On The Junia Project, we talk a lot about the egalitarianism/complementarianism debate in various parts of life – Church, marriage, community, family – but there is another part of life that we haven’t really addressed… dating.
So on this Valentines Day, as the only single member of The Junia Project admin team, I want to write a little bit about egalitarian dating.
Now, on one hand I feel like I shouldn’t be the one writing this – I mean, I don’t date a whole lot, and I am far from having anything “figured out” in that arena. But on the other hand, I do have some experience with the egalitarian/complementarian debate in romantic relationships.
YOU SEE IT ALL STARTED WHEN I FELL IN LOVE…
He was sweet and kind. He made me laugh and he loved Jesus. We had a lot in common, including growing up in Southern California and coming from large Christian families. We met the second semester of our junior year of college, and we fell in love hard. We had talked about the whole “egalitarian thing” on our second date and he had assured me throughout our relationship that we could make whatever life together that we wanted. We ended up dating for almost three years before I learned his honest thoughts about gender roles.
When it came up, he said he thought I wasn’t “honoring Christian doctrine” in my beliefs about women in the Church and in marriage. He said that he wanted to make sure that when we were married, he would lead as the head of the family. This led to a series of very difficult, tear-filled talks, and eventually God gave me the strength and peace to walk away. It wasn’t because he was a bad person or anything. It was because, well, as I said in a previous post:
“Because he didn’t know what he was asking of me
Because he wanted something from me that he wouldn’t give in return”
IT WOULD BE ALMOST TWO YEARS BEFORE I COULD BRING MYSELF TO TRY DATING AGAIN.
And that’s where I find myself now: in my mid-twenties, navigating this crazy dating world. But that relationship, and topic of our breakup, had a big impact on me. Since then, all sorts of new thoughts have entered my mind about dating.
I mean, think about it:
In theory, all you have to do is find someone who you can love and who can love you back.
But if you’re a Christian you also have to find someone who loves Jesus and the Church.
And, if you are an egalitarian Christian, you also have to find someone who truly thinks of you as an equal and can live that out in everyday ways.
And that makes dating a little more complicated.
Instead of asking myself the normal questions that one asks when going on a date (Will we ‘click’? What if he doesn’t think I’m funny? Does this necklace go with this shirt?), now all sorts of new questions have entered my mind about dating (Does it mean something bad if he holds the door for me? Will he be offended if I offer to pay my half of the check?).
These may seem like trivial things, but what I didn’t realize in my previous relationship is that, even though I didn’t read anything into these cultural dating norms, those actions actually meant something deeper to the guy. In a way, they were symbolic of his underlying mindset that men lead and women follow, that men provide and women are provided for.
But I want any relationship I am in to be based on mutual servanthood, not hierarchy.
I bring all this up because I know many others are feeling the same way. I have talked to college students and 20 somethings who find themselves in dating relationships with guys who do not value their career ambitions or ministry callings. It seems like most Christian women I talk to these days have either never thought to talk to their boyfriends about gender roles (assuming they are on the same page), or are too far into a relationship to bring it up, for fear of losing something special. It’s a hard place to be in.
Which brings me back to those questions that float around in my mind while on a date…
THE EGALITARIAN DATING QUESTIONS
Now, this is not a “dating how to” blog post. Instead, I want to pose the very questions I have been thinking about to you, the wonderful Junia Project readers. Hopefully we can have a discussion that is helpful for all those egalitarian singles out there. So, if you’re up for it, here are my top 3 questions about egalitarian dating:
#1 Who Pays for the Meal?
This question is tricky. My friends and I come back around to this question quite a bit. In an equal partnership, how do we deal with issues of money? Should the person who initiates the date buy the meal? Should couples make a rule out of splitting the bill? What if one person makes a lot more money than the other person? Should that person pay more often?
The traditional dating norm is for the man to pay for the meal, but that tradition goes all the way back to a time when women weren’t allowed to hold a job in the market place and men provided out of necessity. Should we continue this tradition simply because it’s seen as “normal”? Or should egalitarians date differently?
I feel like taking turns is a good option, as it promotes the idea that both people are responsible for caring for each other, and that money doesn’t fall into a gendered category of responsibility.
What do you think?
#2 Who Opens the Door?
I always thought that opening doors for people was simply a nice thing to do. I didn’t realize that some people really have a problem with women opening doors for men until I dated my ex-boyfriend. It is seen as his role, it’s what he is supposed to do. What’s an egalitarian to do with that?
Do egalitarians take turns opening doors for each other? Is it too culturally weird for a woman to open her man’s door? Should we even be worried about it?
Personally, I hate that we have to think about who opens the door at all. I am not offended when someone opens a door for me, but I did learn in my last relationship that intention matters. So it makes me wonder about the guy: Why is he opening the door? Why is he always the one to drive? Is it to be kind, or is it to show you that he is “the man”? Does he need to have that in order to feed his ego? It also makes me check myself: Do I need him to do that in order to feel feminine? If so, that might point to an underlying insecurity or issue in us; Perhaps we are looking for our identity in the wrong places.
I have also known some egalitarian men who open doors for women as a sign of respect and a sort of apology for the things women have to go through in a patriarchal society. In this sense, it is an act of service, and they don’t get offended when I open doors for them as well. Is that too one-sided, or are they on to something?
