“Are you going to push me around the dance floor again tonight?”
My husband’s question caught me off guard. When we started taking ballroom dance lessons, I was decidedly more comfortable with dancing. Bob was sure he would make a fool of himself at any moment. So, I decided I would “help” by subtly showing him how to do the steps. God used Bob’s question to wake me up. Not only did I “help” on the dance floor. I subversively “helped” at home as well.
What came out of this one brief conversation was a realization there was much we could learn from ballroom dance about marriage in general, but especially about the biblical principles of leading and following. From that moment, I watched and listened for the dance principles that could also improve marriages.
Principle 1: A good follower is not a wet noodle. She is competent and strong.
When you hear “follower,” do you think of someone who is inferior to the leader? In both dance and marriage, this is certainly not true. In dance, the lady, too, must know the steps. She must be strong so she can perform them. She can’t lean on the man and let him carry her. That wouldn’t be a dance!
In the same way, a strong, competent wife contributes her opinions, insights, and perspectives—while still allowing her husband to maintain the lead. The concept of a “helper” (ezer in Hebrew) is better understood when you see how it is used. In Genesis 2:18, God makes Eve as a helper for Adam. But in Psalm 54:4, Psalm 70:5, and Psalm 121:2, God is the helper who helps, delivers, and sustains us. This is a powerful helper and that is the type of follower God created a wife to be.
Principle 2: A good follower gets in sync with her partner.
In dance, the follower “stays in her partner’s arm” by matching his timing, the size of step, and his style. She could choose not to do this, but then she would wind up in a tug-of-war. However, if she matches him well, the dance will flow and be very enjoyable.
The same applies in marriage. A wife should give her husband her input, but without usurping the lead. Let him decide how soon, how far, and how to go about carrying out major decisions. She could resist getting in sync, but she would immediately notice some unpleasant tugging and pulling. When she stops opposing her husband, he is likely to relax and seek her counsel more often.
Principle 3: A good follower encourages her partner.
In beginning dance class, Bob was unsure of himself. As he rotated from lady to lady, he issued a disclaimer that he couldn’t do the step yet. Many ladies encouraged him. “It’s okay. You’re trying,” one would say. “Oh, you’re going to be fabulous,” another would tell him. If they had criticized or complained, I’m sure Bob would have quit. Instead, they gave him permission to try, and fail, and try again. Because of their encouragement, he learned and became a competent dancer.
Do you complain or joke about tasks your husband does poorly? If so, what is his incentive to keep trying? If a wife assumes the role of being her husband’s cheerleader, she is more likely to find a responsive husband who is eager to please her.
Why not invite your spouse to take a few ballroom dance lessons with you. See what you learn as a result. Last year, after presenting The Marriage Dance seminar at a church, some of the attendees decided to sign up for ballroom dance lessons as a group. We were thrilled with their report: “When we got on the dance floor, everything you said made so much sense!”
As you apply these principles, may God reward you with a beautiful, harmonious marriage dance.
This is the second installment in our 2-part series about leading and following in your marriage. If you’d like to read the first part about leading, please click here.