OK, ladies, let’s call a spade a spade: Sometimes advice about guys can be confusing and contradictory. Trying to pin generalizations on half of our entire species is bound to bring up some exceptions and differences in preference along the way, and perhaps few are as fraught as the debate of whether to take charge or let him lead.
Some men say they enjoy it when a woman is gutsy and either asks him out or makes it obvious that she’s interested. But the “I’ll text him first” shtick isn’t universally loved. Taking the lead or not is a personality thing, and the reality is that many men—and women—prefer it when the guy leads. If you’re the kind of lady who prefers the guy to make the first move, this one is for you.
Let’s get one thing straight: Letting a man take the lead doesn’t mean a woman just sits around waiting until someone deems her worthy and then must be content with whatever she can get. On the contrary, letting a man lead is more about subtly guiding their dating life than it is about being a pushover.
So, what does this guiding a relationship, instead of leading one, look like during the first couple dates and then throughout the context of a modern relationship?
Well, for one thing, it looks a lot more empowering then you might think. Taking a guiding role facilitates partnership and—best of all—direction in the relationship. I like to compare it to a management position; think of it as being a leader, rather than a dictator. A woman who lets a man lead should function similarly; she allows her boyfriend or husband to take the helm while voicing her desires and preferences for where the relationship goes.
For those ladies who prefer for the man to take the lead, here are five tips for guiding things along.
01. Respond to him.
Whether it’s a first meeting or a second date, communicate your interest in him through your actions. Sometimes spelling things out is necessary, but in most cases, actions speak louder than words. Don’t hesitate to greet him with a big smile, make eye contact and hold it, laugh when he is funny, and pay attention when he is serious—oh, and go ahead and flirt! Letting a man lead isn’t about being coy and running away in the hopes that he will follow (this is just confusing); it’s about providing him the clues he needs to put two and two together. In short, show him you are interested by actinginterested—then it’s his move.
02. Don't reserve Saturday night.
Most people learn pretty quickly via trial and error, so don’t be afraid to let him live and learn. For example, don’t reserve your Saturday night for an expectant date. Even men who want to take initiative in the relationship can put things off to the last minute, but kindly letting him know you already have plans is a good way to guide him and the relationship in the direction you desire.
Failure to meet your expectations of leadership should by no means be a reason to write a man off. Be sure to suggest another day to let him know you are still interested, and don’t hesitate to tell him you’re bummed you won’t be free. It’s OK to tell him so.
Trust me, he knows he should have had a better plan or called earlier, and now he has clear direction from you as he moves things forward—Note to self: If I want to take this woman out on a date, I have got to give her a heads up. See how this works? You’re not playing games. You are simply giving him some subtle guidance.
03. Offer affirmation.
If you are a woman who likes a man to take the lead, you should be sure to show appreciation when you finally meet a man who does. When a man asks you on a date, tell him, “Thank you for asking; I would love to” (or not, if it’s a no-go). Tell him how much you appreciate him making the effort to plan out a date, but there's no need to add disparaging comments, such as, “Most guys only call the night before and put zero thought into it.” With this kind of positive reinforcement, he will feel confident in how to move forward.
04. Hold him accountable.
A trap many women who allow the man to lead fall into is believing that they cannot call him out on his inconsistency. Communication is vital for any healthy relationship, and it is also important in the beginning stages of dating. If he has done something to disappoint you, let him know. If he wants to keep seeing you, he will fix it.
The key is to let him know without knocking him down. Instead of pointing the finger and throwing the blame, simply mention that a certain action of his has given you mixed signals—and be sure to give concrete examples. Most (although certainly not all) men are straightforward, and if something is explained to them clearly, then they have the opportunity to right it.
05. Let him know you respect him.
Most men desire first to be respected and then to be loved. If a man does not think a woman respects him, it will be hard for him to continue in a relationship with her. And if this is true, that you do not respect him, then it may be best to move on. It’s important to look for things you can respect in a man you are dating—ideally he gains it upon the first impression, and then it continues to grow. Don’t be afraid to let him know which specific aspects about him you admire. Telling him does not give your cards away; rather it inspires confidence in his leadership and the desire to play his hand by continuing this relationship with you.
Despite common misconceptions, letting a man lead doesn’t mean the woman gets to sit back and wait for him to do all the work. It takes two to tango, as they say, so follow his lead, but don’t make your partner do all the legwork!