Jonalyn & Dale Fincher - "Cat and Mouse" Dating

Jonalyn & Dale Fincher are a wife and husband speaking/writing team and spoke at morning and evening chapel at George Fox University on February 19, 2014. This video and transcript are of their talk at the morning chapel about the problems with "cat and mouse" dating.


Dale: Thank you.

Jonalyn: All right. Paul is correct. I was raised Quaker. I was raised as a Friend in Whittier, a town in Los Angeles County named after John Greenleaf Whittier, the Quaker poet. And I have more recently come to understand the heritage of being a Friend. And I’m super excited to be here this morning because you are getting the fresh thoughts of what it means to have equality in dating and romance. We hail from the land of Steamboat Springs, of a land of snow…

Dale: Three hundred inches so far.

Jonalyn: … and ice, and Olympic skiers. Tis the season.

Dale: My dentist married an Olympic skier.

Jonalyn: That’s right!

Dale: Yeah. I know.

Jonalyn: (laugh) I love these random little things. So we are really excited our son is skiing, but we have no hopes that he will be an Olympic skier, he is too cautious.

Dale: I hope not, it’s too expensive.

Jonalyn: It is expensive.

Dale: Yeah.

Jonalyn: It’s very expensive. (laugh) We’ve enjoyed our time here already. Last night I was privileged to be on the sex panel for the women…

Dale: I was the only guy in the room at this, at the female, women’s sex panel, and I had to pretend I was reading my phone most of the time because I didn’t want create this, you know, any type of masculine energy to make anything awkward in there, but, oh my word, that was some steamy stuff, and I don’t think it was recorded, but it’s all in my memory. Won’t forget that.

Jonalyn: (laugh) We wanted to open up our time with you with two questions: one for the women in the audience and the other one for the men. And these these questions kind of capture what we felt was important to talk about on a week themed “Bad Romance.” You see, bad romance deals with things like broken hearts and pain and annoyance and anger at the opposite sex and disgust with them and healing, hopefully. We’re gonna talk more about broken hearts tonight. But another issue is what’s causing the broken hearts to begin with, what’s the root of the bad romance, and that’s when we came up with this metaphor of “cat and mouse.” And that’s what we want to talk with you about this morning. So those two questions, the first one for the women. This is kind of a Bridget Jones style question. Women, have you ever felt like there just aren't enough good men initiating and asking women out? Where are the good guys? Do you ever feel like they are just not initiating enough?

Dale: And guys, do you feel like you are expected too much to be the initiator? That to be a good boyfriend you have to have an endless amount of resources in your wallet? These are the questions from the “cat and mouse” game of dating. Now, cat and mouse, why did we choose that? Well, because that’s what it looks like, you know, cat and mouse - predator and prey. Like in the old cartoon I used to watch, Tom and Jerry, when the cat is chasing the mouse, and the mouse is always trying to devise ways to beat up on the cat. And so they end up becoming a rival to each other, even though it looks like one is bigger than the other one and chasing him around. Outsmarting each other. That’s the way I think a lot of our dating relationships begin.

Jonalyn: So in dating, one of us, and this can be the guy or the girl, plays unavailable, detached, hard to get.

Dale: We expect one to pursue and the other one to run.

Jonalyn: We give a little, we take a little, we hold them back long enough to keep them hungry for more. We never really be vulnerable because that’s revealing too much.

Dale: Teasing, flirting, sexual energy are used as ploys and tools rather than as gifts.

Jonalyn: So where are you in this game?

Dale: Some of you are better at this than others. Some of you are more attractive, but you're not so good at playing this game. Some of you are not as attractive, but you've mastered how to work a room.

Jonalyn: And some of you are really attractive and you know how to play the "cat and mouse" game, and when you walk into the room, you know the power you have. And the rest of us watch you walk in and all we think is: (exhales) here comes trouble.

Dale: Are you saying I am trouble or you’re trouble?

Jonalyn: No, no, no, I'm not pointing fingers. (laugh)

Dale: Is that what you think? Some of you don't want to play the game, and you are in a dating relationship and you didn’t play that game, and some of you don't wanna play the game and you feel like that your only choice really is just to be single and to barricade yourself with purity rings and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting … And then you wonder if there’s something wrong with you because you don't wanna play that game, you don't feel fit for it.

