it when guys are two-faced.
Don’t lie to a girl to avoid arguments.
We don’t like it when you try to show-off.
Don’t flirt with other girls (x3).
Girls want guys to take the initiative and take leadership responsibilities (x6).
Please be the first one to introduce yourself, otherwise you don’t look confident which is unattractive (x3).
There’s more to us than you think. We love to laugh. We come in different shapes and sizes.
Girls eat too. We are not supermodels.
We find it quite attractive when you’re holding a baby.
Some girls purposely ignore the guy they like, even though it sounds totally backwards.
If you like a girl, talk to her. If you’re nervous, just pick a casual setting like playing soccer or walking to the campfire and just chat to her. Trust me, girls are good at talking and will fill in the silences.
If you are interested in us, don’t be scared to come and talk to us. We don’t bite! We could be interested in you as well and are just waiting for you to make the first move.
We’d love if guys knew that they should pay attention to us because then we wouldn’t have to tell them everything we feel.
After spending time to get ready a girl loves to be complimented on the time spent.
If you like a girl, be her friend first; don’t rush things – she has to know and trust you.
We like to talk things out.
A positive thing said by a guy to me can make me smile and feel good for a whole day. A negative thing, however, no matter if they meant to say it or not, can turn me down for days and weeks. Sometimes a guy’s opinion is more important for us than a girl’s opinion.
Sometimes we don’t know or understand our own feelings so we have a hard time revealing/expressing our true feelings. That’s why we appear to speak a “different language.”
Girls like to know they are appreciated.
Just ask what is wrong. Ask to talk about it. When you do that, it is like WOW.
Don’t give us your phone number.
We don’t understand your silence. We aren’t all that scary.
I wish guys knew that it doesn’t matter if they aren’t ripped!
Speak to us!
I wish guys knew that we don’t care about if they are good looking, just as long as they are themselves, not arrogant or false – good looks would be great as well
Apologize. Ask for forgiveness. It means a lot and the majority of girls will forgive and it will clear the air.
Communication is huge. Girls tend to imagine worst-case scenarios.
Doing things like flips off the pier to catch our attention or smoking or drinking is a turn off and not impressive.
I wish guys understood how saddening it is, as a girl, to know that the guy she will marry cannot be entirely loyal in his mind, due to the immodesty and sexual temptation this society is saturated in.
Don’t only tell me you love me, show me you do!
Be fun, humorous, and positive, but know when to be serious and know when not to joke around.
Tell her she is beautiful, treat her like she is the best.
We do not appreciate your jokes about us belonging in the kitchen, and no, I will not make you a sandwich (just kidding).
We have a huge amount of respect for them when they lead in prayer, devotions, etc., even if they are nervous.
Know who you are, know what you believe, and have a vision!
How you treat/respect your mother and sisters tells me a lot about how you will treat your wife.
We girls like to be told we look nice. It’s not awkward, really.
Girls like to be encouraged in trying to dress modestly. It can be hard to go so much against our culture. You can be looked down on sometimes because of it.
I can cook!
Not surprisingly, the girls have more to say than the guys (I’ll catch it for that!). As I read this entertaining mix of humor, wisdom, frustration, grace, and encouragement, all I could think was, “I’m so glad that I’ve just celebrated 21 years of married bliss. Who’d be a teenager all over again?”
At last week’s Youth Camp, I hosted a workshop for the guys on 10 things they should know about girls. Before I got into the topic, I distributed index cards to each guy and asked them to write on it the one thing that they wanted girls to know about guys. “This is your one chance in life to send a legitimate anonymous message to the girls about what you wish they knew about you.”
I then collected the cards and sent them up to my wife, Shona, who read them out to a similar workshop for the girls. So what did the guys want the girls to know about them? Here’s a selection from the cards:
Guys can be nervous and shy too (x4).
We have feelings too (x4).
Guys work hard.
We are not as emotional.
Men prefer women to let them know that they have feelings for them. Many men are shy of that aspect.
Just be straightforward and don’t be confusing.
Don’t lead guys on when you really have no interest in them. Guys can have a hard time figuring out whether you are really interested.
Most guys aren’t as tough as they try to look. They try to look the part but really need women.
My sister is very strict.
My phone number (x4).
Most guys won’t wait around for a girl they like, if she just strings them along.
Guys are human too, they need encouragement.
If our friends don’t talk to us for a week, we don’t think that they hate us.
It’s nice when you tell us how you feel instead of giving us the cold shoulder.
Choosing one from so many wonderful young ladies is hard.
We are programmed to lead.
Make me a sandwich.
We wear the pants (trousers for British readers!)
We’re not as emotional as you might want us to be.
Pretty is great but being able to change tires and do other practical things is great too.
I find more modestly dressed women attractive.
Even though I don’t appear nice, I’m more nice to people I get to know better.
We don’t understand girl’s subtleties, like body language, your words, the way you act. Tell us straight!
