Dr. Dobson and the System

I’ve talked on this blog before about Doc Love, a dating guru whose advice has helped many. He has a dating technique called “The System,” which is based on three C’s: confidence, (self-) control, and challenge.

For Doc, women generally like men who are confident enough to approach them, who don’t totally fall apart whenever they’re rejected. A good sense of humor also helps, for Doc is clear that a man on the first date should be “light and funny.” Self-control means that a man should wait a week after meeting a woman before he calls her, and it also includes being willing to say “no” to a woman every now and then (which women love). That leads to Doc’s third C, “challenge,” which is allowing women to do some of the chasing. A man needs to show a woman that he has a sense of self apart from her. He should definitely flirt, since that goes with “confidence,” but there are also times when he should pull back. That can increase a woman’s “interest level.”

Doc’s advice is not exactly what you see on movies and television, at least not most of the time. Sure, there was an episode of 7th Heaven (Season 1) in which Matt told one of his friends to act aloof around Mary, since “chicks dig that.” Unfortunately, his friend didn’t follow that advice but chose instead to fawn all over her, leading her interest level to drop lower than it already was.

But, overall, movies and shows tell men to fawn all over women. “You need to tell her how you feel, send flowers every day, remind her all of the time that she’s beautiful.” There’s a place for all that, since such deeds can convey appreciation, which women (like everyone) desire. But, for Doc, they also don’t want a man whom they can walk all over. And women like receiving gifts and compliments from men they like, for whom they already have a high interest level. Gifts and compliments do not necessarily increase a woman’s interest level, as far as Doc is concerned.

Well, in the midst of all of these conflicting messages that are out there, guess who agrees with Doc Love (though perhaps by coincidence)? Another Doc–the Doc of the evangelical community–Dr. James Dobson!

That’s how Jim Dobson got Shirley. Here’s a quote from Dale Buss’ Family Man: The Biography of Dr. James Dobson:

“[A] more unsettling…strand of their relationship was the perpetual cat-and-mouse game they played as each one tried to figure out how serious they should be and whether the other partner in the relationship felt the same way…This dating equivocation surfaced almost immediately. [B]y the end of their first summer of dating, Shirley told him that she wanted to resume dating a boyfriend from the previous spring. Dobson later recalled his response as a crucial early step in their relationship. ‘I said that was a good idea, because there were some girls I wanted to date too,’ he says. ‘She said that she wanted to go with him and me too. And I said, ‘No, go with him.’ I set her free at that moment. If I’d said, ‘You can’t do that to me; maybe I love you!’ the relationship would have been over, stone-cold dead–I know Shirley. But I was confident enough to do that. She never dated him again. She stayed with me'” (33).

This game of cat-and-mouse continued on and off until Dobson finally proposed. Buss explains:

Dobson finally drew an end to the uncertainties by determining that he wasn’t going to be a beggar in this relationship. One evening he pulled over the 1949 Mercury convertible he called Ol‘ Red and gave his beloved a moonlit speech. He was going somewhere in life, he told her, and he wanted her to come along. If she didn’t, he would move on. Shirley opted in, and their relationship was forever defined” (33-34).

He wasn’t going to be a beggar in the relationship. Doc Love couldn’t have said it better!

Dobson’s own experience inspired his book, Love Must Be Tough. I was listening to it a few weeks ago, and he said that the men who normally got the girl in his day were the ones who flirted, while maintaining some aloofness. Dobson also recounted that Shirley was a major heartbreaker in her younger years!

This puzzled me because Shirley was a Christian from her youth. Because of her troubled childhood, she learned to depend on her heavenly Father from a really early age. Would a Christian break mens‘ hearts?

That’s when it hit me: so much of dating is a game. Sure, there are important aspects to it, like genuinely enjoying the company of another person. But a big part of dating is determining if this is the one you want to be with for the rest of your life. And many women are drawn to a man’s strength (and I don’t primarily mean his muscles!).

As I was thinking about this, my (and Bryan L’s) favorite Bible passage entered my mind: “If you have raced with foot-runners and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you fall down, how will you fare in the thickets of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5, NRSV).

God is telling Jeremiah to stop complaining and toughen up, for things will soon get worse. Or they can get worse. And, believe it or not, this verse gives me comfort, probably more than the usual passages that Christians go to for reassurance (“I will never leave you nor forsake you”). I can whine about my current situation, or I can use it as an opportunity to become stronger. And I will need strength if I ever enter the dating game, for there is a lot of rejection out there!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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