In this episode of the Forever Love Podcast, we're looking at how our language and the words we use to describe dating can negatively impact romantic relationships.
I want to share with you three common metaphors that are commonly used and examine why they are having such a dangerous impact on new couples, especially single women.
When we talk about men as predators, women as objects, and marriage as a necessity we lose the humanity that is critical for healthy relationships.
Let's begin to rewrite the narrative one story at a time by choosing words and images that bring life rather than death.
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I felt like a piece of meat. A bit of bait used to lure a predator into captivity. If he found me and consumed me, what would be left?
Would I continue to be myself after being devoured by the hunter?
What would I wear?
The right outfit makes all the difference.
Too much fabric and you cover up your inherent beauty.
Too little, and you leave yourself vulnerable.
How do you let him know you’re interested without stepping outside that sacred circle of appropriateness?
When it mattered most, I felt paralyzed with fear.
Fear of chasing him away or catching a tiger by the tail.
As I looked at my face in the mirror, I let the question of whether or not he would like what he sees override the much more important question of whether or not I like what I see.
I leaned into my ability to become a shapeshifter.
Changing my appearance and behavior to suit the situation.
What do you like?
I can be that.
I’ll be anything you want in exchange for love.
But what then will you fall in love with?
A reflection of your own illusions of what makes a woman worthy.
And in the end, the mirage only lasts so long.
Hi, I’m Lily Mtongwiza, and this is the Forever Love Podcast, where it’s my job as a Christ-centered relationship coach to help single women pursue their God-given desire for marriage with confidence and integrity.
Today I want to talk about the language we use when we’re talking about love, romance, and dating.
Language is so important because it is the building blocks of our thoughts.
We can only think about the things we have words for.
And words can carry enormous power and influence.
So the way we talk about certain things influences how we think about things.
I love metaphors, allegories, parables, and stories.
In university, I decided to study the world through the stories we tell about ourselves, our history, and the world around us.
Because at the end of the day, we are all storytellers, and it’s our stories that connect and divide us.
Stories and metaphors have a way of revealing hidden truths and meaning.
Jesus used parables to undermine the defense systems of his most critical audiences.
Rather than just coming out and saying something, He had a way of speaking deeper truths that could get into your heart and head before you had a chance to write them off.
His words affected his listeners because they spoke to the heart rather than the analytical mind.
And I’m saying all this to demonstrate that language has power, and it can either help or hinder you in your pursuit of a Christ-centered marriage.
One thing that has irritated me for many years is the language with which we talk about dating.
I hear it all the time, from pulpits, social media, and the women in our online community.
And a lot of it is disturbing and dangerous.
Today I want to take a look at three dangerous ways in which we talk about dating.
We will also consider how God describes romantic love throughout the scriptures.
When you look at the words we use in this way, it will become painfully clear why we need to reconsider the ways in which we talk about love and romance.
Man as Hunter/predator
The first one, and the one I personally find the most disturbing, is when we talk about men in the dating context as hunters or predators.
As a society, we have bought into this idea that the best relationships happen when women are pursued by alpha males.
The most dominant male targets the most attractive female and overcomes her, thus producing what exactly?
Is it any wonder that so many women are reluctant to put themselves out there when we talk about starting a relationship this way?
The entire metaphor is wrapped in the imagery of violence, dominance and resistance, and rape.
God did not create women to be pursued and overcome.
When did we start talking about lovers as if they were wolves taking down a deer?
Is it any wonder women are hiding and scared to date when we use this kind of language?
The bigger problem is that we internalize these words. Men live into these stereotypes because they have been taught to believe that this is who they are and what is expected of them.
Women have been responding to this stereotype by either hiding from such men or competing with each other to be the best prize.
None of this is in alignment with what God says about who we are when we are living in Christ.
And yet, we continue to talk like this.
The church ridicules women who “go looking for men” or take initiative.
