What does it mean to take the lead in a relationship? After a couple decades of poor male social stereotyping producing a generation or two of guys who are too subdued to actively and aggressively pursue women, there now seems to be a swing in the reverse, with guys stepping up and taking the lead role again. Generally, both guys and girls seem to love this idea, but what does it look like in fine detail? What steps should guys follow? What should girls do?
For most mature guys, it’s relatively easy to ask a girl out on a date. Then what? That’s the point where I’m seeing both guys and girls start to panic. While initially asking a girl out is relatively easy, it seems like a huge hurdle at the time. And for the girls, it seems like an equally difficult task waiting for and encouraging/convincing the guys to ask them out. So there is a tendency for both to focus on that initial contact moment – then BOOM! There it is. He asks her out, and they both assume that deer-in-headlights look, not knowing what to do next.
Of course, the next move belongs to the girl. She has to give him an answer. This is where mistake number one usually happens. While she loves the idea of having a guy step up and take the lead, perhaps having spent hours of thought in dreams and fantasy about the moment, she suddenly finds herself in a very real application of her fantasy, and it usually scares the crap out of her. It’s terrifying, especially in a society that thrives on horror stories about violence against women, for her to place her trust in a guy she may not know very well and allow him to lead her on a date.
So what will she do? She gives him a rulebook for pursuing her, rules of her preconceived notions about how it has to be. She tells him that she won’t go out with him unless he sits with her in church for X months. She tells him she isn’t interested in him as anything but a friend, keeping him in her friend zone at a safe distance. She tells him that he can go out with her and her friends as a group. She tells him that he can come visit her in the safety of her parents’ home. It seems like the perfect solution for her. There’s only one problem. At step two in the process, she has yanked the relationship from his hands and assumed the leadership role. She’s basically told him, ‘I’m flattered that you’re interested in me. But frankly, I don’t trust you to lead me, and I’m not going to trust you unless you play by my rules and on my turf until I’m good and ready to relinquish the lead.’
Mistake number two is on the guy. Since he’s already invested an effort to ask her out, and since she has presented him with terms to enter her life (even though those terms are not at all what he had in mind), he falls back on the failures of previous generations, ducks his head, and meekly says, ‘Ok.’ Of course, a gentleman is always kind and humble. Right? A good Christian man should be a peacemaker, mild mannered and domesticated. So he agrees to her terms in hope that he’ll one day have the leadership role again when he proves himself to her.
Time and time again, I’ve seen this scenario happen. There is a social interest in returning leadership roles to men, but it’s currently sort of at that awkward phase of ‘Ok, this is going to be great… NO WAIT! Go back! This is scary!‘
I was fortunate in my younger years to become interested in ballroom dancing. I still enjoy it and promote it as a very good, wholesome way to teach lead/follow roles to young people. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to dance with some older women who taught me how to lead. Not one of them opened a dance with, ‘Now this is how you need to dance with me…’ The one who taught me to use and maintain the strong, firm frame and carriage that I’ve since received countless compliments on would simply wilt in my arms if she felt I wasn’t supporting her. Not a word. She’d just stand there wilted until I did what I was supposed to do. Another woman refused to make decisions for me. I would ask her to dance, then ask her what type of dance she wanted to do. She’d invariably reply, ‘You asked me to dance. Now just take me on a journey. Surprise me.’ Those ladies, and others like them, taught me the precious truth that taking the lead isn’t just about asking a girl to dance. It’s about leading her on a journey to it’s completion.
I’d like to encourage my readers to consider these things –
Girls – Most guys understand that you may not be comfortable going out on a one-on-one date with a guy you don’t know. Many guys would be fine with starting off in a friendship with you, as long as there is compromise. It’s this rigid lack of flexibility and compromise that is destroying the men trying to lead you. Rather than throwing a rulebook of absolute conditions at him, what would be wrong with simply discussing your concerns and insecurities with him and asking how he thinks those concerns can be resolved? You might be pleasantly surprised at how accommodating a gentleman can be if he’s given the option. I know that, for myself, even that small gesture of trust would make me want to hold her close and protect her, and as her leader, I would go to extreme measures to insure she felt safe with me. And ladies, if you let the guy lead and he doesn’t take your concerns seriously or if he doesn’t address them adequately before the date, don’t go out with him. That’s a very quick way to foresee how he will value your concerns in a future relationship.
Guys – I’ll tell you this up front: If you refuse to give up leadership to a woman, most of the girls you ask out will refuse your pursuit. Worse, many will persist, trying to change you, to break you down to make you see that they’re right and you’re wrong. I know this from far too much personal experience. I know that, for a gentleman, it seems like it takes forever to find a decent girl to pursue, and when we find one, it’s very hard to give her up. It’s very tempting to just give in and give her her way, hoping that she’ll return the leadership role to us one day. But she won’t. Dating sets the tone for an entire relationship, and a woman who dominates in dating will dominate the relationship for as long as it lasts. In addition, giving into a girl’s rigid demands only feeds her insecurities and reassures her that her security resides in her own ways and understanding. She will never grow into the level of maturity where she will trust anyone but herself. That isn’t leading her as a man. And for Christians, that isn’t leading her in Christ’s example. It’s never easy to walk away from a girl, but sometimes, it’s the best thing for both. I’m glad to see many of my fellow men stepping up and making the first move. Just be on guard and do not surrender your role in the following steps.