Hi. My name is Isaac, and I like to take the lead in a relationship.
Now, I have learned from experience that this declaration can ruffle some feathers. I’ve heard that it’s old-fashioned—sexist even. The idea of the man taking the lead in a relationship can have a lot of negative connotations. Words such as dominating, controlling, or even “wearing the pants” come to mind. But for me, male leadership is not like that at all. I prefer to lead, not because I think I’d do a better job, but because in my experience it brings out the best in me and, therefore, the best in us as a team.
I think of relationships the way I think of a dance. In relationships, as in dancing, someone’s got to take the lead, or else you’re stepping on toes (and feelings) all over the place. When I’m taking a leadership role, whether it’s in a relationship or otherwise, it means that I am taking an active role in executing a desired result. When I’m dancing, I have an idea of how I want to move forward. But to lead a dance well, I must also pay attention to how my partner wants to move.
From what I can tell, there are a lot of guys out there (and women, too) who agree. Ashley Fox wrote on the subject a little while back, and I thought it might be worth hearing what a guy has to say. It really just comes down to playing to each other’s strengths for the betterment of both. So with that idea of leadership in mind, here are five ways that taking the lead in a relationship makes me a better man and partner and makes for a stronger relationship.
01. It helps me get to know her.
Once I have asked a woman out on a date, I consider it my job to figure out a plan. Why? It’s not because she couldn’t plan something better than me. In fact, she probably could.
For me, planning a date is an exercise that helps me get to know her. Before the date, I try to figure out what she likes and what she’s used to, and I use that information to pick something that will be familiar and comfortable for her yet new and exciting at the same time. That, coincidentally enough, is what I want to be for her.
Leading demonstrates an investment in the relationship. I need to know what makes her tick, what lights her up, and what would turn her off. I have to listen to her, remember things, and pay attention to nonverbals and all that jazz. I think this kind of intentionality and responsibility sets the relationship off on the right foot.
02. It builds trust.
An important part of a healthy partnership is playing to each other’s strengths. As Ashley puts it, letting a man lead is about him taking a specific role in a partnership, and this requires trust.
Being a good leader means being clear and reliable. I’m not going to play it coy or even play games. That’s not leading; that’s manipulation. Being a pillar for the relationship means taking the lead on more than just the activities of our romance—I also have to be willing to lead conversations and even disagreements with an open mind so that she feels comfortable with me. And I want a woman to be able to trust me.
03. It makes me less wishy-washy.
If I’m not sure of myself when I’m attempting to lead a waltz, I will very likely step on the lady’s toes. In a similar way, being the lead in a relationship makes noncommittal behavior pretty obvious. Knowing that someone is anticipating my next move makes me better able to be decisive and direct.
Furthermore, we all know that there are going to be plenty of challenging moments when it might seem easier just to quit. I might be tempted to think about the possibility of other fish in the sea and leave her hanging. But persisting ambiguously in a relationship is not fair to her, and it’s not helpful for me.
Being a leader in this case means being intentional through the hard times. It might mean ending a relationship if that’s what is best for us. It might mean persevering. But it never means passively going through the motions and hoping our problems go away on their own.
There’s something about leading a woman that makes me want to be more magnanimous. And when I’m at my best, I take those inevitable difficult times head-on.
04. It allows me to prove myself.
She says to me, “Are you sure you know where you’re going?” Without hesitation, I reply, “Yes, honey.” Here’s a little secret: I know I need all the help I can get. But my refusal to ask for directions has less to do with pure bullheadedness (although there is a little bit of that) and much more to do with my desire to prove to myself and to her that I am someone she can count on when we are feeling a little lost.
The woman who allows me to steer our relationship is one who recognizes my deep desire to prove myself to those I love the most. I find that I’m better able to love her as I should because she believes me to be capable. I find that when I try to lead, even if it leads to spectacular failure every once in a while, it’s the responsibility of it that tends to bring the best out of me. Because I can’t just sit back and wait for her, I have to be more attentive, more thoughtful, and, ultimately, more self-giving.
05. It holds me accountable.
The other side of all this “taking the lead” business is that I know I won’t always live up to the ideal. I’ll be stubborn and proud, too intent on doing what I want to do, instead of what I’ve observed that she wants and what is best for us.
That’s actually what rang true the loudest to me about Ashley’s words on the subject. If anybody does take up the lead, they’re bound to fail at some point. That’s just part of the deal. So when I do inevitably fail, the woman who has allowed me to lead will be the first to let me know. After all, the worst kind of leader is someone who thinks he’s perfect when he has actually lost all the respect of those they were trying to lead.
Which brings me back to dancing. When I realize my partner is trying to spin herself around, sometimes I’ll just stop and ask, “Are you going to let me lead?” My favorite response is, “Well, go ahead and lead then!” as if that’s what she wanted all along, but she just wasn’t sure I was going to make it happen. I then whisk her away and do my very best not to step on her feet or drop her on her head.