#3 When Should You Have the “Gender Roles” Talk?
This seems to be the big question. Speaking from my experience, I know that it is extremely hard to have this conversation when you are a few years in and deeply in love. However, I did have the conversation at the beginning of the relationship, only to have the guy take it back in the end. What does this mean for all of us who are dating today? Should we have the talk up front or throughout the relationship?
If you do decide to bring it up, how should you do it? Do you skirt around the question (So, what kind of a church do you go to)? Do you ask them straight out (So, do you expect me to stay home raising kids for the rest of my life)? Do you bring it up on the first sight of possible patriarchy (I noticed you quoted John Piper earlier…What do you think about his views of gender roles)?
How do you handle that conversation?
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
These questions are interesting to consider. They bring up issues of chivalry and tradition. While I do not get upset or offended when someone adheres to cultural dating norms, I often wonder if I should. I mean, many of these dating norms stem from patriarchal cultural trends. If egalitarians adhere to them are we contradicting our beliefs? Should egalitarian dating look different than complementarian dating? Let me know your thoughts by commenting below. Oh, and Happy Valentines Day!
Graphic Credit: Kate Hickman
I came to this post late!, and also married late, but I loved the courtesy of open doors and paying for each other etc, we have a marriage where actions are quite romantically old fashioned, but I do all the paperwork and handle our business and private finances. We pool our money, I have worked part time for years, spent time in our business and we have raised two sons who treat women very well. I had a lot more money when we met and married and I gave him the lot because sharing is what we do. Seeing I am tiny and doors are a real problem, I look for men to open doors, and funnily enough, if I stand away a little and wait, it never fails, and I always say thankyou. A gentleman is not necessarily a dominator. We have round table discussions with all our family- including- a girl friend, and I feel totally free to be me. Frankly, if it hadn’t happened naturally, I would have slowly taken that ground and used my wits to work for it. I saw my mother dominated by an anxious man, and that wasn’t for me. I wanted this man I met when I was 30 and believe that connection came from God, and I was prepared to work for what I saw in him, and give and take as necessary. Yu might picture a 4’11” woman jumping up and down, literally! In frustration that she couldn’t make her self heard, and a 6′ 2″ husband trying not to
react to it, still angry, but trying not to laugh! I got my point across, amd we settled down after a tough business time. We laugh a lot, behave like kids, get frustrated, disagree, agree, amd rely on each other over everything. We talk all the time, our lives are totally intertwined, but also we are complete people who are happy to be alone, go place alone and do our own thing, amd all of this with our adult sons who are leaving home soon. this seems a nutty post, but I’m trying to,say, give and take, unless he’s a tyrant, works. We’ve been married nearly 30 years, it seems like brand new and for ever all at once!
Kate, why don’t we discuss this further over dinner?
It’s pretty weird for a guy seeking an egalitarian dating relationship, especially in an explicitly christian institution. But, it’s definitely a non-budging point for me.
But, I still pay for dinner. Not because I want to adhere to tradition – I just hate dealing with splitting tabs. You can pay me back later. Or I’ll pay you back.
That makes sense and I think you have a good handle on what you’re looking for. I’d say maybe just be willing to let her pay if she wants to 🙂
Great topic, thanks. Door opening – My Husband has done this for 33 years. Once I asked him why he is so set on this, he replied: It is something a Guy wants to do for his favourite Girl.
First off, great post! I agree with everything you said.
Another question I was wondering about in egalitarian relationships is should the man be required to be the initiator? In complementarian and secular relationships that’s certainly the norm and often viewed as the requirement. What is your view on whether or not the man should be required to do the asking in egalitarian relationships?
Great question Evan!
I would say that the man doesn’t have to be the initiator. I don’t see a reason for needing one gender to initiate and another to respond 🙂
Thanks for the response. I definitely agree that it shouldn’t matter, especially because of the effect it has on outgoing women and shy men. I’ve heard many try claiming that the man pursuing the woman is biblical, but that is completely false, especially considering that our modern dating system didn’t even exist when the bible was written, and has only existed for about the past 100 years.
Just want to add to this: in my sister’s and her husband’s relationship, my sister was the initiator. She was the more confident, outgoing, extraverted one, and he was the shy, soft-spoken, introverted one. My sister being the initiator worked for them and still works. Honestly it doesn’t matter who does it, in my opinion. When we start thinking it matters then we start thinking about traditional gender roles, which is what we want to avoid.
Loved this Kate. My daughter is teaching our youth on dating (the older African generation does not believe in dating; the youth is struggling). This will help her deal with some of their issues.
One thing that bothers me is the ‘public assistance’ some well intentioned men insist on giving me when I need to handle stairs. I am not old, wear flat shoes, and can climb stairs faster than some of them. The point is I get no such help if the stairs are out of the public eye. Trying to stop the ‘show’.
I am grateful my husband has never been like this – that is probably why I married him. We help each other up and down stairs, open doors, carry parcels if and when needed. It is simpler, more loving and less patronizing.
Oh my goodness, Hi CBE South Africa!! How fun that you stopped by! I am so glad you found the post helpful. That sounds like a hard situation for the youth to be in indeed. Good job to your daughter for taking that responsibility on.