Jonalyn: Some of you played "cat and mouse", and you found the boyfriend or girlfriend you're dating right now, and it worked great! You're in the great relationship! Thing seem to be going really well. What we wanna say this morning is that the "cat and mouse" romance is built on a model that in the end is very confusing. And even worse is difficult to back up with scripture for the very simple reason that nobody was dating in the Bible. We don't get the courtship model, we don't get the dating model in the Bible. So, when Dale and I were dating and we got married, we were trying to find any tools on how to make this work as smoothly as possible, and so we played the "cat and mouse" game, but we found ourselves confused. We thought the Bible wanted Dale to be Mr. Cat, and I was supposed to be Mrs. Mouse.

Dale: And we brought that into our marriage. And, you know, it's not that we really talked about it, it's just assumed. The expectations are upon you, and I felt like to be Mr. Cat meant that I need to be the boss. It meant that I had to be the expert on the important things, that I had to be the one ''in-the-know", that I was to have the last word. That I was supposed to be the boss, and Jonalyn was supposed to be, in some ways, my secretary. And while I was taking on and expected to take on the “important things” to make sure the entire family has this wonderful umbrella over it with my wonderful ... wings. I felt like, well, Jonalyn, because she is the mouse, she needs to do the things I don't believe are important, like - she could take care of the house, and she could, you know, do the dishes, and when we have kids she could be the one who takes care of the children. And what is interesting is that while I was believing that, I had a lot of Christian men even encouraging me that I needed to make sure that I kept my wife in her place.

Jonalyn: And I encouraged it. I mean, I thought the man is the head of the wife, the man is the head of the woman, that these scripture passages meant that the man was the authority over the wife. And so, in our romance and in our marriage I made sure my role was met as best as I could, and what was my role? Number one - be smokin' hot. Right? Number two - make sure all the meals are put together, the kitchen is your domain. Number three - don't have any long term career goals where you're gonna have to uproot your husband to go move where you want to go because you need to stop your career at a moment’s notice if you need to raise your children. Which we hadn't had at that point, but I felt like I had to be ready for that. And these were things not just modelled or encouraged by people who explained scripture to me, these were modelled by generations of my family back. Some of you know exactly what I mean. The women took care of the kids, stayed home and made things great at home. There weren’t models of career women. And I found, as I was trying to fill this role, I couldn't keep up. I was trying to use my gifts and passions, getting a masters in philosophy of religion, holding down a full-time job teaching while also having a hot dinner at home every evening. I felt like I had to do everything naturally, make it look easy, and yet at the same time felt like I was never enough.

Dale: And I saw what was happening to our marriage, I felt like there were all these unnecessary burdens on us. And I wondered, “Why can't we share more of this?” I mean, why can't I do the dishes as a man? I mean, I did the dishes before I got married, why did all of a sudden marriage say: "Now dishes is womanly work"? And then I saw that Jonalyn was really good and had some great gifts in things that I wasn't so good at, and I began to wonder why is she not allowed to be good at the things she's good at? And as we processed this, we started to push against and ask questions. Are we trying to fit into certain roles, or do we need to create roles that fit us? Do we need to put aside the cat and the mouse and create something different for our relationship, for our romance.

Jonalyn: I realized I couldn't keep asking Dale to lead us everywhere he thought God was saying we should go, so that I didn't have to have a working, walking relationship with Jesus. I realized that I was asking Dale to be more of Jesus, so I didn't have to be.

Dale: You can see how living as "cat and mouse" hurts our romance because from the very beginning it sets us up to be competitors. Who's going to do what and who's going to do it better, rather than partners, of how do we connect, how do we do this together?

Jonalyn: Now I have a natural gift of leadership. On my blog I talk about this that I have a spiritual gift of being bossy.

Dale: That's true.

Jonalyn: (laugh) And I found that in this model, this "cat and mouse'' model, I had to hold back my abilities to lead, and yet, as most disempowered people, I found ways to passive-aggressively get what I wanted while appearing to be submissive. I mean, you know what I'm talking about, like the mother in My Big Fat Greek Wedding who says "Oh! The husband is head, but the wife is the neck, and the neck can turn the head any way she wants!" This is classic passive aggression.

Dale: And what this reveals is actually we have a lot of power. The fact that we can even play "cat and mouse" in those ways reveal we have a lot of power, just like all of you have a lot of power. The fact that you are college-educated means that you are a powerful person. So we want to connect by linking arms together, rather than being against each other.

