Written by Maria Michalowski
Many years ago, my husband and I took ballroom dancing lessons because we thought it would be fun. We planned to learn several styles of dance, and started with basic steps and rhythms — quick step right, quick step left, slow step back. Those early lessons were not pretty — stepping on toes, awkward pushing and pulling. At first it was funny, but gradually became less fun and more frustrating.
The instructor patiently explained the primary rule of ballroom dance – the man leads. It didn’t matter if I picked up on the steps more quickly, I had to LET him lead. He bore the responsibility of choosing the steps and following the rhythm. He could use subtle signals to let me know what to do, but the bottom line was that he was the leader, and I followed his lead. If we both accepted our roles, the dance flowed much more smoothly. The lessons were super challenging for BOTH of us, as he would discreetly ask me for help when the instructor wasn’t looking, and I often got frustrated when he didn’t lead well.
What a profound lesson for a marriage relationship! Learning to live life together is very much like learning to dance. Have you ever admired an older couple dancing seamlessly together, and wondered how they learned to do that? Similarly, have you ever admired a couple’s marriage relationship, and wondered how they do that? A couple of simple rules:
- Practice, practice, practice: Just like anything else in life, to get good at something you have to practice. You have to laugh off mistakes, be gracious, and stay positive. The bible provides lots of wisdom for relationships. Here is an appropriately rhythmic example: James 1:19 …be QUICK to listen, SLOW to speak, and SLOW to get angry…
- The man leads: It’s a primary rule of marriage, and the Bible encourages couples how to learn to “dance” together without pushing, pulling & stepping on toes: Ephesians 5:33 …each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
In our culture today, this can be a sensitive issue. Let me be clear, this “primary rule” has nothing to do with “ability.” I saw a poster once that said “Fred Astaire was a great dancer, but Ginger Rogers did everything that he did, in high heels and backwards”. The primary rule has everything to do with “learning” — strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, preferring and celebrating one another.
My husband and I had fun with the dance lessons, and we occasionally (rarely) dance. But the broader lesson made an impact on every relationship I have. The rules are the same and easy to apply. Whether it is marriage, family, work, friendships or, most importantly, my relationship with God – someone leads, someone follows, and life will provide you with daily opportunities to practice!
If you are interested in learning some techniques to practice in your marriage relationship, check out Marriage Mentoring at APC: http://allisonpark.wpengine.com/marriage-mentors/
Maria Michalowski has attended Allison Park Church for 34 years, where she married her husband, Mike, and raised two children. She joined the APC staff 10 years ago and helps to coordinate the care and support of her church family.