I too hate to be patronized, so I can only imagine how being helped up and down stairs feels in those situations. I love that your husband is different. I think action say a lot about a person and it sounds like you found a good one 🙂
I really enjoyed reading this post and sat down with Ben to talk about how we went about our dating experience. Before answering your specific questions, I do want to say that when Ben and I first started dating he was (and may still be) much more of a feminist and egalitarian than I was. Our relationship did not begin with the purpose of being clearly egalitarian, though it certainly had those undertones and evolved over time. That being said, I don’t think I can declare any hard and fast rules for making a relationship egalitarian – Ben and I both hold each other as equals, as image bearers of the living God, redeemed by Christ and the dynamics of our relationship are based more on what works for us as a couple than trying to emulate a specific egalitarian model.
As for your questions….
1. Ben paid for our first date, though I offered and reached for my wallet. Ben noted that he wanted to establish that our first date was, in fact, a date by adhering to the established social norm of paying for the date. From my perspective, this established both interest and intention – I can’t tell you how many coffee/taqueria outings I went on in college that were completely vague. I even had a guy ask me to be his girlfriend in a way that was so non-specific that I didn’t realize until two weeks later that we were “official”. I appreciated Ben’s clarity and openness, and it set the tone for the rest of our relationship. Ben also paid for the second date, because he was the one who asked. After that date he casually commented, “So you get to plan the next one.” This was great, because it communicated to me that he was still interested, and that I was not expected to be a passive party in our dating relationship. Following that third date I think we split the cost of most things, or took turns paying.
We also currently have a joint checking account and jointly share credit cards. Throughout our 2 1/2 years of marriage we each have had respective periods of unemployment, underemployment, or financial gain – and no matter what our financial state, our money has always been that – ours. We make major purchases together and keep each other accountable to being wise with our resources.
2. My parents taught us “Door Etiquette” – meaning that whoever gets to a door first holds it open for everyone behind them. I am pretty sure that Ben opened the door for me on dates, though it was a gesture of kindness and respect rather than a means of establishing gender roles. Also, when he opens the car door for me I lean over and open the other door for him – because it’s the kind thing to do.
3. Ben and I never had a specific conversation about gender roles and being egalitarian, though those themes were discussed as we talked about our relationship. We did spend a lot of time talking about the purpose of marriage, what constitutes grounds for divorce, communication, finances, conflict resolution, kids, family dynamics, or respective baggage, sexpectations, etc. Those conversations established a foundation of respect and trust, both of which have been key elements in having a relationship that is egalitarian.
I remember that we did get into an argument about who would get to stay home with our kids – we both wanted, and still want, to be stay-at-home parents, though this is not really a financially viable option. Ben currently works full time and I have a part-time job with benefits. He works in education and I am a social worker, so it would be very difficult for one of us to be the sole source of income for the family. Now that we are parents, the goal has shifted to finding jobs that allow us each the flexibility to be home as much as possible.
On another note, because I work part time, the majority of traditional house keeping tasks fall into my hands – because I have the time to do cooking and cleaning. When those tasks are done while Ben is at work it allows us more quality time together. The rationale for who does what around the house has always been based on who has time and the ability, and never based on sex.
Thanks so much for commenting! Wow, what a wonderful story you and Ben have. I am so encouraged by you two. I didn’t realize that you two functioned so egalitarian from the beginning. It gives me hope that there might be that for me int he future 🙂 You two are such an encouragement in so many ways. I really appreciate you commenting and giving us all something to look up to and have as a healthy and whole example 🙂
I’ve been married a long time, too, but I think it’s important to realize that people aren’t always 100% aware of what they “think.” My husband and I have always had a practically egalitarian marriage, but there were many years when we would have affirmed What would now be called complementarian views. What would have been a a better indicator of how things were to go would have been his relationship with his mother, her relationship with her husband, and his general attitude toward ideology. I would certainly talk about these things if I were dating today, but I’d go on more than what someone says. Today I’m a pastor, and my husband is very gifted at being the pastor’s spouse, sucrh we would never have imagined happening 35 years ago!
I actually think there are quite a lot of marriages where the people identify as complementarian but function as egalitarian. When “egalitarian” is defined as two equals functioning in harmony and unity without one partner having authority or power over the other, with mutual submission,” many people who identify as complementarian would actually agree that they are egalitarian if they were comfortable with the term. I’m not sure exactly what the negative connotations of “egalitarian” are that put people off, to be honest.
I think you’re right about the way to evaluate whether someone is egalitarian or comp. That would have been true for me in my past relationship anyways. What an amazing journey the Lord has brought you two on! That is so encouraging!
I’ve been married a long time so I’m not sure if I can answer all of those questions with integrity as I’m not challenged on them personally… except for the door one. Any reasonable person will hold the door open for the other person to go through. It’s just common good manners to be aware of the other person. It seems to me that whoever gets to the door first should open it for the other one! Chuckle.. I may be a bit simplistic but it’s not rocket science … however, I’m sure Piper would disagree with me! It’s probably a consequence of my … lack of biblical order.