Jonalyn: We believe it's time to question the "cat and mouse" game - the game of ruling and being ruled. Almost ten years ago Dale and I co-founded and now currently run a nonprofit called Soulation where we help people become more fully human, more fully themselves, like Jesus. And if that's something interesting to you, and after this talk you want to talk more about that, we’d love to meet you back at the table, we'd love to give you free spiritual mentoring. We have this thing called "Ask Live", where we can come on and chat with us one-on-one. We'd love to have you consider coming out to Steamboat for a five-day gathering to have spiritual conversations. But what we have found is this idea of being fully human. It's a guide we live our lives by, but it's also an amazing guide to use to apply to the "cat and mouse" game. And what we have found is the "cat and mouse" game actually dehumanizes us. Because it sets up expectations of the opposite sex that are less than human. And we want to share a couple of those.

Jonalyn: The first one is that the "cat and mouse" game teaches us to treat each other like animals. We end up expecting our sexual attraction, our sexual drive, to be an infallible guide to show us who would be a good person to have a romance with. Now when I say sexual attraction, let me define what I mean. I remember the first big crush I had in high school. It was with an upperclassman guy, and I knew every time I would cross his path in-between periods, and I knew I could, like, kind of try to catch his eye, pretending like I was talking to my girlfriend, and those butterflies would flood my stomach and the desire to get him to notice me and wonder what he was thinking about when he didn't even know my name ... - that is sexual attraction. That feeling of attachment when you're not even attached. Sexual attraction is so powerful as a motivator and as a guide to find someone to be romantic with that it led me to believe in college, when I met a guy, that the sexual attraction was so strong I thought - and you know what, if I compared the way I felt about this guy in college with the way I felt when I first met Dale, the sexual drive was stronger with the guy in college than it was when I first met Dale. Now I can say that because Dale and I - you think we've talked about that before?

Dale: What?

Jonalyn: (laugh)

Dale: Oh, I wasn't listening. What was that?

Jonalyn: (laugh) And that's the reason for that guy in college - we dated, we got engaged. We planned an entire wedding, and we were convinced we were "the one" for each other. I'm gonna talk more about that story tonight when we talk about broken hearts. But what I want to say very clearly is that sex drive is not the best way to decide who is fit for you in romance. And if we want to talk about sex drive and sexual attraction, that is something that can be cultivated. I have no doubt that my sex life now with Dale is better than I would have ever had with that man.

Dale: The "cat and mouse" game is also dehumanizing in the expectations it puts on men, and it doesn’t mean that we should not have expectations of men because we do know there is something of a masculine crisis going on today. But this kind of game puts the wrong kinds of expectations on men. That to be a man literally means you have to be a leader. And you have to be a leader in a certain kind of way. You have to be the initiator for the dates, you have to be initiator for sex, you have to be initiator for finances, initiator for the career, plan goals for your whole family, the initiator of your own spirituality of the family. And this does something to men. And then you hear a lot of women who abash men as much as a secular feminist may, and simply say, "Well, men just don't lead,” they write them off. Meanwhile men are kind of getting pummelled from every direction about how bad they are because they're not leading in the way that women want them to lead. Brené Brown who has written several best-selling books, she says that many women today would rather see their man die on the white horse than to fall off of it. We have the wrong expectations on men, and we wonder why men fear vulnerability, fear being emotionally open because these are the messages that we as men often hear and often get.

Dale: The right kind of expectation to have on men and to engage a man and engage a man worthy of dating is not whether or not he can lead. It is whether he has love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control, which are the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians chapter 5. You find a man like that and you have found a keeper. But gentleness is not allowed to be a masculine quality in America, so we have to break the paradigm of American masculinity, stop trying to cram it into our Christian culture and relearn what the apostle Paul is telling us in the New Testament about loving one another and washing each others’ feet. This is an important part of breaking the spell of "cat and mouse" romance. It also does things to women and dehumanizes them because now the expectations are on women to conform to the men what the man wants. This can never be healthy when God made you in particular in His image on purpose, not to be conformed to another human, but to be conformed to Himself.

Jonalyn: I remember in college, there was a friend of mine who would go clubbing a lot, and we went to a city where we didn't know anyone, she was like: " Let's go out!" So we went out, we go to a club and we're dancing and...(Inhales) I learned pretty quickly, you know, you kind of set down some ground rules when you're dancing with strangers and so I would be like, I wouldn't say it, I would like yell it, "You can dance like this, but don't do this to me!", "Okay", then we danced, and it was fun. And about halfway through night, I'm like: "Where's my friend, she's disappeared", and all of a sudden I realized, "Oh my gosh, that's her in that corner with that guy. Holy mackerel! What are they doing?!" I mean, they are all over, all over each other. And afterwards I asked her "Why were you letting that guy, like, feel you up and down like that, and why did you let him do that?", and she was like "Well, I mean, I wasn't that into him, but he was so happy! I just wanted to make him happy."

