You Lead, and I'll Follow Right Next to You

10:05 AM

I think my boyfriend and I would have been great friends had we grown up together. By great friends, I mean that we would have hated each other. Not hated. Just that I would tag along after him and want his attention because he's so cool and knows boy things that defy my imagination, and he would think I was there just to tease and call me "snot" and poke my face. We would be inseparable just because of how magnets work -- polar opposites attracting. And by sheer virtue of me wanting him to respect me and call me his equal, I would toughen up to everything he dared me to do. (I fell out of trees and windows as a child. I was pretty resilient.) I would be brazen and sassy, but I would follow him to the ends of the backyard and back again.

So goes my imaginings.

The buzzword in our relationship right now is leadership. When an opinionated, vocal, Type A personality like myself dates a laidback, patient, go-with-the-flow introvert who rarely voices an opinion, that problem comes up a lot. The whole man leads/woman follows thing doesn't naturally exist in our relationship. It looks like girl bowls over/boy gets pushed over or occasionally, man decides/woman cries until he changes his mind just to reestablish peace.

I don't mind Scripture's mandate that the husband heads the wife (and since we're hoping to tie the knot eventually, doesn't hurt to set up that structure now). I don't mind it because headship in the Bible means profound servant leadership, not omnipotence. Theoretically, fine. I respect him, and he loves me. Practically -- how on earth does this work?

I'm the leader by nature. I make decisions, I plan, I negotiate with other parties external to our relationship. Everything he hates doing just fires me up (public speaking, anyone?). If anybody looked at our relationship, he'd probably say, "Yep, she leads, he follows."

This makes romance next to impossible -- romance in the traditional sense. You know, once upon time, a knight in shining armor whisked away a princess from a castle to another castle where they lived happily ever after. That's how romance goes, right? Guy does all the work, girl says yes, squeals appropriately, and blissfully goes off as the well-loved, well-provided-for princess who fights no battles.

If any metaphor fits my relationship, it's not this one.

I fight my own battles. He's happy to sidestep a confrontation if at all possible. From the beginning, I worked out the logistics of the relationship -- planned the define-the-relationship talk, initiated the Skype call that ended in us dating, started asking about marriage before he did. All the while, he just loved me and walked me to classes and gave me hugs when my plans fell through and I became a screaming mess.

Basically, our relationship doesn't follow that romance because I'm an independent, dominant woman. Still, I occasionally blame him for being a wuss. I mean, why couldn't my engagement come as a surprise instead of me mentioning it first? Why couldn't he have initiated all those conversations? Why didn't he follow Voddie Baucham's rules in What He Must Be? (Well, because you beat him to the punch, Bailey....)

He couldn't, because our relationship doesn't work that way. He may be a knight, but I'm not a princess in a tower. I'm a college student paying my own way through school with two jobs. Our relationship, I realized, can be summarized in this metaphor: an adventure.

Backpacking through the mountains, each carrying his own pack because the other person can't carry both all the time, hoisting each other up, sometimes someone blazing the trail, sometimes the other.

"Isn't that what a relationship is supposed to look like?" my roommate asked me when I told her this metaphor.

Well, yeah. It just doesn't sound romantic. It doesn't fit the stereotypical metaphor. It throws people for a loop when the dominant-independent woman points to the normally passive introvert and says, "That's my guy, my leader, my rock."

The story of how I surrendered a bunch of my Type A frustration and decided to give him a chance to speak and lead is for another day. But even so, even with him as the established leader, the one who makes the final huge decisions about things like when he decides propose (HURRY UP!), our relationship will look like this rugged adventure set. Not because he's a wimp and can't lead, but because I'm a leader learning how to follow. And the only way I know how to follow without compromising my personality is by trotting along beside him, hand in hand, and being his strong, vocal, push-the-envelope fan. For us, that's what it looks like to lead and follow...and we're ridiculously happy.

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  1. I'm happy you're happy. :-D

    I'm even more happy you are figuring out a way to fill the role of the woman in a relationship that you believe to be right without compromising your strength and independence.

    I, of course, do not follow Biblical teachings on how a wife should be and act, and yet somehow my husband ended up the leader in our relationship anyway. Love is a funny thing. :-)

    Great post!

    Adele

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