Is it Really Possible to 'Win His Heart'?

Is it Really Possible to 'Win His Heart'?

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 January through March is always a fun time of year for me. It was during these months, five years ago that I got to know and began dating my husband, Kevin. In fact, last week I was reminded of the first time we co-led Bible study together, because it was the same day my niece was born. 

“That was the first time we held hands,” I teased Kevin. 

“It was?!” 

“Yeah, remember, Stan and Nita [a married couple helping us] suggested we stand in a circle and hold hands to pray before people arrived.” 

“Oh, yeah!” 

I remember those early days of getting to know Kevin fondly. They were days when my future husband was already winning my heart; little did I know, I was also winning his.

In today’s featured article, “How to Win a Man’s Heart,” Shaunti Feldhahn provides six suggestions to women for winning a man’s heart. Among them: developing godly character, not coming across as desperate and not neglecting personal appearance. 

She writes:

"Find a great man by being a great woman. Don’t just look for the right traits in him, but work on the right traits in you. And that starts with your own relationship with God."

Good advice. In fact, all of Feldhahn’s advice in this article — a good portion of it coming from interviews with single men — is solid. I would encourage women to take all six suggestions to heart. That said, as I look back on my own experience and the experiences of some of my other now-married friends, “winning a man’s heart” is not as easy as this article might make it sound. I probably had Feldhahn’s list fairly well in hand by my mid-20s, but no man’s heart seemed available for the winning. And as I approached 30, I sometimes wondered if something about my personality or appearance kept me from being the kind who could win a man’s heart. (You know, like all the married women must have some secret charms that I was lacking.) 

Then one day I met someone who seemed to be created to appreciate so many of the little details God had been cultivating in me throughout my life. The first day we met, Kevin was attracted to my enthusiasm for children’s ministry — something that is also close to his heart. And as I grew in admiration of this man and expressed that admiration (one of Feldhahn’s suggestions), my words of encouragement and our similar perspective on life seemed to naturally endear me to Kevin. 

So while I kept many of the things on Feldhahn’s list in mind as I got to know my husband, I think winning his heart was less about fulfilling a checklist and more about being the person God created me to be and allowing another person to be drawn to that. I think in my single days, I would have been energized by an article like Feldhahn's that offers great practical advice that a single woman can grab onto. The balance is remembering you may be primed to win a man’s heart, but the right man might not be there yet. Don’t be discouraged. Practice the principles, pray and hope, and remember it’s possible … sometimes when you don't see it coming.

[Guys may want to check out "How to Win a Woman's Heart" by Joshua Rogers.]

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  • Suzanne, thank you so much for this post. While I understand and appreciate Ms. Feldhahn's suggestions, I must say that as a long-time single woman, I often grow weary of these kinds of articles. The problem with articles like this is that the author (certainly unintentionally) indicates that if a woman is still single she must necessarily be lacking in one of the six areas mentioned. This leads single women to believe that the reason they are still single is because they are somehow not godly enough. Or perhaps it is because they don't place enough of an emphasis on maintaining their physical appearane; or are placing too much of an emphasis on their appearance. Or is it that they appear too desperate and needy? While all of these suggestions are valid and are important for single women to keep in mind, those who offer them as a solution run the risk of making single women feel deficient because of their marital status. The truth is, that all men and women should be constantly striving to cultivate a godly character regardless of their marital status. I know many single women that, while certainly not perfect, are godly, mature, beautiful women who would make a wonderful wife. The point is that if God has not yet ordained that they be married, all the godly character and physical attractiveness in the world will not make them married. We should be cautious in offering anyone a magical formula for marriageability. Rather we should be encouraging all our brothers and sisters to develop godly character regardless of whether they are married or single.

  • --You have got to be kidding me. It's this kind of advice that keeps Christians single.

  • --One guy on our Facebook page said, "This article is very accurate. Not only is each point very true, it is explained realistically." So I'm curious to hear more guys' opinions of Shaunti's advice of how to win a man's heart.

  • --Thanks for the invitation, Martha. My male perspective is that #1 seems out of order, as figuring out "the right one" would be a combination of the following five points.  The first point for me to discern is whether she is whether she is one at all, meaning whether she's a believer. If not, then the other five points aren't going to matter.  Perhaps I'm splitting hairs, but it seems like a person can be holy, righteous, good, etc. and not be "the right one" for me but "exactly the right one" for someone else.  

