My girlfriend and I broke up this week. It was horrible. Embarrassing tears were shed, trite advice was heard, regrettable texts were sent – all of that stuff. And all because I made the stupid choice to become vulnerable. Or, at least, secular and Christian advice alike would boil it down to that.
Argov explains to the would-be wife, “When you need [a man’s] approval, it blinds you and you quickly become the vulnerable one in the relationship. Adopt the philosophy of ‘approval neither desired nor required.’” (Argov, 12)
She gives the first principle of romantic jiu-jitsu: “When [a man] can’t [push your emotional buttons], he’ll often crumble and become the more vulnerable one in the relationship.” (Argov, 128)
In fact, “It doesn’t matter how unemotional they seem, men are vulnerable as well. They, too, can get squashed like a grape.” (Argov, 197) Moreover, “If a man really cares, he feels vulnerable. That’s when he needs a protective shield the most and that’s when he’ll often behave more coolly.” (p. 197)
Argov’s approach to dating unto marriage replaces delicacy with armor, vulnerability with invulnerability, fragility with weapons, sharing with “squashing,” and sensitivity with “shields.” Her approach is biblical in that it carries echoes of Joel 3:10: “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, ‘I am a warrior.’” I can attest: that is what some of my own dating relationships have looked like – emotionally and relationally, twisting innocent words into fatal weapons in order to protect myself at the other’s expense.
Surely those secured by Christ’s love have something different to say.
Hiestand and Thomas, coming from a Christian perspective, comment, “[W]e do have a problem with a man romancing a woman outside of the context in which sexual intimacy can be properly expressed.” (H&T, 84-85) The implication is that vulnerable romance is inappropriate in a non-secure context like dating, a perspective not so different from Argov and her followers.
They continue, “Unrequited love may be an inevitable part of life, but a bruised heart is better than a broken heart. . . . Contrary to popular opinion, broken hearts need not be a standard part of premarital relationships.” (H&T, 85, 86)
Whether it’s through putting your romantic other in an emotional armbar or keeping them at arm’s length to “leave room for the Spirit,” secular and Christian thinkers alike are trying desperately to find a preemptive cure to heartbreak. The question we must each answer for ourselves is: “Should we avoid vulnerability until marriage in order to avoid heartbreak?” Many may legitimately answer yes. In the midst of heartbreak, my answer is still no.