“WILL!! YOU’RE PUSHING ME UNDER A TREE!!!”
It was at this moment I realized my husband and I should not have gotten in the same canoe on this family trip. You see, my husband (the most laid-back, easy-going guy ever) and I (an admittedly fiery redhead) had only been married 3 months when my family decided to go on a canoeing adventure over the 4th of July weekend.
Since we both love the great outdoors, neither of us thought it would be a problem! That is until I was pinned under a fallen tree while my kind, loving husband was steering us in the back of this two-person boat.
As I saw three spiders crawl onto my legs and felt my arm scratch up against the branches, I quickly pushed us away from the tree while he fervently apologized to me for not paying attention to where he was steering us. But it was a little late in my book. At this point, I had brushed off the spiders, tended to the scratches on my arm, and built up a wall of disappointment and anger against him.
I thought to myself, “This would be going so much better if I was the one in the back steering us. Why can’t he see that too and offer up his seat??”
You might be thinking something along the same lines about your relationship, too. Whether you’ve had a moment when your spouse pushed you under a tree (literally or figuratively), or maybe you’ve been feeling unsure about your role as a spouse. When should you be the one steering? When should you follow your spouse’s lead? I’ve got a few words for you.
First of all, know that there are times for both spouses to lead! After going a little further down the river, I realized how wrong I was to think that I should be the one steering the two of us. If it were me in the back, my competitive nature would have paddled us straight to the finish line with little to no time to stop and look at the scenery, play around and splash each other with our paddles, or talk with family in the boats around us. But since he was the one leading us, I was able to enjoy myself (outside of the whole tree thing) and embrace a moment where “winning” didn’t matter. This was his moment to lead, even if he did mess up a little.
It’s also good to see that each spouse should lead in the ways that they are strongest. Will and I have decided that when it comes to caring for things, from plants to animals, or handling the finances and budget, that’s on me. But with planning get-togethers and deciding what we’ll eat throughout the week, he’s totally got those. My husband and I both recognize each other’s strengths and our own needs, so we can lead each other to be better versions of ourselves. And that really is the key.
SO! That being said, here are just a few questions and tips for you and your spouse to look over together and decide how you both can lead in the best ways possible.
- Ask yourself, “Where are areas that I know I’m lacking something (whether that’s a skill, a way of thinking, etc.)? Can my spouse help fulfill that need in our relationship?
- When my spouse is leading us, do I ever feel any resentment toward them? In what ways?
- Define each of your roles in your marriage and decide who gets to lead what/when.
- Once you’ve set boundaries around leading in certain areas, DO NOT overstep those guidelines! Trust your spouse to do it well and to do it their way.
- Do your best to gain a little humility. Ask your spouse to lead in ways you know you can’t (or shouldn’t).
Learning leadership roles in a new marriage is hard. I promise there will be times you will accidentally pin your spouse under a tree, steer you both in the wrong direction, or maybe sink the boat altogether. But the key to a successful relationship is understanding that, as a team, it’s going to take some time to grow together, communicate strongly, and lead each other well. Thank goodness you get to figure it out together, spiders, scratches, and all.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***