When to Lead, When to Follow


"So, what kind of internet speed are you and your husband looking for?" said the perky Comcast man. "Well, we both own our businesses and work from home quite a bit, so something strong," I replied, while anxiously glancing at the clock, hoping the call would wrap up in time for me to grab an RX Bar from Trader Joe's before class ended.

"Woah, that's not something I hear a lot! So, do you all, like, help each other out, or just try to focus on your own businesses?" asked Mr. Comcast.

A little bit prying for a Xfinity Mover's Edge call, if you ask me, but the question got me thinking.

In marriage, the automated response should be "we help each other out", and we do. When one of us needs advice or an extra set of eyes, we lend a listening ear. When one of us is struggling to make ends meet, the other picks up the tab. Or, the most common scenario, when one of us needs tough love, the other gives it. But lately, I've been learning that it comes down to a lot more than being willing to help your spouse.

Marriage is a juggling act of learning when to lead and when to follow. As business owners, Ross and I are both hardwired to take the lead at this point in our lives. We call the shots and control the next move. However, in marriage, you can't have two leaders and be successful, any more than you can have two followers. The feminist in me doesn't want Ross to lead me on every decision, and he doesn't need a mother-figure in his wife.

In premarital counseling, I remember Ross and I attempted to outline "job descriptions" for our marriage. Who would cook dinner (Ross), and who would handle the budgeting (Griffin). Who would restock the pantry (Griffin, if we want the food to be edible), and who take the cars to be serviced (Ross, unless we want Griffin buying unnecessary, upgraded windshield wipers). The problem is, your job descriptions change as your marriage grows and as life changes occur, as they always do.

And here's the toughest part: there's often not one right answer on who should be leading. Every couple's dynamic is different, and every situation is unique. However, I have learned that, when I most want to control the situation for the both of us, it's often the moment when I need to surrender my leadership to the other. I'm not talking about a moral dilemma - if you're vehemently against something that is detrimental, I'm not telling you it's time to compromise. Instead, think about the moments when you start imagining things like "how would I do this if I was single" or "what does this mean for me". Those are indicators that you're viewing the problem from a one-sided perspective, rather than a dual one.

Marriage means having a built in accountability partner. It means having someone who can encourage you to go work out when you'd rather binge on Netflix or go to bed early, so that you aren't exhausted when the alarm clock sounds. It means abandoning the way you'd do things for yourself to do things better for the both of you. If you are constantly resistant to the other person's plan, it might be because you are forcefully trying to lead and not listening to the quiet nudge to follow.

If you're married, I'm sure you can relate, but if you aren't, keep this in mind as you're looking for a spouse. If you're planning to marry someone that you cannot, in good conscience, follow, that's a big red flag, because I can guarantee that God will call you to play both parts. Choose wisely because there is no going back. In this season, I'm focusing on finding the spaces in my marriage where my leadership is needed, and even more difficult, the places when it's not. Ultimately, the times when I'm called to follow Ross's plan (even if I think mine is better/more efficient/easier/etc.) are often the places where I'm giving God the biggest opportunity to step in and guide.