Guys tend to be very visual, therefore dress and actions can easily promote lust and sinful thoughts.
Sometimes guys are quiet just because they are interested in you! Just because they ignore you, doesn’t mean they don’t like you.
Guys are vulnerable. They way a girl dresses and speaks holds a lot of power on the way a guy thinks.
Girls look just as good without all the makeup.
To a guy who truly loves a girl, looks are just a small part of the attraction, although we do love the physical part – confusing!
Guys aren’t all the same. Each guy thinks very different from the other.
Most guys lust quickly. You dress a little immodestly and our minds hit the gutter (x5).
Guys love easy-going girls. Take it easy on us and let us do our thing.
No guys like shopping for hours!! Except for sports equipment!
Guys don’t need to spend too much time in the mirror in the morning.
Sometimes we don’t fell like talking That doesn’t mean we don’t love you.
We are practical.
We are logical (generally).
We’re not scary to talk to.
Men like good food.
When you make us a sandwich, please also bring us a drink.
Sometimes guys have a hard time starting conversation. So girls should start conversations too.
“Great, now make me a sandwich!”
Obviously (hopefully) some of these are a bit tongue-in-cheek! Is there anything you’d add?
Tomorrow, I’ll post what the girls wanted the guys to know.
Allison wrote me a week or so ago and asked me if I would “address the issue of being mindful and watchful of single ladies in the church who weren’t expecting to go seeking for an established career. I know there is a contingency of female readers who read your blog and Berkhof’s systematic theology among other things. The paradox of being an older female single in the Reformed camp. :) But the joy of rejoicing in Christ in the struggle.”
Well, I took the wise coward’s way out and asked her to write the post herself! Here it is.
“I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words” (Ps. 17:6-7).
As I am on the brink of turning 40 and still single, many a word have I spoken to the Lord regarding my current status. I am a Reformed Baptist, which generally lends itself to assuming I will get married because that happens to conservative girls like myself. Yet silence still pervades the air regarding that issue in my life.
With moxie, I behest the Lord to present before me just the right Calvinistic fellow who would lead me into marriage. But alas, God has the “gall” to not confirm my request in the speedy manner I was desiring.
Called to something different?
But what if God is calling me to something different? It is easier and more natural to be under the protectorate of men, but to instead slip on heels and work alongside them was not something I expected. My father was a military officer and my mother was a housewife, and I assumed I would follow her footsteps. I am a member of a conservative Baptist church, and it is the norm to be married off and support the husband. Thus it is perplexing to be handed a sword and pushed into a battle I was not expecting.
Many of the female bloggers of the Reformed camp speak mainly of family and marriage issues, and the dutiful posting about being a content single. Instead I look to blogs by men that talk about the workforce in today’s society and other issues my married female counter-parts don’t have to face as often.
So I wanted to encourage the other gals out there, who are flummoxed and bewildered at their current status in life, to still praise God. To “hold fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped,” Psalm 17:6.
Too easily, society quips to “try online dating.” But I caution against that. Do not be too quick to escape out of the mode of singleness with a flash of your credit card. Yes, it has worked for some, but deep down, aren’t you a hopeless romantic wanting true love the old-fashioned way?
I work in a warehouse, not an exciting career, and I gagged when I read this book about single gals who had stellar careers and were at the point of finally buying a house on their own. I can’t afford that. The book actually made me more depressed because I did not measure up to the standard of living that these other ladies possessed.
I too am getting older, not as financially stable as I would like to be, honestly a little fearful of the future. But praise God that I still cry out to the Lord for help and I listen for Him and wait for Him to answer.
To other gals who are feeling discouraged, I can sympathize and gently admonish. Cry, get a hug, spend time with God and read. Sinclair Ferguson is a wonderful author/pastor and his warm, gentle voice is soothing on those hard days. I recommend “Deserted by God” by Ferguson.
Be plugged into the women’s ministry, get a mentor, volunteer, and read rich theology. Books in the theology section aren’t just for guys! Read the biography of A.W. Pink and Adoniram Judson. Instead of checking that online dating site, open that theology book and feel challenged and excited. You will be surprised!
Be a member of your church, volunteer to the highest capacity at your church. Love God’s Word, memorize it! Be known as a lady of God. I can honestly say that I would not want a guy who had spent hours on e-harmony. Instead I want a guy who spent hours volunteering at church.
A rock on the hand or the Word in your heart?
Let God’s Word be the focus on your mind, to draw upon that when the dagger of disgust and frustration scrapes against my neck. Hard times will come, but God’s Word will never forsake me! Have the Word on the tip of your tongue; have it as a goal when chatting over coffee about things to look forward to. Sure having a rock on the hand is nice, but what is even better is to have God’s glorious Word encrusted and embellishing your heart forever!
Proverbs 31:25 reads “Strength and dignity are her clothing and she laughs at the time to come.” I cannot do that on my own accord. But by God’s grace and by the pouring in of the Holy Spirit, that can be accomplished.
