I have a confession to make. I believe in arranged marriages. Well, okay, marriages arranged by our Heavenly Father, but arranged, nonetheless. It is with unwavering belief that I write that our Spiritual Father has a special someone picked out for each of us, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s set in stone. When I came to this realization, it got me thinking. If God has a young man set aside for me, shouldn’t I be acting like I’m already taken? And aren’t all these other young men taken as well? Provided they are not called to celibacy, everyone of those guys out there has a wife already ordained by God. Think of it — we have a divine destiny.
So now what? Well, for my family, flirting and the like has always been heavily discouraged, but I could still struggle with attractions. Unfortunately in our society it is common to think that if a person is single, they are up for grabs. You want to flirt? Permission granted. You want to let him know you are available? Go right ahead, after all, he’s not spoken for.
But this is where I would like to offer a different opinion. We are all spoken for. Just because we may not know who our future spouse is does not mean that he doesn’t exist or we don’t have an obligation to fulfill. It came to me that the easiest way for a person to remain emotionally pure was to treat all single people of the opposite sex like they were already married. Would you flirt with a married man? Would you daydream about him? Would you spend extra time worrying over your appearance and manner? I hope not, ’cause he’s already got his gal! Think of all the stress you will spare yourself if you avoid all the emotional/physical attractions and all the nervous behavior that goes along with it. After all, you wouldn’t even consider it, if he was already bound to another.
Now, think if you were already married. What would your conduct be like? Most likely you would be less familiar with men, not to mention the subconscious attitude of “I’m taken” will carry over in your behavior. How would you want a guy to treat you? Obviously you don’t want them flirting with you! But then reality hits, and because most of you are probably not married, you may still be having to deal with some guy trying to start a premature romance. Don’t be too discouraged though, there are a few guys out there that are successfully giving others the same message that you may wish to convey. Nobody says it, but it is understood that your conduct toward them must be entirely respectful. Those guys are Untouchable. Set apart. Already spoken for. Blast! What’s their
secret? What is it about them that communicates that invisible fence so well? When I first witnessed this as an adolescent, I was in awe of those guys and held them in high esteem. They just seemed so holy! I have often asked myself how I could emulate that in my life. Spending hours analyzing their manner and attitudes, I would try to implement it, at times with great success and others a complete failure. Still, I very much wanted to avoid some of the behavior I would witness in other young adults such as flirtatious teasing and cavorting, so my search continued.
It wasn’t until I read a book by human behaviorist Nathan Boothman that it became much more clear to me. One of the things he brought out in his writing was the concept we have in our North American culture of public, social, personal and private space. Public space starts ten feet away from you and outward in a circle around you. Social space is within ten feet to arms length, while personal space is within arms length and private starts about a foot away and becomes, shall we say, more private the closer it is toward your body.
I was talking to a group of friends about this when I asked them how comfortable they would feel offering a hug to a certain man we all knew. “No way!”, was their adamant response. No one could put their finger on exactly why, but somehow it just seemed very clear that it would not be given a very pleasant reception. We all thought well of this man, but respect was in order. He was Untouchable. I then pointed out something from which this man carefully refrained. Having read Boothman’s book, I was able to notice something that I’d never consciously realized before. He never placed himself in the personal space of another woman, aside from wife and daughters. In fact, if for practical purposes he ended up in the personal space of another female, he would respectfully withdraw himself at the soonest opportunity. But that was not all. His conduct was friendly, but formal. No joking around or prolonged eye contact, while his manner was subdued and respectful toward women. I could now happily pat one more piece of the puzzle into place. We could very well deduce from this information that our subconscious mind picks up on very significant yet subtle messages like “please don’t invade my personal space as I don’t invade yours.”