    The other points are easy to agree with, especially #4. For example, what could possibly be more embarassing and painful than being rejected by someone in the church?  It's paralyzing to me... mostly because I put it into terms of "good enough" or "not good enough."  If I'm "not good enough" for her, then the same must be true for X, Y, and Z.  Sure, the onus should remain on the males for most of the pursuit, so my complaint about paralysis is more of a me problem. However, a little positive reinforcement on the front-end wouldn't hurt. Same for #6 - since we're stuck interacting in a human world, it's pretty difficult to get away from the comparisons and ideals that flood over us, rightly or wrongly. Remember also the human tendency to make a bigger deal of faults than blessings, so a man who is seemingly on top of the world still needs the same encouragement.  

  • --Right-o Martha, all opinion and error herein is mine: Number 1 (be the right one) sorta goes without saying, but is good to reiterate nonetheless. If you’re not loving God and people, in that order, then a godly guy will probably pick it up quickly. I don’t expect you to be in the exact same spiritual place as me, but if you can’t understand why I’m heavily invested in my local church, it’s not going to help.

    Number 2 (confident not desperate) is not as much of a problem, but that may just be because no one has really been desperate for me! If nothing else be willing to engage confidently in something new. Last Saturday I turned up to a young adults function at my church quite early, and was the only person welcoming three single ladies who were also early, and had never been to our church before. The fact that they were prepared to try something new without any precise idea of what they were in for (and to listen to me try to engage all three of them in conversation for a while to welcome them) speaks well.

    Number 3 (take care of yourself) yes, this is important for other reasons too – we each only get one body, and we’re called to steward them well, notwithstanding the fact that God can do miraculous healing. That said, a guy’s physical attraction does have some dependence on his ‘type’ preferences, and his reliance on physical attraction changes over time. I know I have personal preferences for hair colour, a particular facial bone structure and body shape, but at age 30 I’ve learned to set them aside somewhat, and focus on the true beauty of character, which ties into number 1.

    Number 4 (quietly let him know you’re interested), the only thing I would add here is that what you need to do will depend on your existing personality and habits. If you’re already the life of the party, organising lots of group outings, then a guy won’t think you’re paying him any special attention when you invite him. If you’re the quiet type, sometimes just initiating a conversation with him at a group event might be enough. Definitely throw in encouragement (number 6), and ask your mentors and friends what ‘the signals’ means in your social context – it’s highly dependent on culture, which if different from one church (or even one small group) to another. (As an example not related to relationships, I’ve been reading Boundless long enough to know that Martha doesn’t ask for opinions every day, thus why I took the time to write.)

    Finally number 5 (let him lead) yep, absolutely. If you don’t you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of pushing, prodding and nagging. If he doesn’t have at least some vision for where he wants to go in life, the type of person he wants to take with him, and the motivation to do something about it, he’s on dangerously stagnant ground. (Before other guys shoot me down on that one, know that I am, unfortunately, largely describing myself there, so I’m trying to work on it.)

  • --Thanks for taking the time, AussiePaul!

  • --I think lauralou said it very well why articles like this, though well-meaning, lead single women to feel as if they're doing something wrong and THAT'S why they're still single. It seems to be a common trend for women who were able to find a husband to give off an attitude of, "It happened for me, so it'll happen for you too if you do X, Y, and Z."

    Suzanne, I've been reading your articles for several years now. I found Boundless after you had gotten married, but I used to frequently go through your older posts so that I could follow your story and see how God worked in your life. It's been a blessing because you put voice to the exact thoughts, struggles, and motions that many Boundless readers go through. You've been open about how you married at 31. Having just turned 30 myself, I realize I'm nearing the age you were when you married, and that naive hopefulness of "having time" seems to diminish slowly. Of course, I realize that all of our experiences and stories will be different. I suppose what I'm leading up to is this question: if you hadn't met your husband when you did, if you had waited longer, or if you were, let's say, currently single, how do you think your attitude would be about the subject looking at it from the perspective of an older single person?

    When I was 26/27 and reading your articles, I felt that 30/31 was "older," but obviously, I don't feel that way anymore. And I know you've approached the subject from all angles, but I would appreciate your insights. Thank you again for being so honest, realistic, as well as sympathetic to those who go through a struggle you've been through.

