Exclusive Interview: Rebecca St. James on How Men Think, Her 'Near-Perfect' Marriage
Five blissful months later, we’re catching up with Grammy Award-winning Christian artist Rebecca St. James, now officially known as Mrs. Fink to the world.
It’s been an exciting year for the gifted songwriter, who released a new album in April, starred in several indie films like “Suing the Devil,” “The Frontier Boys,” and “To the Wall,” and wed the man of her dreams – Jacob Fink – in April, fulfilling her decades long promise of abstinence until marriage.
The acclaimed singer, also a bestselling author, now has a new book, titled What Is He Thinking?? What Guys Want Us to Know About Dating, Love, and Marriage, ready to hit stores Sept. 26.
Declared as “a must-read for every girl who is wondering where all the good guys have gone” by radio host Sean Hannity, the book explores one of the most difficult subjects every woman has a hard time understanding – men.
Drawing on the frank conversations she’s conducted with 16 single guys and 11 happily married men, St. James honestly and thought-provokingly tackles the too often confusing desires of the opposite sex and seeks to unpack what real Christian men are looking for in a woman, detailing everything from the top 10 turnoffs for guys to the do’s and don’ts of relationships.
Her book is being heralded as the “ultimate field guide to men,” and hopes to answer the longing question in many singles’ hearts: “Is it still possible to find a mate today and live happily ever after?”
In the following exclusive interview with The Christian Post, St. James talks about her new marriage, dives deeper into her book, and leaves readers with some tidbits of wisdom she’s learned along the way in her own journey with God and man.
CP: Before we dive into the new book, I wanted to ask you about your marriage. Now that you’re finally married, is it everything you thought it’d be and more? Any surprises?
St. James: Yes, even more than what I thought. As far as surprises, I’ve been surprised by the healing power of love. I’ve just noticed in ministry I felt more empowered by the encouragement of his love. Just having a soulmate that cares about every part of my life and is so with me... it’s just been the biggest gift from God ever in my life. And the connection and how the love deepens with the commitment of marriage, I think that’s been surprising to me. You know it’s going to take your love deeper but how much deeper it went with the engagement and oh my goodness with marriage, it’s like there’s just this sense of joy and security and massively deepened love in knowing we’re going to do the rest of our lives together. And we’re just both so committed to being all in and in it for life. It’s just beautiful the way marriage is planned.
CP: Now, on to your new book What Is He Thinking?? What was your goal in writing this book? Was it more of a journal for you?
St. James: It’s very different from any book I’ve ever written. I’ve kind of written more of the journal format where I’ve actually taken excerpts from my journal and written from that very real place in my life but this one it was like the tables were turned and it was like I was the interviewer, and I was discovering along with the people who are going to read this book what guys really think about dating and romance. And I’m a very curious person so it was such a fun thing for me to ask questions and discover and learn. And I wanted to learn because I wrote this as a single girl looking for answers and trying to figure men out. It comes from that very real place and puts the spotlight on someone else. I’m asking readers to come along on a journey with me.
CP: When you wrote this book, were you dating Jacob at the time? And if so, did you take the advice of everyone who contributed to this book?
St. James: I was single when I first got the idea for the book. I was dating, but I wasn’t married. I was writing the book part of the time while we were dating and I was learning things that were helping our relationship. In some ways it’s like the book works. The book helped me in, you know, dating being successful.
CP: You ask in your novel, is it still possible to find a mate and live happily ever after? What do you think now?
St. James: Yes, it is! Now I really believe that a great love takes great commitment and great surrender to God in the process of that great love being built. And I feel we had a great love but you constantly are building it to maintain its freshness and intimacy. I think you’re constantly making decisions that are sometimes difficult to sow into the great love remaining great.
As a wedding present, we received a devotional, and once we got married my husband started it the day after our wedding. It takes intentionality to move toward each other when painful things happen rather than move away from each other. A lot of people want to turn and run away when painful things happen which creates barriers and walls. You have to let there be nothing that stands between you, not letting the sun go down when you’re angry. You can maintain that great love but it takes intentionality.
CP: You talk about dating a guy named “Jason” in your book and having problems with him on the phone. Is “Jason” actually Jacob in the book?
St. James: Yes he is. We had troubles on the phone because Jacob’s not a phone person and I kind of had this expectation that we would talk on the phone for hours and it really wasn’t like that. He’s great in real life but phone was just super, super tough. We really had to work on that. One of the only issues we had was that phone thing and even in marriage it’s still something we have to intentionally work on because it’s just not natural to him.
Being in a relationship there’s going to be challenges. It’s not going to be absolutely perfect but if both are committed to being great you can grow in things over time and I definitely see that in us.