AND I had a lovely lunch today in Sydney with your mum and Marg Mowczko … we thought of you and wished you were there.
haha consequence of your lack of biblical order! haha Bev, you are too funny. I am so glad (and jealous) that you three got to meet up! I know my mom has been looking forward to that for a long time!
Thank you for your post and I really appreciated the depth and thought that you put into this article. I also appreciated how fair and amicable you were towards the other position. I’m a first time visitor to Junia and a complementarian in NYC, which is a very tough place to be a complementarian lol. I agree with you that these are important questions that people on both sides of the debate must wrestle through. I constantly ask my wife, do you feel like my equal? Do you feel like in God’s eyes we are both equally loved and accepted? I find that many people who hold a complementarian position have often miscommunicated the view, or have behaved as if women are some how less than men. That is a disgrace and an injustice to women and to the position itself. I think that complementarianism has to be deeper than who makes the most money, and who pays for the meals. If that is what complementarian’s mean by their position, then we have a shallow position indeed. Just for the record my wife has two degrees and a license and she makes double what I make, but we view our marriage from the lens of the gospel, which means that we are mutual servants and play different but equal roles in the relationship. In other words, we view our marriage as gospel reenactment based off of Ephesians 5, we both get to play a role that Jesus played in His life and ministry. Thank you again Kate for your care and concern for people on both sides of this issue.
Honestly, it sounds like you identify as “complementarian,” but in reality your marriage functions as an “egalitarian” one. It doesn’t sound like there is really a power differential between the two of you. Unless you, as the husband, “pull rank” on your wife, you really are equals. Many (most that I know) define “complementarianism” as the husband having authority over his wife and the God-ordained responsibility to rule over her. I’m glad you have a much more bibilical view.
Hi Khart1226, Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you found The Junia Project! It sounds from your comment that you really love your wife, and that is wonderful. I agree with Robyn in the sense that it seems from your comment that your marriage functions as egalitarian. Her leading from her gifting (her skill at her job & bringing in the income) and you leading from your gifting, no matter the gendered expectations, is very egalitarian indeed.
Either way, thanks for stopping by and sharing!
Love this, Kate … As with your earlier post, I must say that I am so proud that you had the courage to walk away. I didn’t find out what my husband really believed until 20 years of marriage and am struggling to see what God is up to in our relationship and how to follow the Spirit faithfully. This is a vitally important conversation, and your questions are what I called potential single point failures! What I know is that I made way too many assumptions… And that you have to have the courage to have the honest conversations. But I had been burned by this many times before it really had a name — starting way back in the ’70s — and was in my mid 30s when I met my husband! Too much to say…may have to ponder this for writing at a later date. ♥
Wow, that is really hard. I’m so sorry! Thank you for sharing that. Thank you also for always leaving great comments 🙂
What a thoughtful post and one that I am grateful that you are bringing up for discussion. I wish that I had the language and the mindset in my twenties to consider such ideas. I ended up being blessed with an amazing spouse and we journeyed into egalitarianism together through the school of hard knocks. But, I wish that my church families during that time had been teachers for me regarding gender equity and use of gifts. Thanks, as usual, for making us think and dialogue with one another.
You are so great! Thanks for your great comments!
Oh Kate, I loved this. I don’t usually post comments, but this is such an important and interesting topic. Thank you for sharing your story and for starting a conversation.
Every relationship is going to be different, but here are the things that worked for me.
I agree with you that money is a mutual responsibility. Prior to meeting Carter, I always paid half of the meal, or at least I tried. It wasn’t critically important to me that the first date was split, as long as he knew I was prepared to. If we went out again, I’d say, “okay, but this time it’s my treat.” Or something like that.
On my first date with Carter, I paid for everything. I actually asked him out, so I thought I should be the one to pay 🙂
When we were in an established relationship, we split meals unless it was a planned date. Chipotle, grabbing a quick bite, a Starbucks run–those were all paid for on our own. We went on 2 planned dates a month, and we each planned one. When it was my turn to plan, I paid for everything–tickets, meals, etc. We picked a budget that we were both comfortable in, and we took turns planning fun dates, picking restaurants we thought the other would like, etc. This worked really well for us, as we both got to plan special dates, pick out restaurants, treat the other, etc.
Starting the conversation is so difficult, especially figuring out timing. It is different for everyone, I think, but I am a clear communicator, so I just went for it. When I was dating in college and it looked promising, I would say something like, “I want you to know a few things that are important to me.” I would tell him about my views on gender roles, adoption, etc. I was intentional about communicating my views clearly but also personally, so he did not feel the need to respond or defend or rebuttal. It was just me, a person, sharing thoughts and beliefs and passions. I didn’t ask for his opinion. I just wanted to give them a clear and honest view of who I was, because, honestly, I didn’t want to waste time and I knew those things were non-negotiables for me. If it didn’t turn into a conversation, at least I put it out there. But, it usually did. And the conversations were awesome and very telling. After that, I felt the freedom to bring it up whenever it was relevant–after church, a class discussion that sparked a thought, a book I read, a fruitful conversation. I was open with my views because they shape who I am. Egalitarianism isn’t just how I pick out a church–it is the freedom I feel in Christ and in myself as a woman and a leader.
That is just my experience, and everyone has had such wonderful things to say. Thank you for starting a dialogue, Kate!
