Do a guy’s guts to ask a girl out actually matter?

When I was a senior in high school, I had study hall as an elective, and a crush on a kid named Kyle. He had study hall, too. He sat at the back of the room. I sat at the front with a boy named Brian.


I don’t remember how, but Brian got it out of me: “Yes,” I admitted. “I like Kyle.” I giggled. Then I gasped. “But don’t tell him!

First Brian smiled. Then, he yelled “Kyle.”

“NO!” I shouted, and jumped out of my seat. A confused Kyle watched while out of desperation, I did what anyone in my shoes obviously should do to avoid the consequences of shouting ‘NO’:

“…time for losers, ’cause we are the champions — of the world!”

I sang.

A Queen song.

I sang a Queen song because if Kyle and I were to date, I didn’t want it to be because I expressed interest before he did. I thought boys were supposed to pursue me despite the ambiguity of my signals. And that boys were supposed to figure my feelings out without my help. And that the only way I could know a boy’s interest was authentic was if he expressed it without knowing if it was mutual.

As an adult, I have made an observation: lots of women expect relationships to start the way I used to think relationships should. Women want men to pursue a relationship before the dudes know for sure that they want them to. They prefer men who don’t need them to communicate explicitly over the men who do. They don’t value relationships that start with a push as much as they value relationships that start without one.

The first time I suggested in a post that a woman ought to feel free to be the first to express interest in a potential relationship, not every reader agreed. One said:

“If he isn’t confident enough to ask me on a date (just a date!), then will he be brave, willing to take risks, and confidently lead at work, in his relationships, in his church, and/or with his future family?”

And I get it: a lot of women prefer men who have the guts to ask a woman out without her explicit encouragement.

But, as I asked in that old post, is it because men are only good who pursue us with confidence despite the ambiguity of our signals, or because we’ve uncritically accepted that that’s how it should be? Is it because men are only worth dating if they can intuit our desires to connect with them, or because we’re resistant to initiating vulnerability? It is because a man’s interest in us can’t be authenticated if we’ve encouraged him to express it, or because our willingness to encourage has been corroded by a fear of rejection or a sense of entitlement?

Maybe it’s ok to rule a man out because he doesn’t have the guts to ask you out without a nudge. But how much do those guts actually matter?

Maybe a man’s willingness to pursue a relationship with a woman despite not knowing whether she wants him to is indicative of confidence. But if it is, it is neither the only indicator of confidence, nor necessarily indicative of the kind of confidence husbands ought to have.

I don’t need to know that a man is good at asking women out. That skill is useless in a marriage.

What I need to know is that he focuses on Jesus. I need to know that we are better together — that our relationship brings out the best (and holiest) in both of us. I need to know that he is committed to my becoming a saint.

I’m not saying that who expresses whatever first shouldn’t matter to you, or that how a relationship starts shouldn’t matter, either.

If it does, it does.

But how a relationship starts — and who expresses interest in it first — has no bearing on a person’s ability to discern what matters most. 

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

  • CatholicMillennial

    Well said. Definitely great points to consider

  • John Morgan

    “What I need to know is that he focuses on Jesus.” Well said, Arleen.

  • Great post Arleen, bringing sanity into an insane dating world.

    My question to the commenter you mention is this: Why would a man ask a woman out if she shows no interest in wanting him to? He may as well pick a name out of a phone book.

    Most men don’t just sit around waiting for women to approach them, not even the shy ones. Most of us, if we’re interested in a woman, will initiate some show of interest, some flirtation, a smile, an attempt to catch her attention, as awkward and bumbling as it may be. If she doesn’t respond positively, we have no choice but to interpret that as “No thank you,” respect her wishes, and move on.

    We’re not asking women to flash “ask me out” signs, just return interest when it’s offered if the interest is mutual. Dating’s hard enough. It’s fine to wait for him to initiate the interest, but then be a real woman and let him know the feeling’s mutual.

    Relationships work when they’re Give -> Receive -> Return. Give -> Silence isn’t a good way to start.

    • Arleen Spenceley

      I actually would probably be ok with holding an “ask me out” sign up in front of the right guy. For the record. 😉

      • LOL Maybe add a velcro strip to the front of your Chastity is for Lovers shirts and sell “Ask Me Out” attachments. $$$ 🙂

  • Gabriel Sánchez


  • Ara Girala

    So practically asking a guy to ask you out because he doesn’t have the courage to do it himself isn’t taking the lead? Isn’t being able to take the lead a “useful” skill in marriage? Isn’t it a man’s psychological need to be the one that does so? It would be really interesting if you could ask a professional on those points, so we can finally stop arguing about whether this or that “seems” to be better. I’m just suggesting.
    Keep writing about these topics, you explain it all so well, I wish we had a similar blog to yours but in Spanish. Greetings from Paraguay 🙂

    • KtJo

      Yes! I am wondering the same thing and also appreciate these blogs!

  • Food for thought. What are men’s take on this?

  • Michael Krafft

    My most recent relationship started because she approached me. As I was leaving a bar I ran into an acquaintance from high school so I stopped to say hello. He introduced me to the three young women he was talking to. I remember she had a firm handshake, brown eyes and was not intoxicated. Other than that there was nothing remarkable about our first interaction. After I finished a brief conversation with my acquaintance I left-having said only hello to who would later become my girlfriend.

    She found me on Facebook, I accepted her friend request but took no further action. After a few days she messaged me: “It was nice meeting you the other night,” though not overtly asking me out, it was blunt enough to be able to pierce through the thick skull of this neanderthal. I responded by asking if she would like to get coffee, gave her my number and she texted me when she could meet.

    I found her persistence attractive, she knew what she wanted (even if she did not yet know me) and she put herself out there. I later found out that this was very out of character for her, and that she looked back negatively on the fact that she pursued me. If she hadn’t though, nothing would have happened between us.

    To each his or her own. For some guys getting attention like that would be unwelcome, but I looked at it as an opportunity to meet someone new, perhaps gain a new friend or something more.

    Arleen I completely agree with you, regardless of who does the pursuing I too want a relationship that brings out the holiest in me.

    • finally_famous

      Yes Lord!that last sentence blew me away.I had to save it to keep reminding me that I need a man who doesn’t bring the best but the holiest in me! And as for girls initiating,I too am a shy and introvert woman like your actual gf but I kinda tried to initiate sth with a guy who I d have met at a youth group but oh well I guess it didn’t work out.I sent him a friend request on fb and he was the first to message oh man I love your first name and so on we kept talking about other churchy things such as Mary,rosaries,scapulars,…he even promised to give me a special scapular he would have got from Lourdes.the next two days I messaged him and he took what I would call forever to reply (I saw that he would have seen my message shortly after I d send it).I replied back anyways and he didn’t.back to the first day we met,he would compliment me …you re beautiful and hug me which I think is what attracted me to him (beside his mad love for The Virgin Mary).now it sucks for me coz I have to kinda brush the feelings off and is what it is tho.God ‘s got me

  • Rivka

    I think it’s a bit judgmental of us, if we women just assume “If he doesn’t ask me out, it’s because he doesn’t have the guts.”
    No, there are multiple possible reasons. Perhaps he doesn’t think you’re interested. (Those subtle signals you’re sending out might be just a little too subtle for him).
    I’d rather have a guy whose reason for hesitating was because he wants to respect me and my wishes, than some guy who pursued me because he didn’t care what I thought/felt.