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A letter to my daughter’s friends

Karen and I have four daughters between the ages of 20 and 25. They are entering the stage of looking more intentionally for a life partner. Serious business. I’m not always invited to the conversation and I’m cool with that – they need their space. At some point when they make their final decisi…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Karen and I have four daughters between the ages of 20 and 25. They are entering the stage of looking more intentionally for a life partner. Serious business. I’m not always invited to the conversation and I’m cool with that – they need their space. At some point when they make their final decision, they all know the guy has to come seeking my permission/blessing. We’re playing for keeps here.
My daughters have a multitude of friends in the same boat as them. And we’ve got hundreds of young, single women on the World Race, some of whom feel like spiritual daughters to me by the time they finish. I look at them with great pride and want nothing more than to see them matched up with a man who will see them as the prize they are.  Mostly I wonder if I have anything of value to say to them about this issue of “finding the right guy.”
However, as a guy, I do have a few words that might help them better understand where guys are coming from. So I decided to write this letter:
Dear ladies,
By now I trust you’ve figured out that guys are pretty uncomplicated. The picture above says it all. We basically want food and we want to not embarrass ourselves too badly as we try to manage our libido. If one of us tells you he loves you, basically what he means is, “I think you can help me meet these two needs of mine.”
Yes, we periodically get our act together and put on a good show, but I estimate that 95% of all guys in their 20’s, if they were being gut-level honest with you, would admit that this is true.  It doesn’t mean that we can’t eventually be trained to be different, but that is how we start out.
Therefore, NEVER trust a guy’s motivations when he says he loves you. Your job is not to get him to say “I love you” – hey, we’re taught to say that as a part of the mating dance humans do! Even birds do better than that! Your job is to figure out, “Does this guy, who looks hot on the outside, but on the inside understands as much about me as my pet hamster, have the capacity to make a concerted multi-year effort to try and learn about me? Will he always be one step up from a Neanderthal?” Because it truly will take many years before he begins to stop looking at you through the lens of his two basic needs.
I’m sorry to have to break the news to you in this way. God set it up this way so that we would be perpetually motivated to try and please you women.
However, this fact of life is what makes the job of trying to find the right guy so difficult. You can’t trust what your guy says because he has no track record of understanding a woman, let alone putting that woman’s needs first. Whatever he says, he only ultimately wants to meet his two needs. I personally know there are some wonderful Spirit-filled guys out there, but there are few exceptions to this rule. I’m always skeptical when a woman tells me she’s found one.
And complicating your task, you may well feel as though you don’t even
understand or trust yourself too well.
So, I hear some of you asking, “How can I
figure out the fit with any guy I like?” No easy answers. I’m just trying to help you get closer to reality. Let me offer you a tool in hopes that it will help. What I suggest is that you apply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (MHN) to your situation.
MHN states that people are motivated to meet needs. Once you meet the basic physical needs, you can move on to higher level needs like belonging and self-esteem. As I made clear, most guys live in the basement of this diagram. And the trade that they propose to you when they say “I love you,” is this: You meet my physical needs, and I will meet yours (i.e. provide for and protect you).”
If this is enough for you, then God bless you, go for it. But for most women it is not enough. They want the higher needs too: They want to belong to a tribe and they want to feel good about their contribution in life. Can your man commit to subordinating his needs long enough to listen to your heart? For example, if you have a heart for orphans, will he set aside his comfort or aspirations to listen to what your heart is saying? If you have a heart for adventure, will he regularly encourage you to go on adventures, or will he, having satisfied his own two needs, leave you frustrated?
Then there is the need for self-actualization.  Let me tell you, the men who will actually take the risks necessary to support your dreams are rare indeed. They may want to help you, but chances are, they are uninitiated and never learned how to take a proper risk. A few guys love their women to that degree and I bless them. They are a credit to the species.
I guess the bottom line of what I’m say is this: Don’t settle. You are worth it. Your dreams are worth it. And somewhere out there, for many of you, God has a guy who, with a little work, is worth it.

Comments (25)

  • Shew…I’m laughing and crying at the same time…the picture is very funny. Your words are a mirror, reflecting just how much we need God in this marriage business. Sometimes I wonder what He was thinking?:) How did He imagine this would ever work? I sense I am at a crossroad w/ this issue in my life. Seems the older one gets, the more complicated it can all get to find that proper “ribcage” to fit back into:)

  • Great blog pops! Thanks for looking out for us ladies 🙂 Looking forward to when I can apply this good advice to my life 🙂 Love you

  • Great summary of the needs and motivations ;-)… Although I’m not in my 20s anymore, I still believe in those thingsMAslow’s hierarchy (one of the best theories/explanations from my college days), and not settling. God has good and better, but He wants us to hold on for His best. Thanks for continually encouraging us young ladies in that direction!

  • I remember the day that my then-boyfriend told me he wasn’t interested in missions and confessed sheepishly to hoping my dream would just “go away.” I’m writing today from Peru, 5 years married to this same man, 18 months into our mission “trial period,” and so deeply grateful for this amazing God we love and serve….

    I know my husband was everything you’ve said about men in their 20s. I wasn’t any less selfish or stubborn myself. Somehow God is directing our lives and forming some ugly clay into a vessel that pleases Him.