Dale: Now that illustration may be on the extreme side for many of us. However, it is never a woman's job to make a man happy. Ever! It is her responsibility to be loving, but to love and to make someone happy are two very different things. And we don't wanna confuse the two.

Jonalyn: Finally, the main problem of the "cat and mouse" game is it dehumanizes each other because we are not treating each other as equals. (exhales) Now, some of you may be thinking, "You are taking all the fun out of dating. I don’t want to listen to you anymore". Well, I wanna be really clear, I love fun. I love fun in dating. I love the flirtatious things you can do back and forth and wonder like, "Oh, I like them, are they into me? Ooh, I’m so excited!" I'm not saying to take that out. What I am saying is that if fun for you means toying with someone's heart to get them to fall for you, just because you want a thrill, you've gotta stop doing that. Because that's not fun for them. People want not to be chased and caught, but to link arms with someone, someone who's they’re equal, for a long-term romance so they can run together.

Dale: As Paul says in First Corinthians: " Nevertheless in the Lord, man is not independent of woman, and woman is not independent of man.” Men and women are both dependent on each other. Now, can I make a brief pause? I know that we have a certain time we're supposed to end, and the clock jumped ahead a lot, it says 12:01 right now, and I know, we've not been talking that long. So, and I don't have my watch with me, I know we have to end it at a certain time. Okay. Perfect time. So glad you have a watch! I need to get one of those. Let’s go into...

Jonalyn: Yeah. Okay. We had a little section we were going to do on what does it mean for the man to be the head, and we would love to share it. If you have questions about that, come tonight and pummel us with questions because we'd love to talk about that. Okay, we're gonna go into our last point. This is a section we have entitled "STOP". It's an acronym, every letter stands for something, we’re so excited to share it with you. (laugh) Stop what? Stop playing the "cat and mouse" game, and find your equal. How do you do it - here is the practical side of what we shared this morning. The "S" stands for "Sexual desire is not love.” I can go into a bar in Steamboat - I love that when I said that, there was a whole group of people who were whispering in the back and all of a sudden they're like "What? A bar?" Sorry, it's really fun being up here and watching some of you. (laugh)

Jonalyn: So, I can go into a bar in Steamboat, and I can feel sexual desire for a stranger in about five seconds. Because, by the way, women do struggle with lust. They just don't talk about it this much because it's not feminine, but they do. Sexual desire is not something you have to cultivate, it just washes over you, and it's an amazing feeling. But it is not the same as love. Now sexual desire, I like to see it as a scout. It goes out in the world, it finds someone who's amazing or hot or cool, and it comes back and reports, "There's somebody over here, they’re really hot!", so you can say, "Oh, thank you, sexual desire scout, I would like to go get to know them!", and then you get to know them. It's great, it gets you over the difficulty of, "I have to try to get to know someone I don't know, and it's really scary!" Sexual desire can assist you to get to know people. That's wonderful, but it's not the same as love.

Dale: Love, and here's the definition for you, because you need to know this for your lifelong partner and for your relationships and romance, love means to extend yourself for the spiritual growth of another. That’s from Scott Peck and The Road Less Travelled. Another way to put it is to will the good of another. You cannot love somebody merely with sexual attraction. Just throwing yourself at somebody is not going to do it. You need to know what their good is and then you're using your powers to bring it to pass. "T". Sexual desire is not love, "T" - “Trust” in our STOP, “Trust God for romance beyond roles”. So look at that scripture and the different kind of roles you see people playing in the different kinds of relationships they have. You have Ruth proposing to Boaz.

Jonalyn: I love that story.

Dale: It's a great one. We should've followed that one.

Dale: Priscilla and Aquila, tag-teaming to disciple Apollos. Mary, very counter-cultural, sitting shoulder to shoulder with the male disciples, as they’re all learning together at the feet of Jesus. Sarah and Abraham, both of them providing and protecting each other as they go into enemy towns. Even though, they often botch it up.

