I was hanging out with a buddy the other day.
And while catching up, he told me that he had been taking a closer look at his relationship with his girlfriend of a few years.
He was wondering how things were progressing between him and his partner. He was starting to think about the next steps, marriage, and children.
He was wondering if his significant other was the person he was meant to be with for the rest of their lives, completely understandable for this point in their relationship.
As we were talking, he asked me if they should be together for the long haul. He was wrestling with the thought of how partners in a “proper” romantic relationship should act—wondering what the dynamic between two people should really look like, stepping past the physical attraction.
This line of questions set off some red flags right away, but I wanted to let him talk it out.
During our conversation, he was picking my brain about what I thought a good partnership looked like—was it a relationship where each other felt like they couldn’t breathe without the other?
I said, “In my opinion, no.”
He questioned if having arguments were a bad thing.
I told him, “I think virtually every couple argues from time to time. That arguments are okay as long as you’re still communicating.”
He bluntly asked if the two should grow as people. Without hesitation, I said, “Yes. They should grow as people, and hopefully, they grow in similar ways, together.” I also told him that I did not believe any two relationships were alike. Every person on this planet is different, so every pair of people will be different.
Adding that every bit of relationship advice he got he should take with a grain of salt and assess it to his own relationship.
After this conversation, we had a couple more beers, shot the sh*t, and remembered stories about our younger and more wild years. After we said our goodbyes, I kept coming back to our conversation about relationships.
I sat with the thought of what a “good” relationship should act like. This is what I came up with:
Only speaking from my experiences, it seems to me that a good romantic relationship should be like a pair of hands.
In “your” relationship, you are like the dominant hand and your partner is the non-dominant hand. No, I don’t mean you should dominate your partner—unless that’s your thing, and in that case, have at it. What I mean is, you should be able to do all of the hard stuff on your own but have your partner there to support and guide you when needed.
I think of it as shooting a basketball. You hold the ball in your dominant hand and you use that hand to propel the ball forward. Using only one hand, the ball may go in the direction you want or it might not. If you use your non-dominant hand to help guide the ball, you have a better chance of making a basket. I like this analogy because I can dribble and shoot the ball with just one hand, but having a second-hand guide the ball helps make taking the shot easier. My non-dominant hand supports the shot. Just like my partner should support me and visa versa, I support their shot.
Not a sports fan? How about cooking?
You hold a knife with your dominant hand and chop. You can chop all day with that one hand. Will your cutting be good, maybe. But if you let your non-dominant-hand hold what you are cutting in place, it allows you to chop precisely without ingredients ending up all over the place or cutting yourself. You could prepare the meal with your dominant hand but having the help and support of your non-dominant hand makes the job a little easier.
If you’re like me, you can do most things with your dominant hand but letting your non-dominate hand help when needed is a blessing.
If I need to scratch my leg, dominate has it. If I need to brush my teeth, dominant hand all the way. If I’m waving to a friend, it is with my dominant hand. No problem, I can support myself.
I can do the things I need to to live my life. Where it is nice to have a partner in this way is when I need to open a bottle of wine my dominant hand is all over the corkscrew but my non-dominant hand has a tight grip helping to hold the bottle in place; when I’m eating the slice of pizza with my dominant hand, my non-dominant hand takes the wheel and steers the car; or when I’m drawing a dog for my niece and my non-dominant hand holds the page steady.
Your non-dominant hand comes in to help make life a little easier and give support. Just as your partner is your non-dominant hand, you need to be theirs too.
They can also do all of those things by themselves and you should just be there to give them support. So really, your partner and you are two sets of hands; you are two people after all.
You are your dominant hand, and they are your non-dominant hand. They are their own dominant hand, with you as their non-dominant hand. You both can do all of these things for yourself, but each plays a supporting role in the other’s life.
My newest, favorite relationship saying is, “you should find some who cares and prioritizes your happiness as much as their own.” That’s how hands operate; when one thrives, they both do.
So when you’re asking for someone’s hand in marriage, you’re not just asking to put a ring on it. You’re asking for a support system that will help guide you and give you help when you need it. You’re also offering to do the same.
To me, that is what it means to take one’s hand in marriage—two people with two pairs of hands helping out. High five.