Dear Abby: I sometimes wonder whether it is better to lead with your head or your heart in a relationship. Is one better than the other? Is there one more or less destined to set your relationship up for success? Please help.
The head or heart debate — a classic. The situation is all the more black and white in “The Wizard of Oz” because the Scarecrow knows he wants a brain and the Tin Man knows he wants a heart. Boom — problem solved.
However, as with everything, real life is far more complicated. I do think there are some moments in a relationship where it’s better to lead with your heart, but other times it’s more useful to use your head. Here’s the magic question: how can we ever know when to do what?
It’s a learning process for sure, but that’s what loving is all about.
Thinking with your head
Some people tend to approach relationships from a very logical standpoint. Rather than following the path that their feelings trace for them, people rely on past experiences and current knowledge to assess how to go about dating someone.
I am certainly guilty of this, but it’s important to remember that relationships are not a math equation waiting to be solved. A certain plus may not put you on the fast track to getting a significant other. In that sense, you definitely can’t rely on pure rationale to go about loving someone.
I think the head is best to use when you’re trying to understand the person’s morals, values and personality. Ask yourself: Do their values align with yours? Are you guys actually compatible? Or are they just cute and giving you attention? Just think!
Another huge part of learning to love is choosing the things that we are willing to overlook. What’s more common than not is when people choose to look past things that later become a problem, which is usually when that “honeymoon” phase of the relationship is over.
Intelligence in the classroom is one thing, but emotional intelligence as it relates to romantic relationships is something entirely separate. Your heart can beat for someone, but it takes a strong head and some maturity to know the right time to walk away.
Lead with your heart?
Have you ever heard the saying “follow your heart?” — well that’s true, to an extent. Your heart plays a crucial role in allowing you to find interest in a person and to love them beyond their exterior conditions and flaws.
It’s a fragile organ, and very valuable in decision making — but don’t be mistaken — the heart is not the be-all and end-all in the success of a relationship.
Like I always say, if love were enough, nobody would ever break up.
The truth is, most couples who split never stopped loving each other. The heart wasn’t the issue in this case. It was probably other treatment or compatibility issues — something only the head is able to recognize and decipher.
When leading with your heart, another main concern is that you become blinded by love in its entirety. It’s so easy to get caught up in someone who you’re also attracted to after they show you the slightest bit of attention.
I’m sure we can all recall a time when someone we liked actually liked us back. It’s pure euphoria — you feel like you’re on cloud nine.
With this feeling comes the rose-colored glasses. You soon learn to overlook all your major differences and questionable behaviors because you are so head over heels for that person.
I understand not wanting to let go of that feeling or the person, but entering a relationship with your eyes closed comes with its own set of dangers.
Oftentimes, people are able to overlook situations of physical or emotional abuse, as well as other toxic behaviors. They might tolerate disrespect, misogyny or just a general lack of decency.
The bottom line is this: Love doesn’t always have to hurt, so don’t lose sight of this moral by choosing to only follow your heart.
If you ask me
I would say stop making the situation so black and white. You don’t need to choose to lead with your head or your heart. Remove the “or” if you wish. Both parts are equally important to consider in the act of pursuing a relationship.
This doesn’t mean you need to keep them at the same level at all times. There are moments where I think it’s okay to lean on your heart a little more than your head and vice versa — but don’t rule out one altogether.
The real challenge in relationships — I think — is learning how to balance the two in a way that works for you. It takes a lot of time, practice and heartbreak, but rest assured it will all be worth it when you’re at the chapel!