In beginning ballroom dance we were taught basic steps and the steps were arranged in patterns: Box 2-3-Box 2-3, Change 2-3-Change 2-3, Turn 2-3-Turn 2-3. The goal was for the men to take the steps and arrange them into their own patterns and the women were supposed to learn to follow them. Supposed to. . .
Here’s what really happened: The men combined the steps they knew—sometimes into a familiar pattern—sometimes into a new one. Because they were inexperienced they, understandably, were not confident. Because they were not confident, they hesitated in their lead. This, in turn, resulted in the ladies needing some clearer direction. It’s hard for a lady to stand in the middle of the floor and wait while the music is continuing to play and other couples are headed directly at you. Consequently, the ladies were tempted to take over the lead. They went back to the patterns they’d learned, responded based on what they knew of the man’s preferences, or looked down at the man’s feet and attempted to guess. Looking down and guessing in dance is never a good idea. The step is no longer graceful and it throws the couple off balance.
The same principle holds true in marriage. When a husband is inexperienced in leading well, he will lack confidence. Lack of confidence shows itself in lack of clarity about what he is asking his wife and family to do. And when a man is unclear, it is common for his wife to step into the void and take control. I mean, what’s she supposed to do? The “music of life” is still playing.
Here’s how it looks in marriage on a Friday night date:
Bob: Where do you want to go for dinner? (It’s nice to be given the choice, but unresolved previous date night discussions about which restaurants were suitable based on nutritional value of the food left me unclear about what options I really had—so I guessed—picking ones I hoped would be safe.)
Roxann: El Pollo Loco?
Bob: You want to go to El Pollo Loco?
Bob: Are you guessing?
Roxann: Yes. (I was trying to avoid an unpleasant conversation on date night. It didn’t work. Bob was asking what I wanted to do while I was guessing what he wanted me to say.)
Unclear and unresolved conversations can tempt wives to guess. Neither party is clear about what is expected.
In dance, it was important that the men be familiar with the dance syllabus. In marriage, the Bible is our ultimate syllabus. Careful study tells us exactly what we must do to lead well: Seek God through prayer, serve others, seek wise counsel (especially your wife’s), don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, let your “yes” be yes and your “no” no. The basic steps are all there. The foundational steps influence moral decisions: What movies will our family watch? Will we keep alcohol in our pantry? What guidelines do we have for when it is appropriate to miss church?
Practice the steps.
The more you learn and practice, the more confident you become. The more confident you become, the clearer you will be in communicating the lead to your family. And when you are clear (and gentle) you are much more likely to find harmony and a wife (and children) who are willing to welcome your lead.
One thing we discovered in dance was that women don’t object to following. They enjoy following a strong but gentle leader.