I Thought He Wanted a Cheerleader
By Janel Breitenstein
Friends let out a telling little laugh when they discover that back in the day, I was a cheerleader.
This laugh could be because:
- Though fit, I remain remarkably uncoordinated.
- My exuberance just fits with cheerleading.
- They find it amusing to match this with the persona I currently rock: mother of four.
- All of the above.
That said, I continue as a decent cheerleader in the non-pompom, un-uniformed sense of the word—I like rooting for people.
My husband has (more than once) requested I “stop encouraging” him so much. Go figure. (Or should that be, “Goooooooo, FIGURE!”?)
Transition to him and me in our driveway recently. We were engulfed in conversation over a house project that would consume a decent part of our time, but that would also form a significant dream of his for more than a decade. He looked at me.
“If we do this, I don’t want just your encouragement or administration. I need a partner.”
He encapsulated what I’ve been learning for 20 years now. I used to think any husband would love a “yes (wo)man”—in essence, a cheerleader. Someone to say, “You’re doing it right. Keep going. I’m here.”
And sure, a lot of us want someone telling us some metaphorical version of That’s all right! That’s okay! You can do it anyway!
But true partnership involves more than ornamental agreement. My husband needed thoughtful, engaged input—me working alongside rather than just for him.
He wanted a teammate on the field rather than a skirted sidekick cheering on the all-star.
This is far closer to the meaning of the Hebrew word ezer (translated into “helper” in Genesis 2:18), which we see elsewhere in the Old Testament defining either a military ally or God Himself.
Our spouses need strategic partners sweating with them, carrying out mutual touchdowns.
So leave those pompoms on the sidelines. Your spouse may need you to catch the next play.
The good stuff: Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)
- Are there ways your partnership with your spouse is more passive than active? Explore what’s beneath that.
- Ask your spouse about one way you could more actively engage with mutual goals, rather than just cheering them on.
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