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?

Image via Angi Welsch, Darling Issue No. 7


  1. This is such a wonderful article and it is a subject matter that us women, like you typed, cringe when whenever someone brings the role of leading up.

    There is a uniqueness in the relationship, both parts lead but in a different way. And you are TOTALLY right about the distinction between domineering & Leading. A easy way to help others understand it is looking at a relationship between a project manager. They lead and guide the project put also listen to the inputs of the partners in the projects without domineering. (come on, we all know the difference between a domineering boss and a leader…).

    Anyways, such a delightful read and beautifully described and written. <3

  2. I spent my entire adulthood searching for this and finally found it. I was never able to articulate what I needed it, but you’ve said it so perfectly. It’s worth the wait!

  3. I resonate with this so much! I am currently in a relationship and I have found myself learning so much with my boyfriend. He allows me to take the lead and pursue my dream. He is one to meet me in the middle and asks for my opinion. I love that I can be both strong and weak with him. He pursued me from the beginning and believe that it has created a solid foundation to let him love me well.

    Men like this are out there ladies– biggest advice is don’t settle! It is all about working as a team.

  4. Women don’t want accountability, that’s why they want the man to take the lead. You will never be truly strong or independent until you have accountability for what happens in the relationship.

    “Many women want to be won over. We want to be pursued. We want to be asked out on dates.. defend me… commit to me…”
    Women can’t possibly be “the prize” if all they do is want from a man but give nothing in return.

    1. Hi Kofybean,

      I don’t believe defining what I want from a man means that I don’t want to give anything in return. What are your grounds for believing that women don’t want accountability in relationships? Can you give a specific example?

  5. 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.

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

    Which is attractive in anyone.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

    1. I respect that a lot of women want a man to pursue them. People want different things. And I have had women tell me that they want me to “chase” them. But I don’t understand how that’s conducive to an actual relationship. Yes, I read the article but that doesn’t sound like leading to me. It just sounds like being in an equal relationship ( guess it’s just semantics).

      To me, chasing and pursing translated to me doing all of the work in the relationship and they just “showed up.” I planned all the dates, I paid for them, I bought all the thoughtful gifts, I cooked dinners, I escalated from dating to an exclusive relationship. So if I do all this, what did my exes do? They either said yes or no and to be honest there was a part of me that felt resentful because it felt like they didn’t do anything. I felt like I was being used.

      I guess I’ve had bad relationships and what I’m asking is what am I supposed to do? And at what point do I realize that I’m being used?

      I decided that the relationship needs to be balanced. So I’ve changed how I approach them. If I ask a woman out on a date and it goes well, I’ll ask them to pick the next date. If they don’t then that’s my answer right there, but if they pick a place or something to do then we’ll go.

      I’m not knocking other people and what they want. I’m only saying what makes sense for me.

      But I would like to hear what other women think. I don’t chase anymore. I’d like a relationship where we’re both contributing and I’m not happy in one’s where it’s my job to initiate everything. I’d like to see the women I date to put in the same effort I do. So I’m upfront and talk about what my idea of a relationship is openly. Hasn’t really worked out for me so far.

      Is it really so wrong for me to say: I want an equal relationship. It doesn’t matter if I initiate or you but it should never always be one person. If you’re not happy with something I’d like you you to tell me explicitly and I’ll do the same. I don’t want to lead anyone nor do I want to be led. I just want to walk beside someone….if that makes sense.

      Like I said…doesn’t really work well for me, but I guess I’d rather hold out for someone that does understand what I mean.

      Hope everyone finds who they’re looking for..

      But would love to hear thoughts

  13. 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!

  14. 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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