Wow Paige, this is beautiful. I love hearing about how you view dating and relationships. You are such a breath of fresh air! Thank you for taking the time to write out such a thoughtful comment. There is a lot of encouragement for me in there. You are so awesome!
For a believer, the main purpose of dating is to find a spouse. It might be somewhat counterintuitive but this means you want to quickly be able to assess suitability or not, with the expectation that many will be not suitable.
On your specific questions, I will answer with how my wife and I did it.
1) Paying for a date – Both of us had money, so if you asked for the date, you paid. We did not find this a problem at all. Once we married, we decided to have a joint account, but also keep separate accounts for allowances so we each had spending money. So I added her to one of my credit cards as part of the joint account. She wanted to go out and I questioned if we had the money, she said she would pay, after dinner she whipped out our JOINT credit card and paid with that.
2) Opening a door – Anyone can hold the door for the other.
3) Gender equality talk – We had this early during our dating along with other potential show stoppers.
Thanks for the input! ” potential show stoppers” I like that haha
I really don’t think men think about such things the way women do lol.
Find a man not rooted in years of church. My husband found Jesus about five minutes after he found me. I remember feeling “not good enough” because my boyfriend wasn’t jumping to lead Bible studies, or pray in public for a stranger. He was committed to Jesus, without a doubt…but cautious of everything else. AND IT WAS A BLESSING, NOT A FLAW!
I was chasing a career and he could come along, or leave. He ended up marrying me and moving three times across the country to support my goals and dreams. It never crossed his mind that women couldn’t teach, preach, or lead in church, since he was watching me lead in the secular world. He was man enough to start his own business and chase his dreams while offering full support to his wife’s as well. Why would he think it Jesus would want something different???
He was just so dang refreshing. With that said, he paid for meals when we were dating – he had money and I didn’t. (but we’re a joint cash flow married couple). He opened some doors…It’s called romance, and if you think you don’t want it, marry a guy who treats you like a man. I’m not saying treats you equal…but treats you like a “buddy”. All it will take is one devious dude ready to opens doors, display a little sexy dominance, and you’ll be wanting an affair. Just saying…a girl likes a little aggression in the romantic sense, especially if she’s type A leader herself. And the gender role issue should come up naturally. But it should come up sooner rather than later if it’s a deal breaker for you.
Yes, this. I dated and married before really solidifying my egalitarian beliefs and I’m almost glad (since I ended up with a guy who fully supports me). For the most part, he did the stereotypical guy stuff and I won’t lie, I liked it… Though I pulled a bit of a ‘Ruth’ earlier in the relationship.
Now that we are married we have joint money with a (very) small line item in the budget for each of us to do what we want with it.
Hi Angela! Thank you for the encouragement! It can be discouraging sometimes, but you give me hope 🙂
Kate, I hardly ever respond to these but as a fellow APU alum, twenty-something, egalitarian sister in ministry I wanted to respond with some HOPE.
I never dated when I was in college because I never seemed to find guys that really understood this egalitarian concept (and that we had mutual interest in each other :)). However, my boyfriend now is an incredible man with a heart for Jesus that I originally became friends with BECAUSE we both were Jesus feminists and egalitarian–that was our initial connection before either of us were romantically interested in each other. (I honestly couldn’t believe it–a male, egalitarian, Jesus feminist!!) My boyfriend is of a different ethnic and cultural background than me so that affects our “privilege and power” discussions as well, as we have both been damaged by a patriarchal, complementarian society. Additionally, as I am a woman in ministry his full support of my leadership in my ministry is essential, it is something that makes our relationship all the stronger as I face the daily struggles of being an agent of change as a woman in ministry at a suburban, complementarian church. (But don’t worry, I have lots of egalitarian allies and mentors in my life outside of (and sometimes inside of) my church.)
About your specific questions, in our relationship we go back and forth with driving, with paying and with opening doors. Since we began our relationship with an egalitarian assumption (because we had talked a LOT about it already) it has always been a given; I know that when he opens doors for me or pays, it is out of love for me and the desire to give good things to those he loves, and he feels the same way when I do them in return. In addition, when he pays for things he feels that it is part of his supporting my job as a leader in ministry that doesn’t pay as much as his work in the business world; and when I pay he knows that it is out of the abundance that God has given to me to bless those in my life.
All that to say, THEY EXIST and the key to the health of our relationship has been always communicating and talking so that we do not have to guess each other’s intentions.
I love all the conversation going on here! Such great questions Kate.
When my husband and I were dating I didn’t really have the words for my views on gender roles, egalitarianism, etc. But I do remember my roommate and I discussing whether or not we agreed with females being pastors as we picked him up one time, and as we asked him his opinion, I remember very specifically thinking “His opinion on this could definitely be a deal breaker for me (and I didn’t even feel calling to be a pastor).” You can guess how it turned out 🙂
I think it can be tricky, because as other people have mentioned, many people just know what they’ve been preached by their pastors, and don’t even know that egalitarianism is valid interpretation of scripture.
