[Guest Post] A respectable man’s respectful pursuit of a woman.

For yesterday’s Q&A, a woman asked why a guy flirts with a girl but doesn’t attempt to pursue a relationship with her. Fellow blogger, folk music lover and chaste dater Jake Nelko weighs in today on what holds a guy up when he flirts but goes no further:


Being a single Christian man who actively pursues romance, I am constantly faced with the conundrum of how to respectfully pursue women. If I see a cute girl in a coffee shop, for example, I am naturally interested in approaching her to strike up a conversation, learn that we like the same music, discover that she, too, loves Jesus, take her out for coffee (or caramels because it’s arbitrary, right?), meet her parents, get married, and live happily ever after just like she potentially wants. So what holds us back? It could be a number of things.

First, does she actually want me to talk to her? This could be my lack of self confidence talking, but I’m not always sold on the potential of a conversation with the young lady in question being one that is welcomed. Unless she is giving me numerous glances and the occasional smile, I may not feel completely welcomed to the point of actually talking to her. I, like many men, am terrible with reading body language, so it’s never my assumption that she wants me to do what I want to do unless glances and smiles are thrown right on target.

Second, respectable men try very hard to be respectable. We’ve been to plenty of bars, parties, etc. where we’ve seen the bros bothering women or at the very least approaching them in a way we don’t see as respectable. We don’t want to come off like them, with only sex or some other version of our own pleasure as our main motivation, so we tend to err on the side of doing nothing. We’ve heard from too many of our female friends that they get hit on when they don’t want to and, therefore, we decide we want to avoid being another girl’s story of annoyance. Let’s do the polite thing and let the young lady get back to her copy of Jane Eyre and Bon Iver (she’s wearing Toms, so she is probably listening to Bon Iver, begging the question again of why on earth am I not talking to her?).

Third, there may be intangibles. That gentleman may have a significant other at that moment and is oblivious to the vibe he may be putting off himself. He may simply have other interests in his life keeping him from feeling a desire to approach a new interest. He may have other things on his mind, but probably doesn’t.

Fourth, sometimes it’s just a game. We want to see what sort of flirting we can do in public without developing the obligation to do anything more. As a guy who has been on his own as a single man with plenty of married friends, it can feel good to just know that I still have it going for me; if I can still get a girl’s attention, even if I don’t necessarily want to talk to her or anyone, for that matter.

Honestly, I’d say my top reason is that I don’t want to embarrass myself. My self confidence is already fragile, so the last thing I want is to let other people know what a spaz I am by talking to a girl, potentially embarrassing myself by saying something stupid, and never feeling like I want to go back to that place again for the rest of my life. Overdramatic, I know, but it’s the truth.

My advice for the ladies is to be obvious. If women are looking for the respectable man who is not hitting on every girl he makes eye contact with, then the young lady will have to make it obvious to said respectable man that they should go outside of their norm to approach her. Give us a few looks, flash us a smile, make sure we can see your naked ring finger, and don’t give us any doubt that our approach would be welcome. I could probably point out three girls in the coffee shop I’m in right now that have given me unclear enough signals that I wouldn’t do anything even if I were interested in it at the moment. See the above for why.

If a girl is giving subtle or vague hints, they will attract men that jump on subtle or vague hints, like the aforementioned bros. On my end, though, do I want to approach a girl who looks like she’s trying to attract the attention of every guy she makes eye contact with? Not really. I’m looking for the girl sitting in the corner with her thick glasses, skinny jeans, cardigan, and 400-page novel with her iPod in (hopefully listening to the Avett Brothers). Somewhere in the grey area of coffee shop interaction between completely confusing vagueness and completely impersonal and uninhibited flirting lies a scenario where I only end up speaking with a girl who is REALLY attracting my attention. Maybe, in the end, the ladies really DON’T want all of the guys they encounter to speak with them and we’re all interacting the exact amount we’re supposed to. Life doesn’t always work out that easily, though, right?

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Jake, 27, lives in Tacoma, WA, while his heart resides in Pittsburgh, PA. He makes a living as a Career Development Specialist at the University of Washington Tacoma and spends his free time covering new music for Ear to the Ground Music, writing for his own personal blog, and playing drums for the gangster folk band Michelle from the Club.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I so appreciate Jake’s honesty, and his openness to share this on my blog. Thanks, Jake! I’m def curious as to whether other male readers see it like he does.

    In my experience and observation, women are taught to wait passively for a man to pursue them on his own. We’re discouraged from being obvious if we like one of you, and encouraged to expect you to pick up what we’d LIKE to put down, but without ever putting it down…

    So if what Jake suggests is what most men would, what happens is men will feel confident enough to pursue us only when we do what our culture has instructed us never to do.


    I, for one, don’t believe men are mind readers and I don’t think it’s fair for us to expect that they be. I find Jake’s insights to be totally helpful, especially as a woman who prefers to be obvious than to wait for a guy to read my mind.

