A confession: I once got into a raging-big fight with a former partner over directions. Yep. Been there? I don't know what was up with me that day, but I just would not follow his lead. He was driving and knew where he was going. But I didn't. "Wait, why'd you go that way? Don't we want to be heading north?"
On and on. It escalated. Neither of us let it go. Classic.
Like many fights, this one wasn't actually about what it seemed like it was about.
Another: we fought after he wouldn't follow my lead about which cabinet the glasses should go in.
These fights weren't about directions or kitchen items, but about leading and following. Because, despite what you may hear about masculine/feminine dynamics, the truth is that
Healthy relationships require us to both lead and follow.
In a partnership, you trade off roles. You share power. Sometimes you're leading, and sometimes you're following their lead. This is important because it puts the two of you in sync, in a rhythm or a flow state that helps you feel trust and connection.
When both partners are able to comfortably lead and follow, it supports The Zone of Play, the state that is key to healthy, happy, long-lasting relationships.
If one partner stays in leadership and the other in followship, then you've got an imbalanced power dynamic and both partners start to lose their empowerment.
This sounds simple, except that what I've found with couples that're struggling is that often one or both partners feel challenged by either leading or following.
For some, leading is really vulnerable, and for others, following is really vulnerable. In the example above, I was in a relationship where both of us much preferred leading. Neither of us was terribly good at following. (Part of why we're no longer together).
Here's a practice for you:
Take a moment to consider whether leading or following is more comfortable for you. First, here are some questions to help you out.
Are you more likely to go to your partner and say, "Hey, I've got a great idea for Saturday! How about we go to the Farmer's Market, then go hiking, and have dinner together at our favorite place?" If so, leading might be natural for you.
If your partner came to you and said that, are you likely to say simply, "Great!" If so, you're probably comfortable following. But if you say, "Well, that's good, but I really want to hike this trail and have dinner here instead." then following might be more challenging for you.
And if you often "don't care" about the plans you make together, leading might be more challenging.
Are you open to your partner's ideas? Can you agree to good-enough ideas, even if they're not yours?
Now, the practice. In the next week, commit to trying on whichever way is least comfortable to you. Do this at least one time with your partner if you're coupled, and if you're single, try it with a friend.
Both leading and following require trust, so you may have to stretch this muscle. It's good for your relationship!
Also, it'll help you to know that the most common places where power imbalances show up is around sex, money, parenting, and making plans of any kind.
Stay tuned for my next post, which teaches HOW to be a good leader and a good follower and what often gets in the way.
Please follow my lead and leave me a comment below to share how it's going! Which do you think you're better at, leading or following?
And finally, if you like this post, please share it on Facebook.
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