Thank you Lord for breaking me and making me reliant on you to be built back up. It is a good thing to be conservative, and Reformed, and educated, and, yes, sophisticated. I did not say homely or dull
It is nice to be able to be at church where men still lead.
Love God, love your church, love God’s Word and love His sovereignty!
Yes, that’s right, forget Prince Charming and look for an ugly sister. (How’s that for a mixed metaphor!)
Time reports the findings of a University of California study:
Lower-class” individuals—i.e., folks without much money or education—demonstrate more compassion and empathy than their wealthy counterparts, according to a series of psychological studies. In social scientist speak, “self-oriented behavior” is more likely to be exhibited by people with good educations, prestigious jobs, high incomes, and overall higher-ranking social status.
This follows hard on the heels of Edinburgh University research into the impact of beauty on ethics. It was published in the journal Economics and Human Biology and concludes “Pretty people are more selfish.” Time explains:
New research suggests that people with symmetrical facial features tend to be selfish and are less likely to cooperate with others. Facial symmetry is believed to have a large hand in how people perceive aesthetic beauty and physical attractiveness…
Attractive people are not only selfish by nature, but also more self-sufficient. They are less likely to ask for help, which kind of debunks that whole damsel-in-distress stereotype.
It all brings to mind the vivid imagery of gold jewels and pigs’ noses, doesn’t it (Proverbs 11:22).
I wonder what would the male equivalent of that proverb would be?
I hasten to add that my own wife blows this research out of the water!
Two things happened to Sandra Bullock this month. First, she won an Academy Award for best actress. Then came the news reports claiming that her husband is an adulterous jerk. So the philosophic question of the day is: Would you take that as a deal? Would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?(David Brooks, The Sandra Bullock Trade, New York Times, 03/29/10)
Let’s take David Brooks’ deal, and re-frame it for pastors: Would you accept a “successful” ministry at the cost of a happy marriage?
On the basis of extensive and rigorous research studies, Brooks argues:
Marital happiness is far more important than anything else in determining personal well-being. If you have a successful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many professional setbacks you endure, you will be reasonably happy. If you have an unsuccessful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many career triumphs you record, you will remain significantly unfulfilled.
Brooks also has a fascinating few paragraphs on the relationship between money and happiness. For example, did you know that:
People aren’t happiest during the years when they are winning the most promotions. Instead, people are happy in their 20’s, dip in middle age and then, on average, hit peak happiness just after retirement at age 65.
But he returns to the relationship between personal relationships and happiness, and concludes:
If the relationship between money and well-being is complicated, the correspondence between personal relationships and happiness is not. The daily activities most associated with happiness are sex, socializing after work and having dinner with others. The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting. According to one study, joining a group that meets even just once a month produces the same happiness gain as doubling your income. According to another, being married produces a psychic gain equivalent to more than $100,000 a year.
The overall impression from this research is that economic and professional success exists on the surface of life, and that they emerge out of interpersonal relationships, which are much deeper and more important.
Back to the deal: Would you accept a “successful” ministry at the cost of a happy marriage?
If someone was to look at your daily schedule, would they know your answer to that question?
What do you do when you hear that a young woman you once knew well, and who had been showing much spiritual promise, has started dating a non-Christian? Here’s a lightly edited email I sent some time ago when faced with that tragic situation (name changed). What would you remove from or add to this email?Dear Rachel,I hope you are well and that the Lord is continuing to bless you in your vocation. I often think of you with much fondness.
I know that I am about to risk losing your friendship and affection. However, Rachel, I must write the next few sentences because there is a far greater risk you are running – the risk of losing your own soul. I know you have not made a profession of faith, but you cannot deny that the Lord has been at work in your life; and I had a good hope of it being a saving work. However, you are in great danger of spoiling and ruining this work by dating an unbeliever. I have seen this pattern repeated again and again and again over the past twenty five years. Christian young woman starts dating unbeliever. Unbeliever starts going to church now and again. Christian young woman persuades herself that the unbeliever is converted or soon will be. They marry (often after pre-marital immorality). The unbeliever gradually loses his “interest” in the Gospel, and stops going to church. The marriage suffers. The Christian young woman backslides. Any children are usually drawn to the unbelieving man and start living ungodly lives. The marriage is miserable and often ends. The young woman’s life is destroyed and so is her witness. That is exactly as we should expect because the Bible forbids the believer from making the choice to be united to an unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14-16). The exceptions to this pattern are extremely rare.
Rachel, your life is so full of potential for happiness, usefulness, and Christian fruitfulness. I plead with you, please, please, please give up this relationship and seek the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy. The Lord can provide a wonderful Christian husband for you, if you are patient and seek His will. And, above all, seek marriage to the best husband of all, the Lord Jesus Christ.With much Christian love,David.PS. She never replied.