They love to quote Proverbs 18:22, which says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”
And they insist that when a man wants something, he goes after it.
And right there, we see the objectification of women.
She is reduced to a thing to be captured and possessed.
Of course, not everyone reads the proverb this way, and not everyone considers the metaphor in this light, but the language creates this sense of permission to do so.
In our mind, the words take root, and the imagination becomes the way in which we show up and behave.
And you don’t have to look far to see how this story of man pursues women is playing out in the world.
Women are scared to walk alone after dark because the predators are everywhere.
Let’s stop using this language to describe Christ-centered love.
Adam never hunted for Eve.
Abraham didn’t pursue Sarah.
And Boaz wasn’t stocking Ruth.
The language we most commonly use in Christ communities around men pursuing women better describes stockers and psychopaths rather than Godly men.
And with that being said, is it any wonder that the rates of abuse and violence, and destructive behavior is so rampant in the church?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard women say that the men in their church communities are creepy. And it doesn’t surprise me at all when they’ve been taught that this is how Godly men behave.
So here’s my suggestion, when you hear people around you using the language of hunter predator to talk about dating relationships, speak up and let them know how damaging it is to both women and men when we use this kind of language and then share some more Biblical examples of Godly romance.
Women as bait/ meat Women as a prize - objectification
The second metaphor that I want to deconstruct is the one around women as objects to be possessed.
This one comes up a lot when I hear women resign to the idea of putting themselves out there.
Is it any wonder that we instinctively cringe at the idea of dating when the language around it makes us sound like bait.
Not only are men objectifying women, but women are constantly being encouraged to objectify themselves.
And this is a hard one because in a healthy relationship, you need to be adding value to the other person’s life. But the value you add has nothing to do with your own personal worth.
You are made worthy by the fact that you were created by God and bought by the blood of the lamb.
If you want to know your worth, it’s simple to calculate.
You’re worth the blood of God’s own son.
You’re worth far more than rubies, and you don’t need a diamond to prove it.
So let’s stop talking about ourselves as shiny objects to be collected and owned.
The idea of trophy wives should tell us how deeply this metaphor has been ingrained into our cultural narrative.
And it’s time that, one by one, we began to rewrite the story.
Your value and the value of what you can create and offer in the world are two separate things.
Your value is constant. It doesn’t shift or change. It doesn’t increase or decrease.
Your value is set by God, and like God, it is the same today, tomorrow and forever more.
The value of what you do is separate and distinct from who you are.
The value of your contributions can be measured, bought, traded and sold, but you as a child of God are not a commodity.
The truth of this is hidden inside proverbs 3:15
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
Rubies, were the most expensive thing you could purchase during this era and anything you could pick up in the marketplace can or should be compared to the value of a Christ-centered wife.
Marriage is a necessity
Finally, there is the idea that marriage is a necessity.
People love to point to the fact that God said it is not good for a man to be alone as a reason for all women to be married.
But marriage at its best is always a choice.
Being single is a choice and not a consequence of some failing.
Being married is also a choice.
Both should be entered into with intention.
Either we are intentionally remaining single, or we are intentionally choosing and pursuing marriage.
The problem that I see coming up is that a lot of women see marriage as something that will happen to them.
God will set everything up, and the right man will come, pursue and claim her as his own.
And being single is just a season to endure.
This creates a lot of anger and resentment towards God and leaves a lot of women wondering, “what’s wrong with me? Why hasn’t God given me my Boaz?”
But here’s a hint that you might want to consider, if you don’t want to remain single, that’s because you have a God-given desire for marriage.
But that desire alone isn’t going to prepare you to be a Christ-centered wife.
There’s a lot of personal spiritual, and emotional development that goes into a Christ-centered marriage, and it has to be done by both the husband and the wife.
So remember, if you’re currently single, that’s a choice. It’s your choice.
When you own that choice, you get to make another choice.
But you’re probably thinking, Lily; I, didn’t choose to be single. He left me. I want to be in a relationship, but nobody wants to date me.
