by Delano Squires
Anyone who has ever taken salsa lessons should know that men are traditionally responsible for taking the lead on the dance floor. This is true regardless of whether the man happens to be a better or more experienced dancer than his female dance partner. This concept reminds me of a conversation I had recently at a friend’s birthday barbecue in which I stated that a man should set the tone for his relationship; I likened the dynamic between a man and woman to that of a thermostat and thermometer. For example, a man who is overly excited about the woman he’s dating might have the relationship temperature up a few degrees too high, and her response (e.g. avoiding phone calls) should be an indicator that he needs to cool things down a bit. Likewise, a woman who expresses her disappointment in the lack of interest or effort on the man’s part is a signal that the temperature might need to be turned up a few degrees. Unsurprisingly, everyone did not share my view on this subject. One person felt that women should set the tone by creating an environment that makes a man comfortable being himself. In her view, women should take the initiative to set the course for the relationship.
To be clear, the conversation wasn’t meant to be an argument about who holds a more important role in a relationship or an attempt to draw battle lines in a fruitless power struggle. I firmly believe that both parties in a relationship must put forth effort if it is to be successful; my point was simply that a man who takes initiative serves as an antidote to the well-worn perception of men being passive participants in relationships. Our culture has taught us that generally speaking, a woman’s natural inclination is to seek stability while men have a propensity to seek variety. Therefore, without initiative on a man’s part a woman might think that she is just his “flavor of the month”. To be clear, the initiative I’m referencing here is not the superficial gestures that some men use as a means to an end (i.e. sex). I am talking about men who take the initiative to do what’s necessary to build a strong relationship foundation. This includes spending quality time, articulating feelings about the woman and the relationship at the appropriate time, and ensuring that one’s words and deeds are in alignment. I believe these types of actions take the adversarial nature and senseless game playing out of dating, courtship, and even marriage. All of these activities communicate to a woman that her mate is in the relationship because he wants to be there, not because of coercion, convenience, or comfort.
Relationships often suffer because of a lack of clarity so a man who clearly articulates his vision or desires for the relationship goes a long way to removing some of the doubt and insecurity that can erode the relationship’s foundation. This is not to say that men don’t need to feel secure in their relationships. I once had a girlfriend tell me she was taking a break from the relationship to figure out whether she wanted to be with me or one of her close male friends who had previously expressed a romantic interest. Needless to say, that experience left me feeling less secure about my place in the relationship. The insecurity I reference here is not in relation to body image issues, the residue of past hurts in prior relationships, or some of the other internal issues that must be resolved on an individual basis. The insecurities to which I am referring are the feelings that arise when there is uncertainty about the status and direction of the relationship itself. Ultimately, both men and women must contribute to the growth and development of a relationship but similarly to dancing, someone must take the lead. Hopefully we won’t step on each other’s toes too many times in the process.
BMWK, who do you think should set the tone for the relationship? Does a man who takes initiative create a greater sense of security in the relationship?
Delano Squires is currently a graduate student in Race, Ethnicity, and Public Policy at the George Washington University. His focus is contemporary African American culture, urban education, and child development. Follow him on Twitter @Mr_Squires.