Love and Learn – God-given roles in the relationship

Men like to pursue women, and they like to lead (well, most of the time). The bible designates the man as the head of the household; this is his God-given role in the relationship. However, the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding puts things in perspective: if the man is the head, the woman is the neck, and she can direct the head anywhere she wants to! A smart woman will realize that she can wield quite a lot of control as the “neck” of the relationship (but she must always be careful to use her power for good, not evil; if she strives to be a Proverbs 31 (verses 10-31) woman she will be just perfect!).

Who wouldn’t want to be respectfully pursued by an appropriate fellow? Looking back on the few examples where I was approached by a guy I found interesting, I noticed that I probably made things too easy for the guy and took the lead in subtle ways from the beginning. It wasn’t deliberate: instead of letting him work a little to learn about me I would just offer the link to my blog so he can read all about me—kidding! No: what I’ve done in the past is give a guy the information I think he’ll need to make a decision about me before he asks for it. If you’re a lady who’s getting to know someone by phone, email, text, or some other way that is not face-to-face, I would not recommend volunteering information or taking the lead in those early conversations. If you’re like me, your first conversation might go like this:

Him: Hello
Her: Hi, how are you?
Him: I’m fine thanks.
Her: Good! So, how was your day?
Him: Oh, not too bad, just back from work.
Her: How was work? Where do you work?

There’s nothing wrong with this conversation right? It’s friendly and light. Sure, but look closely: it’s subtle but just like that the female is in the position of pursuer; she’s asking all the questions! The guy can relax and just answer questions or if he wants he can echo the same questions he’s being asked back to the lady. He no longer has to do anything to keep the conversation going because the woman is asking all the questions.

My observations are not scientific, but I suspect that even if they don’t know it, this might be the reason some men lose interest so early in the “getting to know you” phase. They might not even know it but the lack of a chase might be turning them off. Asking questions in the early stages of a relationship says I’m interested in you. I want to get to know you. I believe it’s the man’s role to make this clear to the lady he’s pursuing.

I’m not advocating that women be rude, play games, or provide terse response to questions, and I’m not saying a woman should never ask questions. But don’t give more information than you’re actually being asked for! If a guy says hello via a phone call, text, or a messenger system, respond in kind. Don’t worry about your responses coming across as brief…that’s the fault of the person asking the questions! If you ask questions that have a one word answer, then that’s what you should expect to receive. If you really are worried that you could put someone off, then respond quickly to questions asked of you via text or a messenger system, or add a smiley face to show you’re interested in the conversation. Moving forward, I won’t lead the conversation in the “getting-to-know-you” stage of the relationship.

There are exceptions, however; not all of us are the same. Some men are extremely shy and they need a vivacious woman to bring them out of their shell. This would be clear from the very beginning, meaning you’d probably have to approach the guy and say hello if you want to get to know him, or maybe a mutual friend would have to introduce you, and would have to say something like Lagbaja is so shy; he needs to be brought out of his shell! There’s nothing wrong with this. However, if a guy is brave enough to approach you (online or in person) in the first place and say hello,if he likes what he sees he’ll be brave enough to start a conversation (and keep it going).

Here’s another way this particular lesson showed up in my past relationship.

Taking the lead in my relationship

I mentioned that the guy I was in a long distance relationship (he: Nigeria, me: Canada) with and I had come up a plan for us to be reunited after my 2010 visit to Nigeria. Canada was chosen mutually because I was established here and he was eager to see the world outside of Nigeria. We explored legal ways for him to come here so that he’d be able to stay for a while, so we’d get to know one another and see what the future might hold for us. I considered our options and presented them to him:

We could get married so he could come here as my spouse. I was completely against this idea at that stage in the relationship, because we hadn’t spent enough time together to take such a step. This was more of a “lai lai, over my dead body” kind of thing. He knew I was averse to this even before we even met.
He could apply for a visitor’s visa. I liked this idea at first, but I asked him what he’d do while I was at work and since one can’t work with a visitor’s visa. He said he’d find some “under the table” work. I’m not perfect but I feel very strongly about following immigration-related rules because citizenship in a country you were not born in is a privilege, not a right. I told him I was against him working and he said he’d die of boredom (I liked his work ethic though!).

I had also learned that being over 30 as he was and having no clear ties to Nigeria (such as ownership of land or a wife and children–which obviously would not have been compatible with our plans!) meant that he would not be an ideal candidate to receive a visitor’s visa (which doesn’t mean it was impossible though).
He could apply to come to Canada as a student. This was my preferred option. What I liked was that if successful, he’d be able to stay in Canada for a year or two without any difficulty, we’d get to develop our relationship over time, and if things didn’t work out in the end, his time in Canada would put him in a position to bring the new skills he acquired here back home or he could apply for permanent residency in Canada (as long as he met their requirements, of course).
Thankfully, he was willing to pursue this option. So, I did all the research. This man knew how to use the internet, and was just as capable as I was of doing the research, but I wanted to make things easy for him! I also completed all the necessary paperwork, printed it off and sent it to him so he could submit the application in Nigeria as was required. There’s nothing wrong with being helpful but with the exception of a couple of documents he had to procure himself (school transcripts) I took care of the whole thing. There were so many other little-but-important details that I took care of.

Take the lead, shoulder the blame

When the student visa was not granted, he told me that we should have tried option 2 (visitor’s visa) instead of option 3, that he went along with option 3 because he knew my heart was set on it. I truly don’t think he was trying to blame me, but I did feel like I should not have been so set on option 3. I think he did say that there was no guarantee that he would have gotten that visitor’s visa either.

Lesson learned

I’m now willing to submit to the biblical definition of a relationship: the man leads and the woman is the helper. I will allow myself to be pursued. I will not make it difficult for a guy to get to know me; neither will I offer myself on a platter to him. A decision to let the man lead does not mean that you do whatever he says. A man who respects a lady will always seek her input and her agreement before deciding on something that will affect both parties. The woman will be seen as an adviser and treasured confidant. This is where I failed: I did not allow him the freedom to figure out how he was going to get here. In the end it wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back but it was a contributing factor.

If I’m ever in the same position, if we’ve decided we want to be together, I will trust that my boyfriend will be able to make it happen. Once we’re in agreement regarding what we should do, I will let him lead the planning, I’ll make suggestions if asked, and I’ll advise, but not insist on things, especially if he’ll be the one visiting me. Consensus between a couple is key, and is always better than one person making the decisions.

Ok, let me have it: Have I gone too far in the opposite direction? Is allowing the man to lead an archaic idea? (Keep in mind that although I think most men like to lead, I acknowledge that some guys prefer the woman to take the lead.)

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