However, that is not all we unknowingly process. Nathan Boothman gave a very thorough examination of our human body language, pointing out subtleties and seemingly insignificant details that communicate a great deal. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with some one who sat with their legs crossed, arms folded over their chest, body set at an angle from you and leaning in the opposite direction from you? I bet you didn’t hear their deepest secrets or get any confessions out of them. That is because they were conveying extreme closed body language. In other words, they either didn’t like you or didn’t feel comfortable with the conversation. They wanted out, big time. Now think of some one who you conversed with that stood directly facing you, hands in full view, shoulders relaxed, their manner calm and deliberate and within arms length of your person. So long as they were the same sex as you and polite, I’m sure you enjoyed the conversation and didn’t feel threatened. This person was displaying open, friendly body language and most likely enjoyed being with you. Because of how comfortable they were in your personal space they would probably have no problem teasing you in a familiar way and even touching you.
Now repeat the above scenario except having a person standing at a forty five degree angle to you and beyond arms length, in the social space. This would be friendly, but slightly closed body language due to the angle of the person and because they are respecting your personal space. When someone stands in your personal space directly facing you combined with friendly, open body language, they are subconsciously conveying camaraderie and no doubt the conversation has the potential to become more than casual. If you are both females, then this is no big deal, but if not, you may prefer for this not to happen.
I’m sure that at one time or another most of you have been in a group of teens where one of the girls snatched a hat off a guy and proceeded to get chased around the room by the young man. Before you know it they are both slapping, laughing and shoving at each other. Then the girl throws the hat to you. Now what? Do you really want this guy to invade your personal space and chase you around? Do you want to be treated in such a flirtatious and familiar manner? What I’m about to say next you’ll have to bark at me for and not Boothman, though I did use his research. When a person invades your private or personal space with “flying objects” or tries to physically involve you in a game of “cat and mouse,” they are subconsciously giving the invitation for you to invade theirs. My suggestion for this scenario is to calmly and deliberately lay the object aside, signifying your disinterest in the game and return to whatever you were doing previously. He can’t chase if you don’t run! I found it to be the most effective when I only briefly made eye contact with the person but kept a pleasant demeanor. Loud laughter will encourage it, whereas a serious expression discourages it. Keeping a polite, formal attitude will go a long way in building that invisible fence. Now of course if you already have a playful relationship with a guy, it can be very difficult to switch in midstream, but it can be done. It may take some time and tactful explanations, but in the long run you will gain his respect and probably even admiration. I know from testimonies of other girls who apply these principles that most guys treat them with deference and respect that they don’t give other females.
So naturally, if you feel the desire as I do to consider yourself bound to your future spouse, and you wouldn’t behave in any way toward the opposite sex that you wouldn’t if already married, then you don’t want a personal conversation to happen. So how to prevent it? Keeping a formal conduct around men, respecting personal space, and practicing friendly but slightly closed body language can go a long way.
Never underestimate the power of these subtleties, they are a young women’s best friend and will keep all but the most brazen individuals at bay, which is where dads and brothers come in handy. If some guy just doesn’t “get it” staying near your parents is my suggestion as they should be able to handle it.
Finally, there is one other thing I would like to point out that might be helpful to some individuals and that is our appearance. Keeping a conservative, modest dress will greatly effect how people perceive you. If your conduct is in keeping with your modest clothing, even worldly people will understand it to be a religious statement and respect you. I have had complete strangers approach me and ask about my head covering and say they thought I must know all kinds of things about the Bible and I must always go to church and certainly wouldn’t wear tight pants. Some times it’s rather entertaining but mostly it’s a great witness.
I do have a disclaimer before I close, and that is I am not condemning anyone by saying any of this. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around these concepts and finding new ways to apply them. For the most part, I just hope I can unravel some of this mystery and inspire some girl to be a woman worthy of honor, a sweet testament to purity and holiness.
So I have a proposition for you, sisters.
Let us join the ranks of Untouchables, learn to build a respectful “fence” and wait for the fulfillment of our “arranged marriages” — a match made in heaven. That is my desire, my heart is spoken for.