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The other day I called to check in on a friend who is considering a divorce in hopes that things were taking a turn for the better. But when she started to tell me about “the list” my heart sank.

I know a lot of women think “the list” is the way to go when their marriage (or life partner or whatever term you want to insert) hits choppy waters, but I think it’s a bad strategy and here’s why — men don’t like it when you try to change them or tell them how it’s going to be. Men don’t like “lists.”

Case in point, when I told a male friend about her “list” he launched into a tale of his own experience with his (now ex) wife making “the list.” First her list was a half a page. Then the list was a full page. Then two pages. And soon, the list sounded like a scroll that was a half mile long. And as I listened to how he reacted to “the list” I could see he did what most men in this situation do, anything but “the list.” She may as well have been making him a list of how to push her buttons!

Not to say a woman should not have boundaries and standards. She should. And those should be established early on, your personal non-negotiables, in the dating stage. Those boundaries and standards will vary from woman to woman, but may I suggest at a minimum he is a good man, who believes in fidelity, who has his act together, who is mature, who is wise with money, who has made good life choices, who shares your views and values, who treats you with honor and respect, who gives you serious butterflies, who you think so much of you want to be a better person and to also bring your “A game” to the table, not because he’s asking, but because you are giving and working for it.

A gal in the dating phase should not try to change a man. If after a few dates she determines he is not already these things listed above, plus her personal non-negotiables, someone she would marry gladly and without hesitation, the best choice is to cut loose early and before her heart clouds her judgement. Sticking it out early on is a mistake. Sticking it out early on or trying to make it work then can lead her to the alter with a bad match, and that is not a good thing.

Dating is not just something a gal does for fun, it’s the time a girl should be paying close attention to who and what he is, how he acts, what choices he makes, how he views the world, what his values are, what his worldview is, how he treats her, how he respects her boundaries and limits, how he reacts when he is unhappy with her, how he approaches conflict, if there is strong attraction on both sides, how he treats others, who his family and friends are, will he be a good provider and protector, and so on.

When dating used to be called “courtship” that was the purpose of dating and everyone knew it — she was spending time with him to screen him with one purpose in mindΒ  — to find her future husband. That was the goal of courtship. Today, women who are marriage minded would be wise to readopt this approach to dating rather than to just go with the flow. (Side note: in the courtship model he had already determined before courting her that he considered her as a future wife. Men did not court ladies “for fun” then either.)

Why is it wise for a woman to think of dating as courtship? Because it’s how a woman figures out his “frame” and what stepping into his world would look like. That is a woman’s choice, to step into the frame or not. Once she’s committed to the relationship, and especially once married, choosing the frame is no longer an option. It then is about living within the frame. His frame. A wife who wants a happy marriage will remember this. Even when the frame is not what she wants. (Note: Obviously I am not talking about enduring abuse, infidelity, or rampant and unacknowledged addiction. I am talking about where they will live, how they will live, how that will work, what their shared values and goals as a couple will be, how money will be spent, how children will be raised, how frequent sex will be, and so on. If he is a good mate, he will consider her wants and needs but in the end he as the Captain, the leader, and the guide, will make the call. When she choses wisely and well, she does not need to fear his decisions will not be the best for them both.)

(The goal of this blog is to advise women, not men, but as I know women will be wondering what his role in this is and need to recognize it when they see it, I am including that here.)Β  He needs to remember this frame-owning too, and work to set the frame and hold it. A man who lets his woman set the frame sets up a dynamic that leads to a lack of respect and conflict ahead. If he chooses wisely, he will have to be mindful of owning the frame, but won’t have to battle royal with her for it on a daily basis, although he may from time to time have to make corrections is she does start to try. She is wise to make sure he already gets this, as it is not really something a woman can teach a man. He’s already got to have good frame control, to see himself as the able Captain seeking a First Officer.

And what is her role, as a good wife? From what I have heard men say they seek, she is to support and honor her husband, be an enthusiastic partner in bed, to be faithful to him alone, to follow not lead, raise their children, run their home on a day to day basis providing nurturing and sustenance, carefully manage her responsibilities and not make choices that endanger the stability of her family, and to put her relationship with him above all else in importance.

So while a woman should not be so picky that no man could ever make it through her courtship screening, she should be mindful to choose wisely and choose well. She’s choosing who she is going to hand the reigns of her life over to, who she will stand by through thick and thin, who she is going to be there with through riches and poorness, through better and worse, in sickness and health, promising to love, honor, and obey, to be faithful only onto him, till death do they part.

That is a big, big, big decision ladies. The difference between a lifetime of more happiness and fun than misery and suffering, not that there won’t be hard times but when she chooses well and wisely, it will be more easy times than hard times.

She is not choosing someone who is “almost” what she wants, who will be that with a little “tweaking,” or who she will respect as Captain as long as he follows “the list.” I know this may sound pretty antiquated to the modern gal, but that is exactly what today’s feminist-led views on marriage in our society have taught and with half of all marriages ending in divorce, I would not place my odds on that model. That experiment is failing, and failing miserably.

The time to have a list is going in, not on the way out. If you find yourself making a list on the way out, it may be time to humble yourself and think of how you can inspire him to make it work, not to force him to. It’s time for some feminine wiles used in the best of ways — to sustain and strengthen her love relationship not to manipulate it unfairly by issuing ultimatums and demands.

Let those who have ears hear.