    In the process, my husband has gone from charming Neanderthal to a man after God’s own heart. I couldn’t have planned or foreseen it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m in awe of the person he has become and is becoming, and I’m so glad for the sovereignty of God. Even the success of all of my best plans couldn’t have made my life into what God is giving me today.

    Thanks for the reminder, which quickens my heart to appreciate my husband and worship my God.

  • Yeah, I am thankful that God didn’t let me settle for less than his ultimate plan in a guy for me. Getting the best that God has to offer me in a spouse has been SWEET. Andy is beyond wonderful.

  • St. mark of the Cross

    Gosh Seth! Due you have to be so honest(snitch!) lol this is a recent mantra in our house and church as the youth girls are cross-examining me in a collaborated effort to convict me of the crime of telling them their “hotties”(the ones always trying to get them alone for “bible study”) are right for them. That the “good” boys in youth group love Jesus and since they are hot to add…will make good husbands. Never mind they do not talk about Jesus, evangelize unless there is a carload of girls “helping” them… In addition, these “hottie” boys of GOD talk about the girls when they are not around – of course only discussing the spirituality of the girls…lol From one “Danielin the lion’s den” to another – THANKS!

  • Good teaching Seth!

    I think the 2 scriptures that give amazing guidance on this subject is Amos 3 v 3 ” Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” and “Do not be unequally yolked” (somewhere in the New Test!).

    Just because someone is a christian does not mean it is ok to date them or even marry them. Young people need to know the path God has planned for their life and make sure that their partner is on that same path.

    Likewise if 2 cattle are yolked together that are unequal, the stronger one will drag the other one along.Both will get warn out very quickly.Not a good combination.

    I do not envy the young ones today having to make these choices!

  • KEY: “Don’t settle. You are worth it. Your dreams are worth it. And somewhere out there, for many of you, God has a guy who, with a little work, is worth it.”

    I was telling someone JUST yesterday, that if all I wanted was to be married, I could have done that a hundred times over…

    NO! I know exactly what I want and I will not settle or compromise my calling all in the name of flesh. Not easy but doable!

  • Great blog Seth!

    My sophomore year in college, I kept telling my boyfriend that I wanted to spend the summer at a particular inner-city ministry in NYC, but wasn’t sure how to do it. He was really excited when he found out they had a summer internship and brought me the info so I could go. He stayed in Ohio (working in youth ministry) and I went off to pursue my ministry dreams in NYC. I came home debating about whether to transfer from my college to a school in NYC so I could continue on there. I loved working in New York but I was falling in love with this guy in Ohio too- what to do? He assured me that no matter what I chose, he would support me and continue the relationship long distance if need be. His willingness to help me pursue what I thought God was calling me to was a big part of how I knew he was the man for me!

    In the end, I stayed at my school in Ohio and condensed my last 2 years into 1. The next summer I graduated, married him, and then we moved to the East Coast to pursue dreams of ministry together.

    Fourteen years later, we are so blessed to continue seeking and serving God together. We look back and both cringe and laugh at our ups and downs in life and ministry, but I am thankful for God’s faithfulness in leading us at the same pace as we learn to walk in the Kingdom with greater faith bit by bit.

    I echo Seth and the other comments as I encourage all the young women to wait and test and make sure your guy loves Jesus and the Kingdom AND you so that you can spend your married life seeking God together. The joys and adventures of an “equally yoked” marriage will be amazing!

  • Seth,
    Hilarious, poignant, insightful, a little embarassing for me and my Y chromosome. You hit the jackpot with that photo.

    At first I’m a little taken aback by such a base descriptionbut then, I’ve had the privilege to spend the last 9 months on a journey with some of the most godly and driven men I’ve ever known. Surely my concept of the male norm has shifted a lot during this time. Makes me wonder if I’ll be shocked when I reconvene with old friends upon re-entry . . .

  • Its amazing how sweet and gentle I was before my wife married me. Then once I won my prize, I transformed back into the Neanderthal I truly am. It has taken a lot of years to realize how precious and special my wife truly is and that I need to be the man she deserves.

  • Thanks, Seth. This blog was perfect timing. Just had a long conversation with a 19 year old the day prior about the pull between missions and a young man wanting to marry her who had NO interest in missions. This spurred more questions and conversation. Everyone’s comments are helpful, too. Thanks!

  • Your analogy about women being diamonds, needing to find a man who will be the setting to bring out her brilliance and beauty… thats always been one of my favorites!

  • Ha thanks for the good laugh and great teaching! I am one of 4 girls, my 2 older sisters are married but my younger sis & I are in the same boat as your daugters! This was an enjoyable read. I continue to learn and love your blog more and more each week! Your wisdom and insights are so valuable! I appreciate them as well as the manner you present them! Blessings!

    ~Future World Racer

  • The post is written in very a good manner and it entails many useful information for me. I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement the concept. Thank you for the post.

  • Thanks Seth. As always, an excellent blog.

    Brain, thats a great post, and one I am drawing a lot of encouragement from. My wife is a precious and amazing woman of God who deserves so much more than the Neanderthal I obviously am. I pray continually and with all my heart that i get there. She is so worth it. And more.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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