Sometimes I even learn from my own blog posts.
Well, actually, we didn’t directly tackle it. But we used it as a springboard to discuss the differences in attraction between men and women.
To summarize, we concluded that for men, physical attraction tends to come first, followed by mental and emotional attraction. For women, on the other hand, real physical attraction (as opposed to the “appreciating good looks the way we appreciate a beautiful painting” type of attraction) tends to come later, after we’re gotten to know him a little better and find him mentally and emotionally attractive as well.
In other words, we’re less inclined to want to be physically intimate with someone until we’ve experienced some emotional attraction and intimacy.
I closed by saying that difference can cause a lot of misunderstandings, hurt and missed opportunities – an understatement, if I’ve ever uttered one.
I’ve been thinking ever since (well, in between thinking about work, family and the new car I need) about this particular little trick that God has apparently played on us. Dating-wise, the ramifications are staggering.
There is so much to figure out in the early stages of dating. “Do I like him?” “Does she like me?” “Do I like him more than he likes me?” “Is this something worth pursuing?” “Can I afford to get my hopes up?”
Since there frequently isn’t a high level of conversational intimacy yet, most of that type of communication happens via non-verbal cues. How does he act? How does she respond? How interested does he seem? What kind of affection is happening?
Of course, it should go without saying (at least when you’re hearing from me) the primary consideration is that any physical affection be chaste, that it be a real expression of genuine affection and not a mere using of the other’s body for pleasure and that it not be at a level that makes it more difficult for either party to maintain that chastity.
Still, chaste affection is fueled to a certain extent by the physical attraction that God gave us, and since he gave it to us in different ways, we need to understand and respect those ways.
New wisdom in old tradition
I got to thinking about the time-honored (i.e. “old”) tradition that says “the woman sets the pace” of physical affection in a relationship. It’s easy to dismiss old practices like this as just vestiges of the old double standard, where women’s and men’s purity (or lack thereof) was viewed through very different lenses.
But I’m starting to see a whole new level of wisdom here.
Women are less likely than men to experience physical attraction before emotional attraction. In other words, when they start to desire some level of physical intimacy with someone, it’s generally because they are also interested in them on an emotional and intellectual level.
That’s the way it is in our world. And so, we assume that’s the way it is in everyone’s world. In other words, we assume that if a guy is physically attracted enough to kiss us, it means he’s attracted to us, our wonderful traits and unique individual-ness. And so, if we are also physically attracted enough to want to kiss him, we assume that both have gone through the intellectual and emotional levels to get to this point, and this relationship is on track to move forward.
Whereas for a guy, he may just be acting on that first level. He hasn’t made any decisions about the mental or emotional. He’s just physically attracted and enjoying the moment and has no clue that she’s reading anything deeper into it.
A lot of women get hurt this way, giving their hearts to “relationships” that never really were.
So yeah, women need to set the pace for several reasons.
First, we shouldn’t feel pressured to express any kind of affection before we sincerely mean it.
Second and more importantly, we protect ourselves and our hearts when we make sure everybody’s on the same page. If we want physical affection to mean something more than just an expression of physical attraction (and everything in our hearts and souls is wired to want just that), we need to make sure that his kisses mean something as well. To do that, we need to wait for signs that the relationship is based on more than a passing infatuation. We need to see intellectual and emotional attraction, not just physical. And, of course, we need to see evidence of respect.
And to reiterate the most important point once again, we’re talking about chaste affection. Nothing I’m saying here should be interpreted to mean anything else. It’s too big a topic to get into here, but if you want to know more, read – well, just about anything I’ve ever written. My book Real Love is a good place to start.