Jonalyn: As sexual desire is not love, "T" - “Trust God to reveal romance beyond roles,” "O" - “Observe the people you are dating.” Who were you before you found someone to be romantic with? What was your gift or your passion or your goal in life before you started connecting with this romantic partner? Bring that into your dates, and start to become a scholar of this person. When you get to know them and you talk to them, don't just judge them by their hotness or how good they look in that shirt or those pair of pants, include that in your evaluation, but also ask yourself - how many fruits of the Spirits were they able to show me? When something bad happened during the date, how did they respond? Let yourself honestly answer each others questions. When she asks you guys if you’ve ever struggled with porn, tell her the truth. And girls, stop pretending you want to be homemakers and have kids if that’s the last thing you want. See what happens is we're so excited about the sexual attraction, and we are so hungry to get our needs met, and this person is so dang attractive, we end up slicing off and silencing our gifts and our passions to get what we want. What we need. That is how bad romance starts.

Dale: "P" - “Practice serving one another.” So here are a couple of practical questions - in dating, if you're going to put the "cat and mouse" game aside dating, who initiates? Who pays? So I thought through a scenario of a "cat and mouse" kind of conversation, where the girl calls the guy: "Hey, yeah, this new movie's coming out, it looks so interesting, and, you know, so-and-so’s in it, I just love them, and I know this movie is going to be just, just marvellous, I can't wait to see it." The guy: "Uh-uh." "Yeah, I know, I think it's actually maybe showing this weekend. You know, I think it would be really a cool movie, maybe I'll go see it." "Oh, oh, oh, well, would you like to go?" "You know, I’d love to go, thank you so much for asking!" And then he pays for it! You know, when two guys get together and say "Hey, let’s go out, and get some wings, and watch the game,” the guy who asked the other guy or made the suggestion is not the one saying "Well, since I asked you to go watch the game with me for wings, I am going to pay for all your food tonight." Guys don’t do that. For each other. You share it, you each contribute into the friendship, you're investing, and if we're going to put the "cat and mouse" game aside, what would it be like for us to say whoever has the interest in somebody else to go something else, they initiate and make the suggestion. And if the other person says, “That sounds like a great idea,” what if both parties invested financially into the getting to know one another? I know, groundbreaking stuff. That’s not going to happen by simply saying, "That’s my own personal rule!" because everybody else is going to be really awkward wondering what kind of orbit you just walked into. But it is something to consider and start talking about.

Jonalyn: Go ahead, and share those.

Dale: When Jonalyn and I got engaged, this is where I'm wrapping it up, when Jonalyn and I got engaged, I thought I had to put on this big production and surprise her, had all these expectations I felt on me from just Christian culture, family, all of that. So I put together all these envelopes, and I put little wax stamps on them, and throughout this night, she opened each one to find out where are we going next. And it had poetry, and all that cute stuff. I rented a fancy car in Beverly Hills, we went to a show to Los Angeles, we went down to Santa Monica pier, and there I had my basket with hot chocolate in it, and I was ready to propose to her on the beach, the stars were shining, the waves were lapping up, the beach was long and romantical … and there was a homeless man rolling around next to a garbage can. And Jonalyn says, "I don't feel safe. I can't be here, we have to leave." And I'm holding my picnic basket, after this whole night, this whole production, I'm like, "Aw, shoot".

Dale: So I was angry, we got in the car, we started driving back to her house, it was like 45 minutes away. As we’re driving back, I’m angry, I’m praying, I’m thinking maybe this is the sign from God, the kind of headaches I'm gonna have in the future, I was thinking my masculinity has now been effaced because I can't protect this woman, and I'm supposed to be this "cat". As we got to her house, she said, "Well, first of all, are you mad at me?", she breaks the silence. I'm like, "No, I'm not mad." "So, would you like to go to this park near the house?" So we're like, "Sure.” So we got to the park, we got out, put the blanket out, the hot chocolate is cold now in my picnic basket, and we’re sitting on the blanket at midnight in the dark, and we're talking at this park that we had spent a lot of time just walking in during our dating time and we were talking, and through the course of just those minutes, those about an hour we were there, I finally proposed to her. And, thankfully, she said yes. Thankfully I said yes.

Dale: What I wish I had done was I had actually taken the temperature of the kind of relationship that we had and what we loved about each other. What I wish we had done is that we would've talked about our engagement together rather than trying to make it a production and a surprise. What I wish we had done is that she and I would pick the day it would be the date that we would be engaged, and we put together our own private party, she and I, in which we would celebrate this arranged marriage, that we were arranging ourselves, in order to come together in this union as partners and as team players. But that expectation wasn't upon me, because I thought we had to play the "cat and mouse.” So this is the conversation you can start having here at George Fox University. We're handing it over to you. And we'll be speaking some more a little bit tonight about it. But the question for you is, what are you going to do about it? Thank you.

Jonalyn: Thanks for listening so well, guys.

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