  • H.M. I'm not Suzanne, but I would like to encourage you. Although I try to stay cognizant of my single friend's feelings as much as I can, I think sometimes the lines get blurrier as we get older because we know what worked for us, and we honestly want to believe that those same things will work for other people. That is, we want to tell other people's stories through the lense of our own. We want to boost up the people around us by hoping that if they can tap into the things that got us where we are, that they will eventually get where they want to go. But to be real, there's no "special knowledge" that leads to marriage. Even most of the articles here, and most of the engagement stories and most of the suggestions I heard as a single (even the ones I disagreed with) are just common sense filtered through scripture and tradition. The bible doesn't tell us how to navigate between "hello" and "I do" and no one has a license on the "preffered" approach. We're all just trying to figure out this crazy mess of life while trying to live like Jesus -- and hoping that our own pain and struggles can shed meaning on someone else's.

    To be totally honest: I fumbled and bumbled my way to marriage. I'm not special or unique or "better" than my single friends. I deffinitely wasn't better at dating, where I was basically an abject failure. I didn't do everything right, and I wasn't the "most" spiritually mature of all the single people I knew when I finally met my husband (if anything, I was spiritually exasperated ;) ). I got bumps and bruises and my heart broken, and I waited longer that I'd like (though not as long as some). I read all the books and the articles (even ones with diametrically opposing views, and views I personally opposed, after all, someone out there must think they were onto something!). I gave "nice guys" a chance, and I turned down some kind and decent non-Christian guys. I made mistakes, some trivial, some large. Marriage wasn't a "reward" for my good behavior or a punishment because I couldn't hack it as a celibate single (which we all know, is "better" ;) ). It was and is a blessing and a gift. I didn't get married because I "earned" it, I got married by the grace of God, because he allowed it. Because I prayed for it and, in time, he was merciful to me.

    I think the best thing you can do for yourself is to be honest and self-aware. You're not 23 anymore, you ARE 30, and you have different strengths now than you had then. You might have different weaknesses too, but being aware of them can help you turn them into opportunities for growth. Meeting people intentionally to get to know them helps, too. Really getting to know people instead of just getting the cliff notes of them and summing them up right away. There's no secret trick or tip or recipie to getting married, and although service and altruism will pull a band-aid over the wound, there's no way to effectively take the sting out of the lonliness you feel coming home to an empty house (except possible for a puppy or kitten). There is only hope and prayer and knowing youself enough to be comfortable with what you can bring to a relationship if the occasion arises.

    ---

    On the article itself:

    I think you can fullfill checklists like this until your nose falls off and things might still fall through the cracks for you -- not because you've done something wrong, but because you haven't met the right person, in the right time or place, to appreciate who you are when all the checklist items get stripped away. From a practical standpoint, checklists only get you (maybe) over the threshold of relationship. I didn't marry my husband because he was simply kind and a Christian who I respected. I married him because he was wonderful and hilarious and completely, uniquely *him.* (also, dat butt. ;) ) That is, you might get someone's attention (or you might not) by meeting a checklist, but if you hold onto that mentality with a death grip you will drive your relationships into the ground. "I'm letting you lead! Why won't you love me!!?!"

    To be fair, Shauni Feldhaun's book "For Women Only"  was among those books that I read as a single, and as I read down this list, which is basically a cliff notes version of the book, I saw all those things I struggled to make myself into. I tried to become the person I would like to date -- and I ended up as that single career woman who is a homeowner and has "no space for a man" in her life (which was bad). I tried to be confident, and was told that my confidence made me unapproachable and mannish (which was bad). I tried to take care of myself and was constantly dissapointed with my own personal failure (which was bad) -- until I took the focus off of dating and simply tried to be healthy for myself. I tried "quietly" performing acts of service, and watched as I got shunted to the back of the room as women who were much more forthright about their intentions walked down the aisle. Letting men lead in my relationships always turned into a power struggle or getting walked on and over (which was bad), and expressing admiration feels so empty and cold when that admiration is not returned with affection, like expressing admiration for a dead historical figure. You might admire, or even respect them, but at the end of the day, you're exactly where you were (which is bad). At the end of the day, trying to measure up to all the lists... I felt like a failure.

