We’re both lefties,we are, this dude of mine and me. And today, as I sat holding his hand, it occurred to me that there’s a lesson in both of us being lefties. Of course there’s nothing profound about holding hands, my left in his right. But when I slow down, small moments like this tend to stick with me most profoundly.
If I consider holding hands as a metaphor for our relationship, I see that when my left hand is holding his, I can’t use my dominant hand, while he still can. He can open doors, swing an ax, write a birthday card, and even chop vegetables because his left hand is free and the other is still holding mine—holding on to our relationship.
I, however, would have to extract my hand from his to complete the same tasks. In removing my hand from his, I am able to act independently—independently of him and of our goals. When I’m able to use my dominant hand I’m not connected to him in the same way. I’m much more likely to move in an opposite direction than him—a direction that opposes him.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how men and women have distinct strengths tied to our genders and how that can play out in a relationship. My boyfriend feels responsible for guiding us and protecting me, while I feel a strong desire to encourage those traits in him. We complement each other that way.
Respecting my boyfriend as he takes the initiative in our relationship is important to me. In fact, author Shaunti Feldhahn surveyed 400 men and asked them if they’d rather feel “alone and unloved” or “inadequate and disrespected.” 74 percent of the men surveyed chose “alone and unloved” and only 26 percent chose “inadequate and disrespected.” Feldhahn notes that often a man needs to feel like his judgment is respected in order for him to feel loved.
Now, I know this does not mean that I should let myself be walked over, never share my opinion, or let my boyfriend make all the decisions. But it does mean treating my boyfriend with respect instead of belittling him, and even allowing him to take the lead in guiding our relationship forward.
Last year as the holidays were approaching, I had a burning question: would my boyfriend and I spend the holidays together? We had only been dating a few months but were serious in our relationship nevertheless. I wanted him to join my family for Thanksgiving and then we’d swap for Christmas too, and oh – what did he want to do for New Year’s Eve? We could host a party at my house!
I decided to carefully broach the topic and ask if he’d considered it. I waited to hear his opinion first before I voiced my own. As with many things in our relationship, I was ready to run ahead while he gently encouraged us to slow down.
After letting me exhaust my ideas and share my opinion, he patiently and gently explained how he thought it was too soon in our relationship to share the intimacy (and sometimes craziness) of family holidays. Although I wasn’t in total agreement, I conceded because I respected his opinion and knew his intention was to protect me from getting too deeply attached too soon.
A year later, I’m grateful for that time we spent separately with our families and know it was the best decision for that time in our relationship. There have been so many points throughout our journey where I’ve been grateful to him for where he has guided our relationship and I’m sure there will be more. As we continue to take steps towards marriage, I am trying to live out the ideal I have before me so we’ll have a stronger love in the future.
For now I’ll grab his hand with my left and let him lead.
- She Said: How Planning For Marriage, Not Just A Wedding, Calms My Fears - April 14, 2015
- Fostering Gratitude Beyond Thanksgiving—How We Do It - November 26, 2014
- Left to Lead - November 4, 2014