I also agree that it comes down to the heart of things. Many men offer to pay for meals, open doors, etc. because they’ve been taught that is the polite and loving thing for men to do. If you resist that traditional norm without explaining why (other than just it’s the 21st century people!), you may come across as rude. But personally, I think that opening the door for anyone, male or female, is the polite thing for everyone to do. And offering to pay for meals, and eventually having a discussion about why you want to help pay, does create some space for deeper discussion about your thoughts on traditional gender roles. I think that if it’s something that’s really important to you (as I know it is), it’s wise to have those conversations, in-depth, before getting too serious. Every situation is different, but I think these smaller acts of chivalry are ways that everyone, male or female, can serve others in a loving way, and they open up doors to conversation about this important issue. Chivalry isn’t dead; it should be alive for everyone, male or female. It’s called serving one another.
“Chivalry isn’t dead; it should be alive for everyone, male or female. It’s called serving one another.” GREAT line!
Good post. I am married, but my best friend is a single gal so I am always interested in things like this that are relevant for her.
I wanted to comment particularly on the “opening the door” question. My husband very often opens my doors, carries my bags, gives me his seat etc. Those are also things that we are teaching our 4 young sons to do for women (as well as elderly, infirm, and younger children). For us it has absolutely nothing to do with power or abilities (for the record, I am an athlete and perfectly capable of doing all those things on my own). For us it is actually a way to show honor or preference or even submission. You see, I have lived most of my life overseas (as a child and an adult) in places where women are not valued, and in those places you would NEVER see a man giving up his own comfort for a woman. Just doesn’t happen. Because she is subservient to him, why would he open a door and allow to go first? Living overseas now, it gets noticed when my husband honors me through allowing me to go first, to sit when he stands, to carry things so that I don’t have to. I think it is kind of sad that we are trying to take this form of submission away from men by calling it offensive. I for one love it when my preschool-aged sons open a door and tell me, “Ladies first!” They know darn good and well that I don’t need their help, but they understand on some immature level that women are to be honored and this is a small way to remind themselves and everyone around them of that fact.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It is a great reminder that women are not valued in this way everywhere. I too think there is something special when a guy is motivated to do nice things for women in order to honor them, not to show dominance.
Thanks for bringing a different perspective!
This is a helpful reminder about honoring one another as a witness to grace and the gospel.
Great blog, Kate!
Here’s what I’m thinking initially: opening the door, paying for the bill, and other similar routines are informed by things like upbringing, and cultural values. I open the door for many women and pay for many meals, but in doing so that doesn’t really show what I’m thinking about gender roles. I also open doors for men and purchase meals for men. While it’s true that actions reveal the heart, we might read too much into these actions.
What’s vitally important is open, honest dialogue about the issues of equality, faith, values, etc. I applaud you and others who are asking these questions and willing to experience unpleasantness in the process. You are acting prophetically. I stand with you. (And I would be happy to open the door for you, or buy you a meal – not because I’m a man and you are a woman, but because we are friends and I have a strong arm and money! And I would be happy for you open the door for me. . . . )
I love it when you comment. I think you’re right about the importance of dialogue about all relationship issues. Thanks for commenting friend!
Honestly, as a mid twenties egalitarian woman trying to date my biggest problem isn’t finding a guy who thinks I’m equal to him, but just finding a guy 🙂 But I will answer the questions as best as I can
1) I think in the beginning of the relationship (first date etc) the man should pay for the date ESPECIALLY if he is the one that asks you out. I think the deeper in a relationship that you get, I think it can become something that is decided on a date by date basis. Is it his birthday? Is it a concert you really want to go to and he probably would only be going because you want to? I think a man that assumes he is always going to pay without considering if that is what his girlfriend wants is not being respectful of her feelings. Conversely I feel that a woman who thinks her boyfriend is trying to control her or perpetuate some antiquated gender roles by paying for her all the time is not really respecting his true intentions. Bottom line I think communication about this issue is key
2) I would say the same about holding doors open. To me, this sort of stuff is not about gender roles, but about being polite. I am not offended if a guy I date doesn’t open the car door for me. I am offended if he goes into the restaurant first and doesn’t even hold the door for me. But that has nothing to do with him being a man and me being a woman. Rather it’s just impolite! Again communication is key.
3) I worry less about when to bring up gender roles in a relationship only because I think any amount of time spent talking to me you pretty quickly figure out what I feel about those things.
Honestly, these questions are things i wish I struggled with as a “dating” egalitarian woman, but really I can’t even seem to find any Christian men right now much less worry about these questions. 🙂 Not to be downer on Valentine’s day
Hi there 🙂
I love your emphasis on communication. I think that is really key to healthy relationships. And general politeness and decency are good rules to go by haha. Good point.
Don’t worry about being a downer – I may or may not be doing laundry tonight 😉
I found your blog so interesting that I had to use it as a jumping off point to write about my own “dating” issues 🙂 Maybe you could check it out! Would love your thoughts. Hope your laundry was good to you!! http://faceparts.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/the-one-about-valentines-day/
Just throwing this out there: what about an egalitarian man who happens to date a woman who expects “chivalrous” treatment? I ask this because I saw this piece the other day posted by a woman pastor: http://jamesmsama.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/8-acts-of-chivalry-to-bring-back/
Clarification: “posted by a woman pastor” should read “an article by a man shared by a woman pastor as to how she expects from men”.