    The "letting him lead" thing was something I, personally, really struggled with -- because it was so hard for me, I often ended up in that death grip position. I would give the fellow I was dating room to lead, and then he would just... not plan anything (Shaun of the dead at the Winchester anyone? :P). Complicating matters more, I am a planner. I love to plan -- and I really love to plan crazy big events for the people I love. It's one of the ways that I demonstrate that I love them. I live for that kind of stuff -- and I'm *good* at it, like Suprise-Weekend-Out-Of-Town good. But everything I ever heard as a single girl told me that that side of my personality was mannish and unacceptable -- and when I would hand over the reigns of leadership to guys who would just "Oh, you didn't want to stay in and play video games with my buds again?" I felt unloved, unappeciated and undervalued. The takeaway that I often heard from well meaning people in that situation, though, was never really that those guys were actually underappreciating or undervaluing me, it was that my expectations were too high -- that I didn't deserve better. Further, that a good, decent and right-thinking man would be repulsed by how much I needed to "control" the situation -- or that they would be freaked out by my overly attached desperateness as evidenced by the amount of forethought I put into get-togethers I planned and flee. The strong and clear message I often got was that it was nearly impossible to be as Type-A as I am and to be loved by a good Christian man: I would never, ever be able to be my authentic self AND win a man's heart. At least not the kind of man that would make me happy. I needed to root out those parts of my personality that made me undesireable. I was a poor excuse for a woman. I needed to become someone else.

    Looking back, It's kind of ironic, really  because in my marriage, my "planningness" is a team strength, and so his his ability to take my type A-ness in stride. We're not a team because we're both amazing at everything all the time, because we both just totally nail this whole "Christian Marriage" thing, and it wasn't my bangin' body and sweet and submissive attitude that drew him to me, or drew us together (Nor was it his overpowering masculinity that had me Scarlett O'Haraing all over the place). It was, isntead, our quirks and jokes and interests and (I think, most importantly) our mutual thoughtfulness (which is a really rare quality, I found). In the end, I didn't find that checklist guy, and he didn't find a checklist girl, but we both found people we could be our authentic selves with -- and I wouldn't trade that for any "guide" or "reality check" any day.

  • --Mrs. Ashley, please write a book. Really. I so appreciate your responses.  

    These points about winning his heart are all good things to remember, and good advice for helping in getting his attention but I also have to agree that sometimes it can be exhausting to hear yet again more things to try that don't always seem to work. I think the one I really do agree with though is running hard after God and becoming the woman He made me to be in Him, because so often you can do these points till you're blue in the face to no avail but if He is your goal regardless it frees you to keep moving forward and trusting.

  • --Thank you for your thoughtful and thorough comments, MrsAshley. I'd be interested in having you expound on your reference to 1 Corinthians 7... yeah, that whole "better" thing. You know as well as I do that no one here believes that.

  • --MapsG: Hehe, I should learn not to throw Scripture out in passing, eh? What I *don't* think is that Paul is making a declaration that singleness is categorically better than marriedness -- which is how many people have used that verse throughout the ages. I think that to really understand what Paul is trying to say in Chapter 7, we've got to rewind all the way back to chapter 4. Verse 18 is where Paul really gets around to the meet and potatos of his letter to the Corinthians. Basically he's saying, "DUDE! What are you DOING!? Look, you're having a hard time of this whole 'Church Life' thing, so let me help you out with some issues you're experienceing."  He basically ends Chapter 4 by saying "Don't make me come out there and straighten ya'll out." Then he starts giving examples of problems in the Corinthian church and offering solutions to those problems. In Chapter 5 we see him address unrepentant public sin, in Chapter six we see him talk to lawsuits within the church and sexual immorality within the church, so it is in this context that we come to chapter 7, and the list continues in 8 where paul discusses the problem of meat that has been used in Idol worship.

    Basically, Chapter 7 is paul addressing issues of marital dischord in the church, it's impact on the church, and giving practical admonishment on how to best avoid marital discord. In the middle of this discussion, he also takes a rabbit trail to talk about two other divisive issues in the early church -- circumcision and slavery.

    So Paul begins chapter seven from the segue of chapter 6: sexual immorality, on the grounds that people are (being frank) using piety in order to avoid sex. Instead of "honey, I have a headache" some members of the early Corinthian church were saying, "Honey, I need to pray!" The were presumably basing this on a teaching they had recieved and had previously written to Paul asking for clarification on the matter (7:1). As you might imagine, this was causing some drama in Corinth! So Paul's resolution for the issue is what we've come to expect: Sex isn't dirty, it's a normal part of marriage, and people shouldn't get divorced. Paul segues into the discussion on circumcism from here, noting that just as a newly believing spouse should not divorce a preexisting unbelieving spouse, someone who is uncircumcised should not become circumcised solely because of their faith, further, simply accepting the freedom that comes with Christ does not guarantee a physical freedom, for the enslaved Christian in this world. Paul urges people, basically, to remain as they are, but follow Christ.