    • Anonymous

      Big difference on whether you’re an energetic, extrovert type, or a reserved, introvert type (and many other different types, and yin and yang etc in all types).
      I’m a reserved, introvert type and i dislike over-bearing, pushy women. But at same time i like women who are confident, clear (non-cryptic) in what they say, non-moody / non-tricky / uncomplicated (emotionally) etc.
      Basically we’re all – ultimately – looking for the opposite traits, i think, to complete the whole. And that has to be one of the most important things in searching for the right person – to fall in love with!
      “searching for the right person” and thanks to God, we’ve got serendipity in the whole equation, too, so remain open-minded and alert for opportunities ..
      Good luck everyone.
      Ed (UK)

    • Ed,

      So right! This is certainly one person’s perspective, but I’d consider myself similar to you in that I don’t want to encounter someone that is so shy they’re not willing to give signals in a public forum, for example. I am certainly looking for someone to balance, which is why I tend to prefer strong women with reserved personalities. Thanks for the response.

  • SVB

    It’s so easy for guys to be like, “Women need to be obvious because we’re bad at reading body language/we’re shy/our self-confidence is low/whatever,” but maybe they forget that that also goes for women? I know I am so afraid of being obvious about my feelings toward a guy because of all the times I got shot down in the past–and not in very nice ways, either. (In seventh grade, I asked a boy to a dance and he responded, “Do I have to?” I know it was seventh grade, but that, compiled with the subsequent rejections I got in later years, has completely turned me off of being open about my feelings with guys.) Truth be told, I liked the whole, “He’s just not that into you” mentality because it was straight-forward and honest and makes sense to me–and it kept me from not making a fool of myself with guys like in the past. He’s not approaching you because he’s not that into you. He’s not asking you out because he’s not that into you. Kind of bums me out that more and more guys are saying that way isn’t necessarily how it is with guys, and I’m not sure I could ever sum up the courage to be obvious considering my past track record. Sounds like I’m screwed either way.

    • SVB,

      I certainly do NOT envy the woman’s perspective. It’s FAR easier to be the man because we get to dictate what happens. I hope my post helps to give some perspective in terms of helping women to know that we are in search of those signs. On our side, sometimes she’s just not that into us, as exhibited by the lack of signs. Again, though, we do have it easier. Keep putting the vibe out and the right ones will pick up on it!

    • SVB,
      I hear your discouragement, but I would like to offer a different perspective: Men are awesome, competent and brave and they are perfectly capable of doing the chasing and initiating!! And, when he is the one, he will chase you. He will want to chase you. I expand on this more here: http://theveilofchastity.com/2012/09/28/stop-chasing-him/
      God bless, Cindy

    • I don’t want a man who chases and chases when I don’t even like him. I want a man who is respectful, who initiates only if he thinks there is at least the possibility that I will like him, and who continues chasing only if there is reason to believe that I like him. A man who would back off if a woman made it clear that she wasn’t interested. Yes, I want a man who prefers that a woman gives him signs.
      I’ve been annoyed by too many creepy guys who are way too into chasing. I want a guy who initiates, but who also respects.

    • SVB,
      It’s important to remember that dating and romance comes accompanied by pain. If one initiates, one might get rejected. If one waits for someone else to initiate, the other person very likely won’t do anything.
      Once one is in a relationship or in marriage, there will be more painful moments, more painful things.
      The only way to avoid such pain is to give up and purposely avoid all romance. But that can cause loneliness that is also painful.
      That is life. Thankfully as Catholics, we know that pain and sadness can be born together with Christ, Who suffered much more out of His love for us than we will ever suffer.

  • Oh! Ugh! Aaarrrgh!

    Shades of horror from my single days. I don’t know what to say, I’m just cringing.

    Nothing about dating is cut-and-dried for the young Christian woman. Prayers and ‘best of luck’ to all of you. And I’ll throw single people together at every opportunity, I’ve got no qualms at all about it, just ask! 🙂

    • Ha! We single people, no matter how much we deny it, don’t mind the possibility of being “set up”, even in a “chance” encounter with one of your friends. As long as both parties know there’s a chance it won’t work, what’s the harm?

  • The main reason is probably because respectable girls don’t know what a respectable guy looks or sounds like. There are that few today, in my opinion. So most girls don’t even know . . . what we like and don’t like. Things that stop me in my tracks include: No eye contact, no hello, no smile, hiding behind girlfriends, cell phones ringing constantly, clothes that don’t coverup what should be covered, exposing more skin, profanity, in a place where a respectable girl would not be, engaging in activities a respectable girl would not engage in (reading questionable magazines/books, etc), being rude or disrespectful to somebody (like not picking up a dropped umbrella), raising her voice or arguing with somebody, talking to guys that a respectable girl would not be talking with, wearing excessive makeup and jewelry, wearing persume that is noticeable outside conversation range, wearing a wedding or engagement ring when she’s single. Of course, all of this also works in reverse. A lot of respectable guys don’t know what a respectable girl looks or sounds like.

    John Morgan, 51
    Maplesville, AL

  • Wow, this is fantastic. Thank you, Jake!
    As a young single woman, I will echo Arleen’s thoughts…we have been so conditioned to allow men to pursue, but are never told what that really means (this also goes for “guarding your heart” to which I’ve asked a million people “how?!” with no helpful advice.) For the longest time, I was content with the mindset that if a man wants to make something happen, he’ll go for it…however, I just began to realize that while that might be true, NO guy is going to pursue a girl who isn’t showing any interest. It’s high time that Christian women everywhere realize that “allowing men to be men and pursue” is not synonymous with “just act aloof and expect them to read your mind”.
    So, many thanks to you, Jake, for confirming all of that for me 🙂