Let’s break this down because I think these are great points.
For the first one, when someone leaves you, we tend to think that now singleness is being forced upon you.
You didn’t ask for this.
You want to be in a relationship with that guy.
But is that true?
Do you want to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you?
When we are honest with ourselves, I think we need to acknowledge that a one sided relationship is not what we want.
And yet so many women stay in the relationship long after the guy has moved on.
They go into this fantasy realm and long for a man who doesn’t actually exist.
They want a version of their ex that isn’t real. Because the real guy just ghosted them.
That’s why it’s so important that we stay rooted in reality when it comes to love and romance because it’s so easy to start dating illusions of who we want someone to be.
You’ll know if you’re doing this if you’re constantly making excuses for someone the other person’s behavior.
Finally, there this idea that nobody wants to date you, and that’s why you’re single.
This one is always false when we dig a little deeper.
The raw fact is you don’t know everyone.
You haven’t met all the incredible people who would like to be in a relationship with you.
And there are most likely people who want to be in a relationship with you who you don’t want to be in a relationship with.
Because if all you wanted was relationship status, you could get that within the next 24 hours.
Honestly, we could get you married within 48 hours if we really wanted to.
All we would have to do is travel to a heavily populated area and make a cardboard sign that told men what you’re looking for and what you’re prepared to offer in exchange.
Eventually, we could tweak the offer and present it to enough men that one of them would be willing to take it.
But the fact is you don’t want a husband under those circumstances.
You’re choosing to be single right now.
And when you see that as a valid choice that you’re making, you begin to see how much power you have in your own life.
Life and marriage are not happening to you.
You are not a victim of your circumstances.
You’re not a chess piece waiting to be moved into position.
You’re a master builder working with God to create things that are good for you and bring glory to him.
And a romantic relationship that isn’t good for you does not bring any glory to him.
So I hope that now you can see how our language impacts the way we think and feel about relationships.
Now I want to leave you with a metaphor that I prefer.
Dating is like a dance.
You’ve got to learn the steps, you’ve got to prepare for it, and when the time is right, you’ve got to show up.
But showing up for a dance doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a dance partner.
You have to be intentional about sending the right signals.
Culture says that men lead the dance, but in reality, we know that dancing is give and take.
And as John Micheal Montrgumry says
Life’s a dance you learn as you go.
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Some days you’ll step on each other’s toes.
Sometimes the rhythms will be deep and passionate, and other days it will be elevator music.
Our minds and bodies are hardwired for dance.
And there are many different styles and rhythms to choose from.
When we look at relationships with this metaphor, we can see that there are many opportunities to practice, change partners, be playful, harmonize, cooperate, and most importantly, love.
I’m not much of a dancer. As a white girl growing up in rural Canada, I grew up swaying to country music and high school dances with Cotten Eye Joe.
We didn’t have a lot of money, and so when my mom was budgeting for our extracurricular activities, my slender, graceful little sister took ballet. At the same time, I was encouraged to pursue more hardy activities that were better suited towards my bull in a china shop mannerism, like the 4H club.
Lovingson, on the other hand, grew up with the freedom of movement that is embraced in African dance culture. The rhythms of life seem to beat effortlessly in his bones.
The first time we tried to dance together, we both bumped heads and squashed toes.
Over the years, we’ve learned that dancing takes place in many forms. It’s not just done to the beat of drums and the strumming of strings; it’s done to the pleasures and pains of life.
Our dance is constantly changing, always evolving. It is movement and stillness. It is steps, slides, twirls, and pauses.
In dancing, we discover each other, ourselves, and ultimately God.
He is my dance partner for life.
And I hope that this episode of the Forever Love podcasts helps you in your journey to find your partner too.
Before you go, I want to leave you with one final reminder.
You don’t have to wait for anyone to ask you to dance.
You can start enjoying the music and moving your body today.
I hope you dance.