If we girls shut down a relationship just based on one thing not being right then we could actually shut down the right relationship. If I hadn’t seen all the other amazing things about Jacob that were there and if I focused on this one phone thing being a problem I could have missed out on the love of my life. We can’t just shut people down because something isn’t perfect. I don’t think we can achieve perfection in this world but you can get near it which is what I’m experiencing with Jacob.
CP: After writing this book, do you finally think you know what Jacob’s thinking? Do Jacob’s thoughts align with what you wrote about in the book?
St. James: Definitely the things that I found in the book, through interviewing guys, were for the most part very consistent with Jacob. I don’t feel like I know what he’s thinking but that’s part of what makes him so fascinating. I get the rest of my life to find out. I never get sick of exploring his heart. And he’s excited about exploring my heart and learning more about me as well.
CP: I know you said you have five brothers. I’m sure through living with them, you have a lot of insight into what guys are thinking. But I was wondering if the thoughts of your brothers were different from the thoughts of the men in your book?
St. James: For the most part no, they were pretty consistent. A solid Christian guy has biblical intentions, and my brothers are solid Christian guys, and the guys I interviewed were solid Christian guys, and so I think the intent is the same with purity and valuing things like modesty, valuing a girl’s character beyond just looking for a pretty face. These are all things that I knew about my brothers that were consistent.
I think there were themes that came up in the book that were new to me. I mean it’s not brand, brand new but were surprising. I found out through the book and my research there’s a difference in how dating is happening in Christian culture now, a “Starbucks dating approach.”
Girls think that guys are going to just ask them out on a date and they’ll go for dinner and a movie and hopefully it’ll continue to go well and they might get married but I think this more organic relaxed Starbucks approach to dating where you have a coffee, hang out in groups, is interesting. This is also where it becomes an issue for most girls. I’ve heard so many girlfriends of mine say things like ‘why don’t guys step up’ and ‘why don’t they just ask me out’ and it creates resentment.
But if we can go slow with it, if we want a marriage based on friendship, we’ve got to grow our friendship with this organic approach and if it evolves into something more then we’ll go out, and then something more formalized.
Let the process be what it is. It’s hard to relax on the whole dating thing because it’s a very vulnerable part of life. Dating is hard. In some ways it’s an adventure and can be very painful, but I think when we trust in God, it can be exciting as well. Jacob and I, we hung out in groups for the first few times. We were around each other, four or five times before we started hanging out one-on-one. Letting dating be what it is, letting the guy lead, I think it’s important for girls to do that.
CP: So if women are supposed to be friends with guys first, I know it can confuse some people. How long does a woman keep her heart open before moving on?
St. James: I think you really need to be looking for signs. If you’re hanging out in a group setting ask your girlfriends to watch and see what they’re thinking on it. I have spoken with girls who guy after guy they get their hopes up and I’ve done it too, thinking that a guy is interested. Sometimes it just doesn’t pan out. Ask God to guard your heart and really look at his actions. Do you catch him looking at you out of the corner of his eye, is he seeking to spend time with you, asking you about things, engaging in communication. There are just certain signs that you can look for and I think if you invite your girlfriends they’ll also look for those things too and help give you insight. Sometimes it’s hard and maybe he’s taking his time. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you discernment.
CP: You cited in your book Proverbs 10:22, “The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it” concerning singleness and marriage. You commented, “God’s heart and his character is to bless us, not to burden us.” But how can we distinguish between a blessing and what we feel is a burden?
St. James: I’m in the season right now of speaking in my concerts about how God makes everything beautiful in His time and how He works all things for the good of those who love Him, Romans 8:28. So I’ve been telling the story of Jacob and many years of being lonely and waiting, wondering if there was someone for me. And I look back now on those years of singleness and I see that God was giving me certain character elements that needed to be refined before I got married to Jacob. He was using me in ministry in a certain way that He couldn’t have if I was married. He was preparing Jacob for me. I know that our relationship would not have worked if we had met in a different period in our lives. I just feel certain that some things had to happen before we met each other. It was just right when we met. It wasn’t a day late or a day too soon.
What seemed like a burden at the time is now actually a good thing. So I think we’ve just got to trust God and if I’m doing all in my power to be available to Christian guys, like I’m going to young adult events, being friendly, keeping my heart open, then that’s all we can do and we have got to trust God that He’s going to bring it about in His time.
CP: I always thought that the chase ended when you got married. But a guy named Andrew in your book shares, “Marriage takes a lot of work, a lot of giving of yourself. The marriages I perceive that are good are ones in which both partners are constantly pursuing each other. They never come to a place where they know absolutely everything there is to know about the other person. When we stop pursuing, we make assumptions concerning how people will respond – and that’s not good.” What do you think about this constant pursuit in marriage?