Hmm that’s interesting Mark. For some reason, that blog makes me uncomfortable. I feel like a lot of that stuff not only reinforces gender stereotypes, but also can be one sided against the guy. Don’t guys want to be treated well too? Interesting to think about. Thanks for sharing!
Great question, Mark! Personally, I don’t think we have to “throw out the baby with the bath water, so to speak”. As an egalitarian woman, I appreciate chivalry in men when it is done as a courtesy and with respect. Having said that, it doesn’t make sense to me for my husband to open doors all the time. He does do that when we are out for a special evening, though. What do you think?
I think a lot has to do with language and terminology. “Chivalry,” in my mind, hearkens to the age of knights and damsels in distress. It reminds me of the classic Disney princess movies and “someday my prince will come.” It also evokes the kind of hierarchical, military mindset where it originated, with the idea that these codes were necessary to “civilize” the men.
I think just calling it “common courtesy” would go a long ways toward eliminating the gender roles ascribed to traditional chivalry.
When I hold doors open for my wife, or drop her off closer to the entrance, it’s not because there is a code that says “I must” but because it’s just common sense and courtesy. If she or another woman holds doors open for me, I don’t feel like I’ve been slighted. I think that therein lies the key. Is it out of duty? Does one or the other (or both) feel slighted if it doesn’t happen the way “it’s supposed to”?
Yes, Mark! Well put. Common courtesy is a better term 🙂
This is my life right now. Well, not the dating part so much, but the single, egalitarian and looking part.
I don’t have specific questions and answers about the particulars of egalitarian dating. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m unlikely to meet a guy that shares my views on marriage and ministry since I live in the South and it’s just simply a minority viewpoint. Given my circumstances, my questions are more along the lines of “are you open a relationship built on mutual submission and partnership?” and “will you be comfortable with an equally ambitious partner?” and “how do you feel about a relationship that looks non-traditional?”
I’m basically looking for a decent starting place and potential for common ground. Obviously communication is key here but so is your gut feeling. There is a difference between someone who is uncomfortable with the concept of egalitarianism and someone who just hasn’t considered it yet.
I tend to think that details like who pays or who opens doors will sort themselves out pretty easily if you are dating a respectful and polite person. I mean, if you’re fighting over who should open the door, you’re not really fighting about who should open the door, you know?
That’s my starting place at least. Have conversations. Spend time together. Pass along blog posts or books that challenged you. Learn and grow together. Ask questions. Avoid defensiveness. Be honest with yourself and your significant other about what will work for you and what won’t.
And I’ll throw in that while this stuff definitely matters to me, remember to lighten up. Dating is supposed to be fun, right? That’s what people keep telling me anyway. Jury’s still out.
Hi Lindsey, wow great thoughts! I am so glad you commented. Yup, us egalitarian ladies have to stick together in this tough dating world! It can be hard to even find someone with a similar view of relationships. I feel you.
I love the questions you think about, especially “will you be comfortable with an equally ambitious partner?” I think even in egalitarian dating, some people are uncomfortable with the idea of both people having careers. Hopefully the more we talk about it, the more minds will be changed, and the easier it will get.
The jury’s still out for me too. Sometimes dating seems like a chore 😛
Agreed. I like to think that there are men out there open to relationships built on mutuality, but who have never had a real flesh-and-blood person in front of them who is passionate about this stuff. Most of the time it takes someone in our real life who takes out of the realm of the theoretical and into the personal to push us to grow and get outside our comfort zones. If I need to lead the way into those conversations, I’m happy to do it 🙂
Expectations are complicated. Here’s my dilemma (?): I definitely need an egalitarian relationship, and yet I dream of being able to be a full time parent for several years as a full time mom like my mother was. Am I contradicting myself? Is it still possible to want to share housework? Is that selfish? Is this a dilemma or not? The hardest part is talking about things that might sound contradictory.
Don’t know if this is helpful or not, but here’s how we navigated those waters. When we got married and were both working, household duties got evenly split. We started having babies and for the first 6 years, I stayed home with the kids. During those years, I took over the bulk of home duty (but not all of it) – honestly, we looked quite traditional from the outside, but in my mind the chores were my “job” and doing them meant that when hubby was home, we were spending time being a family and taking care of the kids together. About 6 months ago, we had to sit down and re-negotiate life because we both became grad school students and were in ministry full time. It’s pretty split down the middle again since our responsibilities outside the home are pretty even as well. I guess what I am trying to say is that these thing change in different seasons. There might be a time when you need to take over at home, and another time when he does. What matters is that there is an understanding that you are a team and will make the “rules” together for what works the best for that season. The rules themselves aren’t really that important.
Disclaimer: I’m married, but had some pretty interesting egal/comp dating experiences.
#1. Yes. Taking turns is a great way to do it. Alternatively, if one of the people earns a significantly higher salary, I think it’s okay for that person to pay more often. I generally think that it’s better to discuss things *explicitly,* and this is just another area where the two people can discuss what they feel most comfortable with.
#2. It’s horrible that we (women) would have to constantly question the motives of someone we (potentially?) love! My general practice is, if I get to the door first, I hold it open. For anyone. Anywhere. I don’t see how it would need to be different in a relationship. And if a man were to be upset that I held a door for him, he’s definitely not someone I’d want to date.
