A woman in a sweater and skirt holding up a garage door while staring at the camera

Having reached the ripe age of 31 without getting married, I’ve had a number of years to think about what I’m looking for in a life partner. I’ve been through a few relationships, and I’ve been surprised in both good and bad ways. I’ve discovered unexpected qualities in potential partners that I value, and qualities that I now know to avoid.

In short, I have an idea of the kind of man I want to call my husband. 

What (or who) am I looking for? A man who will allow me to be uncompromisingly myself—strong, independent and just a little feisty. Just as important,  I am also looking for a man who will take the lead.

I am also looking for a man who will take the lead.

Redefining Leadership

The expectation that a man will “lead” probably makes many of us cringe. Let’s be honest for a moment, shall we? For millennia, men have abused and controlled others in the name of “leadership.” For the most part, women have been told to stay quiet, hidden and at home—when, in reality, women are just as capable as men of leading a company, city or nation. 

Yet, a husband who takes the lead doesn’t equate to a husband who is domineering or controlling. A husband who leads doesn’t make all the decisions. Large—”Should we buy the house?” or small—”What should we eat for dinner?” Instead, we make them together, as a team. A husband who takes the lead doesn’t mean that I don’t get to pursue my dreams or lead other people.

A husband who takes the lead doesn’t equate to a husband who is domineering or controlling. 

“Taking the lead” means that my husband takes responsibility for the well-being of our marriage. It means that he initiates with me, even when we’ve grown into comfortable routines and rhythms. It means that he wants to defend me, even when I’m perfectly capable of defending myself.

A husband who leads exhibits strength, intentionality and the desire to protect and pursue in love, all qualities that I personally love the most in men.

A husband who leads exhibits strength, intentionality and the desire to protect and pursue in love.

Women are the Prize

Men who lead well in marriage start out by doing so in dating relationships. I don’t think it’s wrong for a woman to ask a man on a date. I don’t think it’s wrong for a woman to fight for a relationship to succeed. Heck, I don’t even think it’s wrong for a woman to propose to her boyfriend.

Yet, if I have to be the one leading in order for a relationship to deepen in commitment or survive trials, then I usually lose interest. For me, the very act of pursuit cools me down. On the other hand, being pursued— even by a man who wouldn’t normally catch my interest—is enough to, err, warm things up for me.

I recently had a conversation around this topic with a friend. This woman is quite progressive and all for egalitarianism. Yet, when talking about the lack of communication and intentionality that’s so present in dating today, she made this intrepid claim:

“I still think women are the prize.”

Many women want to be won over. We want to be pursued. We want to be asked out on dates, communicated with and led into deeper commitment by our partners. 

This doesn’t mean a woman needs to be rescued. It simply means that she’s looking for a man who is ready and willing to make a bold decision to pursue her, commit to her and take responsibility for her heart.

High Expectations

Some of you might be thinking, “Don’t you think your expectations are a little…high?” I admit, I’m asking for a lot. I’m looking for a man who wants to commit to me and who has the humility, strength and ability to lead in our relationship.

While I fully realize that marriage will involve sacrificing a significant portion of my independence, I also expect a husband to embrace that part of me: the woman who has worked for herself, moved overseas solo and enjoys her alone time.

Having these standards may extend the wait for marriage, but I also believe it will make the wait worth it. At the end of it, I’ll find a partner who isn’t afraid to take the lead from the start—and to fight for a marriage that’s loving, balanced and fulfilling for the both of us.

What are your thoughts on men leading in relationships? Do you think this way of thought is outdated or misunderstood?

Images via Angie Welsch, Darling Issue No. 7

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23 comments

  1. Thanks for the article. I really like Darling Magazine. At this moment, I am 48 Yrs old and married a second time, now 10 Yrs. My interest is peaked as I read about your desires in a marriage. To me, what the author seems to want from a husband is some one who will “be a responsible adult and participate in the relationship.” Ladies, don’t set the bar too low and don’t ever make excuses for what and who you are… single or in a relationship. For me, I continue to grow, deepen spirituality, and advance in my career. But I have to stop “waiting” for my husband to catch up. He won’t. They won’t. Women rock and it’s hard to pair that with a man. Thanks for the ideas. Good luck.

  2. It honestly sounds like this definition of “leading” really means “actively investing.”

    Which is attractive in anyone.

  3. Wow! This article resonates with me so much. At this period of time where #MeToo and feminism are taking force, I feel bad for deeply desiring a man who leads in a relationship. As though doing so makes me less feminist. But this article sums up the exact feelings I have. Because being with a man who leads isn’t about being controlled but rather forming a partnership with someone who puts forth energy and intentionality into the relationship – and holds the door for you every once in a while too 🙂 Great read!

  4. ALWAYS AMEN! I married a man JUST like this—a man who takes the lead but allows me to be myself. A man who supports my passions just as much as I support his, both emotionally and practically. I love this!

  5. Having married a man like this, I say “AMEN!” to this. His presence in my life brings me simultaneous feeling of security and freedom. I can be strong and weak, because I know I have a partner who can balance me along the way. It’s a wonderful feeling.

    1. Thank you for sharing Sarah. It’s always encouraging to hear from someone on the other side of the waiting!

  6. Amen, a thousand times amen. I, too, moved solo to a new country and maintain high standards (which people always question). I won’t even entertain anything less than a fully-formed adult man in the emotional sense…not here to be your mum or teach you how to be in a relationship. I’d rather be alone doing great things than settling for anything less than a completely invested partner.

  7. For the first time in a long time, I couldn’t agree more with the whole article. I am all about balanced life where women and men have different kind of strengths. I am a strong woman however I always want to see a man to show an effort, take an extra mile and be “leading” cause he wants me to stay in his life as a priority.

  8. This is wonderfully put! I’ve always had this in mind but have never seen it so well-articulated. Thank you, Kelsey, for your words!

  9. I absolutely love this! You articulate so well the same thoughts I’ve sometimes found hard to put into words in conversations with others. I like how you described what it really means for a man to “take the lead.” Thanks for sharing, Kelsey!

  10. I LOVE this!!!! As a Christian single 34 year old woman that has never been asked out, this is what I want for myself too. Thank you for writing this article and laying it out so astutely!!!!

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