St. James: That guy Andrew is actually getting married this weekend. I met he and his fiancé at the same time seven years ago and now they’re getting married and I’m so excited. They’re wonderful people.
I totally agree with Andrew. I think you continue to pursue each other in marriage because you can never learn all that there is to know about someone. You’re constantly always changing. We’re learning new things, we’re growing and so there’s always something to discover about someone else and I think that’s what makes marriage constantly fascinating. You get to pursue someone for the rest of your life.
I’ve always believed that patterns that you prepare now, you are always preparing for your groom. If a woman disrespects her boyfriend now she is going to disrespect her husband in the future. If a woman is learning how to love well before marriage, with everybody, then she’s going to love well in marriage.
You can still groom your heart after marriage too. I just love getting to surprise my husband with special things because I’m constantly searching for how I can bless him. Marriage is a continual discovery, a giving of yourself.
CP: In your book, you note, “How much better would our relationships be if we were constantly seeking to outlove one another, constantly trying to outgive each other, and really seeking to prefer one another above ourselves. And if we did this in dating relationships, it would carry over into marriage.” Do you think there’s a danger zone or a limit to this in dating for girls who tend to do this too soon? It seems like a lot of the guys in your book advise against diving in too soon. Any advice on this?
St. James: Only match what the guy is giving in dating. In marriage you can just give and give but until you’ve got that commitment you don’t want to scare a guy off by being over the top with your acts of love. Let the guy lead when it comes to loving and giving because he wants to feel like the man too, he wants to feel like ‘I’m looking after my woman and I’m not being outdone in dating by her,’ which might make him feel inadequate. I would say definitely acknowledge in your own heart the things you want to do for that person, i.e. be giving, huggy, you know that kind of stuff, but keep it limited in dating to where the guy is keeping it because he’s got to set the pace.
CP: It seems that guys and girls are actually thinking the same things. They want their partners to be respectful, have a sense of humor, love God, be selfless, etc. In your opinion do you believe that guys are thinking the same things as girls? And is it really that important to know what the other is thinking?
St. James: I think it is important to learn what the guy is thinking. I don’t think I would have written this book if it weren’t. I think understanding helps promote community because when we don’t understand we’re fearful. And I think a lot of people are fearful. I think this understanding can diffuse a lot of fear.
I also think we are more similar than what we think and I think that’s why a lot of girls will find this book encouraging because they want the same things guys want too. It just makes you feel more safe and encouraged in relationships. But there are some differences. I mean there are a lot of differences. Guys are much more physically-oriented, sight turns guys on more than girls. There are certain things that are different that’s important for us to know. Like guys like it if a girl lets him lead whereas girls don’t want to be the one controlling the plan. We like to have ideas but rest under his direction. There are differences and I think they are beautiful differences.
CP: After reading the book, some women can feel a bit overwhelmed by all of the information that guys presented in your book. So what advice would you give to girls who have just read your book and are going on their first date?
St. James: The main thing is to just enjoy the journey. I was a lot of times so stressed out about the whole dating thing, what if something doesn’t go well, what if he doesn’t really like me, what if this, what if that. The longer I dated, the more I realized I just got to chill out. That’s a message the guys are sending out – just let go and enjoy the journey and relax. Really trust God and ask for Him to lead and ask for God to be very present in the relationship. Enjoy the journey and really give it to God.
CP: What new things have you discovered about yourself after writing this book and what’s the greatest piece of advice you took away from this book?
St. James: A lot of different things. You know I think what I learned through the book and now through dating Jacob is God’s going to take care of me. I think that’s what a lot of the guys were saying in the book. Trust God to take care of you, trust in Him so you can find your security. For a long time while I was dating I honestly wondered if God would really look after me in this part of my life. I just felt that it wasn’t happening the way I wanted it to, in the timing that I wanted, and none of the relationships I was in were working out. It was the most important thing in my life and it wasn’t happening and so I just got so discouraged.
So the biggest thing I wish I had done in dating is trusting that God is going to take care of me and relaxing because of that, being secure in who I am and knowing I’m a catch even if it’s not working out with some particular guy. I think every girl can come to a place of appreciating who she is if she’s really living for God and living to be all that he wants her to be. Just have to iron that.
CP: What’s next for you? What’s on your plate now?
St. James: I have a brand new book idea I’m starting to work on. I can’t really say what it is right now. And also thinking about writing a What Is She Thinking? book where I interview my gal friends about singleness. Some guys are reading this book to find out what a lot of Christian guys think and how a Christian young man should handle themselves in dating. They find encouragement in that way, but I think it would be really cool to write a What Is She Thinking? I’ll also just be touring next year because the new album came out.