    It's only after all this that we get to the point on singleness, from the context of marital dischord, from the context of issues and trouble within the church, and from the context of how a change in belief should not neccessarily impact a change in physical or social status. It's also pretty clear, from the wording, that he is responding again, to a very specific concern of the Corinthian church. It's pretty easy to imagine that a church that is wrestling with whether or not "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman" is a practical Christian teaching might also wrestle with whether it is ideal (or not) for a virgin to marry. We see that also in Paul's response: "Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. "

    In light of the earlier paragraph Paul also notes this: " But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this." Basically, the only way to avoid marital dischord is to avoid marriage entirely.

    He then goes on to say: "I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord."

    I know it's not all that popular (especially among the "marriage is to make you holy" crowd), but I can honestly say that I've experienced this. I sometimes worry, for example, during sermons how my husband will react to something that is said, rather than simply weighing it on its own merit. Instead of attending a women's bible study on Monday nights, which I would have done in addition to a small group as a single, I stay home so we can spend the evening together. I don't think this neccessarily makes me a "worse" Christian, but it certainly does make me a less "devoted" Christian than I was as a single. I also have less time to volunteer and dedicate to church ministry when I am caring for my own home.

    So from the perspective of Paul, the apostle, the overseer of the church, it is *better* for the church if I do not marry, if I remain a single servant to the cause of God. We also see this sentiment from Paul:

    "What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away."

    Paul recognises, though, that what might be better for the church is not always better for the individual: "If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. "

    Paul's admonishing that it is better to be single comes only after all this: " But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better."

    But better for whom? Better for the individual, better for the woman or better for the church? Since this comes in a passage of admonishions for problemsolving within the church, I think we can safely assume that it is the church that such action is better for.

    I would say that even most modern churches would begrudingly agree with that. Single people are the workhorses of the church, they can be there earlier, stay later and dedicate time and attention when married people must tend to their spouses and their children. We don't have the letter from the Corinthians to Paul, so we can't really know the full context of what they asked, but based on the surrounding passages, and my experience (although I am no bible scholar), this is the most logical extrapolation of that passage to me.

  • --Wow, ask and ye shall indeed receive! Thank you, MrsAshley, for what I would say is the best explanation of that sticky, prickly, and otherwise intimidating chunk of Scripture. Yes, I agree that it would be wise (for all of us) to be careful about throwing out Bible verses as stand-alone argument-enders... for example the notion that Paul says "better" and that's what he means. The proper context, which you provided, is pretty huge - especially in the Epistles. So with that in mind, it makes good sense that the church is the entity for whom it is "better" in the case we're discussing. However, that insight doesn't mean a hill of beans when neither you nor anyone else would trade backwards to be a useful tool of the church. No one wants to be a shovel, whether it's "better" or not.

  • --@MapsG: I thoroughly agree with you. The problem that I see is this: There is no one size fits all cookie cutter plan when it comes to singleness/marriage The truth is that single and married states are of equal value and importance, because as Christians, our identity and value as divine image bearers of God is through Christ, not our fertility or our marital status. It would be nice to see more segments of the American church really live that out and strive for community ALLTOGETHER. I am not discounting the importance of relating to people in similar life stages, however, one has more of an opportunity to have a clearer, more realistic understanding of the world when one realizes that NOT EVERYONE, MUCH LESS your other Christians has the same life experiences/background as you do. And gasp! You're no better or worse than they are. Differences do not always equal deficiencies.

  • --Suzanne - having read the article, I would love to hear how one aspect played out in your life.  If you don't mind sharing, was your husband initially attracted to you?  Or did he see you as only a friend at the start, with attraction blossoming later?  

    From the article, it suggests that if he was a typical guy, he would have been initially attracted but did not act on it until he knew you.  

  • MrsAshley,

    I appreciate your insights and your empathy! When it comes to dating, I believe I have the opposite issue, which is a lack of casual dating experiences, which makes it difficult to allow something to even happen. It's something I'm working on between God and myself. Boundless is big on intentional dating, and many people view a coffee date as something that doesn't have to be a big deal. I've learned that dating isn't for the weak, and perhaps these are the things that stand in my way. As I said, I'm working on them!

    Regarding Feldhahn's list, I know a number of women who say they were never the archetypal candidate for marriage, yet it happened for them, much to their surprise. I'm not sure weather this is encouraging, or if it makes one wonder, "If you, then why not me?" Perhaps a bit of both. I have a coworker who consistently points out how socially awkward and reluctant she was when she met her husband, and yet, he seems to be crazy about her. Different men will be attracted to various things about each woman they meet.

    Thank you to those of you who are honest about this subject. I encourage all of you to continue to encourage one another. :)

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