Famed Russian-born ballet choreographer George Balanchine once said, “The ballet is woman.” The best male dancers recognize that their role is all about showcasing the female dancer’s beauty, particularly during pas de deux—couples’ dancing. People generally go to the ballet to see the beautiful form, grace, balance, coordination and strength of the female lead, but all of those qualities are even better showcased when the ballerina has a male dancer who can set her up, catch her, and support her.
As a former male dancer and later choreographer, Balanchine said that his job was to “make the beautiful more beautiful.” With a strong and gifted male dancer nearby, the ballerina can do more and attempt more than she could in a solo endeavor.
What if we considered that our job as husbands and wives was “to make the beautiful more beautiful?”
By supporting, stabilizing, lifting, and turning our spouses to the “best sides” of their strength and personality, our spouses can become more and do more than they ever could on their own. We essentially affirm the beauty we see in them by helping them become even more beautiful yet.
Some of our spouses may not even realize that they have a best side. It’s our job (and joy) to help them discover it. Others may have never allowed their best side to flourish—or even be seen—because they’re insecure. If that’s the case, when we learn to cherish them we will provide the support they need.
“Showcasing”–making the deliberate mental shift to cherish our spouse by highlighting their beauty to others in the same way a dancer focuses on supporting his partner—is an essential part of learning how to cherish our spouse. If two dancers are each trying their hardest to be noticed above or even by each other, the performance is going to be a colossal, ugly failure.
Husbands can take the attitude of male dancers, seeking to showcase their wives’ beauty. It may be the beauty of wisdom, so in social settings we do our best to see that she is heard. It may be the beauty of leadership, and we support her so that she can cast vision with others. It may be the beauty of hospitality, and we buy the things she needs and open up our homes (when we might prefer to be left alone) so that her beauty can be on full display. We remind ourselves, “Today, my job is to cherish her.”
If wives adopted this attitude, supporting their partners to perform feats they could never do on their own, they might soon be married to “different” husbands with the same names—more confident, more at peace, more engaged at home. What if a husband knew—in the deepest part of his soul—that his wife was his strongest support, his most encouraging partner? What would that do to him? What if he was willing to risk failure out in the world or at home with his kids because he knew in his wife’s eyes he would always be her cherished champion? She supports him, she stabilizes him, and when he fails she binds up his wounds—spiritual and emotional—constantly turning and lifting him so his strongest side is always showing. What if every wife woke up and thought to herself, “Today, my job is to cherish him by showcasing his best side to others?”
What makes the ballet analogy so helpful is partly that it is so rooted in reality. A male dancer has to know the ballerina’s weaknesses—not to ridicule or shame her, but to support her exactly where she is weakest. And he also has to know her strengths so he can focus on highlighting exactly those skills. Thus, showcasing our spouse compels us to study our spouse and to get to know them more intimately.
One time, I thought of a creative present to give a young wife. My wife thought it was a great idea and said she’d pick it up. When I asked a week later if we had gotten it, she said she had forgotten; I offered to pick it up but she insisted, “No, I’ve got this.”
After the young woman received it, she was gushing all over my wife about how kind, thoughtful, and meaningful the gift was. As I walked into the room she saw me and said, “Oh, and of course, thank you, too, Gary.”
It was a dismissive thank you—sort of like, “We both know you had absolutely nothing to do with this gift except for marrying Lisa. So, thank you for that.”
Fifteen years ago, to my shame, I probably would have insisted the present was my idea and even added that I had to follow-up to make it happen. Instead I said, “What present?”
Why the change? I’m committed to cherishing my spouse, and I love to see others exalt her. I want to showcase her, and to see others celebrate her. That makes me cherish her even more. When you truly cherish someone, few things bring you more joy than seeing others cherish that person as well. The more you cherish your spouse, the more you cherish your spouse.
Cherishing and showcasing have changed my marriage—my goals, my satisfaction, even my feelings have been transformed. I believe they can change yours as well.
Gary Thomas, GaryThomas.com
This post is adapted from Gary’s new book: Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage. You can get more information about the book here: http://www.garythomas.com/books/cherish/