#3. Third date conversation. And I would bring it up, straight out. See #1: it’s better to be honest, up front, and talk about stuff explicitly.
My 2 cents. 😉
Thank you for your thoughts Robyn! It sounds like you have practiced these things and have great advice. I like your suggestion of being explicit about my own thoughts on the subject. Thank you for sharing!
First, I think we should keep in mind that “dating” is meant for two people to go out, have a good time, and get to know each other, with the ultimate goal of discovering if you were made for each other. This “end goal question” isn’t normally answered on the first or second date, and we shouldn’t have angst about that. We should just go and have fun.
Second. an Egalitarian may be passionate about Egalitarianism, but many people don’t even know what that is. To those people, it’s also not important. If it’s important to them, you will find out soon enough. But if it’s not, I think you should be about other things, the things that interest both of you. Unless you are going to live a life of feminist activism together, you will need to find comon ground elsewhere. So I say- look for that common ground first.
Now for the specific questions:
I think Question #1 is a great ice-breaker. If you’re a woman, offer to pay half or even all of it, but let him pay if he wants. Treat him like you would any other friend! If he pays, tell him you’ll get it the next time. His response to that may be telling, or it may open the door for conversation about your beliefs.
If you are a man- assume you will pay and be ready to. If she surprises you with an offer to pay this time, let her.
I will answer question #2 with a question: How do you treat your same-gender friends? Do that. (You are Egalitarian, after all.) Just relax and be who you are. If you open the door for a guy and he gets bent out of shape about it, then you probably aren’t a match. Move on.
Question #3 is probably something you should just let come naturally as you spend time together. It will likely come out with the scenarios that play out from question #1 and question #2, and more than likely will be instigated by the other person as you treat them with equality and an expectation for the same.
Thank you so much for your response. I love what you said about Question #2 – “Just relax and be who you are. If you open the door for a guy and he gets bent out of shape about it, then you probably aren’t a match. Move on.”
GREAT advice! Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. You are a valued part of this community and I love reading what you have to say!
I look back at my own dating time with my now wife and chuckle a bit to think through how we handled these questions…
As we began to date I paid for coffees, meals and outings with a joyful smile… Not one time did I feel like more of a man by doing so, rather my intentions were to treat someone I cared for. If we look at the “Love Languages”, I side much with the gift givers of the world, so for me being able to treat her to coffee was a way I knew how to show I cared. About 10 months into dating I lost my job… This gave us an incredible opportunity to explore the money piece. Long story short she began to pay for a great many things with joy… and never once did I feel like less of a “man”.
As I think to my motives for opening the door for my wife, they are motives of expressing honor, relaying how I feel without words, to show her the incredible respect I have for her. It is as you put it “a way to serve” her, not because she can’t open the darn thing herself, but because I want her to enter a room feeling as incredibly special as I view her. Now if she’d like to open the door for me I would consider it her doing as I like to do. So in my own competitive heart I want to “out serve” her in this small aspect… 🙂
The Gender Roles discussion is best left out on the table to be filtered in often as the conversations lead. It is an important lens for which all that you discuss is to be viewed. Being afraid to ask questions or to bring up discussion about intention, future dreams or theology at the risk of “ruffling relationship feathers” is a sure fire way to stunt the growth of that very relationship.
Open, honest and bold conversation has been the way we have always communicated… Now I am no expert either but I am very happily married to my best friend and it is one of my greatest joys to see her excel in her gifting and calling… and I even get to play a role spurring her on to even greater things as we walk through this adventure of life together.
…and holding true to egalitarian form, I pulled from my wife’s expertise on this topic as I wrote this comment.
Allen, wow, thank you for such a personal and helpful comment! I love hearing about how you and your wife care for one another in these aspects. I feel like I learned a lot reading your comment and it gave me things to think about. Thank you!
Thanks for this post! I think I didn’t realize how much of an egalitarian I was until I married into a complementarian church. This is definitely a conversation worth having during the fun (and sometimes messy) time of dating. It is messy because it is hard to really get to the heart of why a guy pays or holds the door – is it to serve one another or to reinforce a gender stereotype? When I was in college one of my friends would always get the door for me and sometimes I was a bit of a brat and ran on ahead of him just to get the door for him, knowing that it would frustrate him. Looking back my heart wasn’t completely in the right place but I hope I made him think about why he held those beliefs.
Side note – I am very grateful for this blog as it has helped provide me resources to better understand the debate and define where I stand on these issues. The 1 Timothy bomb post and follow up posts have been particularly timely. Kudos to my dad for finding the blog and recommending it to me!
Hi Rebecca, Thanks so much for commenting. I know how hard it is to have that complementarian pressure in a relationship. I am so glad you have found our blog too! We’re lucky to have you here!
Thank you for posting this. As a parent of two teenagers, and a woman embracing and recognizing her life long feminism, this is coming up in conversation and in practice. I posted my beginning thoughts about it here: http://www.sarahheroman.com/2014/01/what-about-manners.html
Hi Sarah, I loved reading through your post. I’m sure navigating these issues as a mom of boys must be difficult. Thanks for sharing!