When my wife and I go to a party, here's what it looks like:
Person We Just Met turns to my wife and says, "What do you do for a living?"
My wife: "I'm a musical theater actress."
Person We Just Met: "Oooohhh, That's so cool! What show are you in?"
The conversation continues for a few minutes with my wife explaining what she does and what shows she's been in.
I smile and nod watching a scene I've watched a hundred times.
Then, Person We Just Met turns to me and says, "And what do you do?"
Me: "I'm in Human Resources."
Person We Just Met: ".............," stares at me silently, then turns back to my wife and says, "So, what show are you going to be in next?"
My job inspires less stimulating conversation than my wife's.
We have different professional brands, and that brand extends into our personal lives as well.
The best way to describe us is in the line my wife writes at the end of her bio in the playbill for each show:
"Sarah would like to thank her husband, Greg, for holding the kite string so she can fly."
As you think about your relationships, are you the kite or the one who holds the string?
Kites and string-holders.
That's the metaphor my wife uses to describe our life together. It defines our roles in our relationship.
It's how we talk about other couples we meet. We discuss which person is the kite and which one holds the string.
In a relationship, the kite is the person who appears to be the more interesting person of the pair. The one you would rather spend more time talking to.
The kite is what you see soaring through the sky, dancing on the wind. When you see a kite flying through the air, you watch the kite, not the person holding the string.
Whether it’s on stage or off stage, my wife is the person people watch. She's outgoing and friendly. She's memorable.
We live in a world that wants us to be kites.
Our social media feeds are full of images of friends soaring above the rest of us.
Success is a kite.
Success is completing that workout and posting the sweatie selfie.
Success is about having brunch with your bestie.
Success is about celebrating your talents for all the world to see.
Success doesn't look like the person holding the string.
But the fact is, the world could use more string holders.
What does the string holder look like?
String holders do the things other people won't. The things that don't get noticed. The things that most people would rather not do.
As the one who holds the string, I’m the organizer, the planner, the schedule maker and schedule keeper.
If we are going somewhere, I make sure we get there.
I make sure the bills get paid.
String holders are always there. They show up every day. They are consistent.
They don't tell you what they do. But you know they must do something right or else the kite wouldn't be hanging around them.
My wife is capable of doing these things. Before we met, she did these things just fine. But she doesn't enjoy them.
They take away from her ability to be a kite.
On the other hand, these things give me fulfillment. I do them well. They make me feel like I am contributing to our relationship. Most importantly, my wife appreciates when I do these things.
The reason my wife and I work well together is because she notices the things I do and she acknowledges them and appreciates them.
Something about kites is they can't fly unless someone is holding the string.
If there is no one to hold the string, then the kite can't catch the wind. Instead, it will flutter along the ground or fly up in the air for a second and then crash and tumble along the ground.
The string holder makes sure the kite stays in the air and away from trees.
Seeing the kite soar brings the string holder joy. The string holder doesn't think, "I wish I was flying." Instead, the string holder says, "What can I do to help my kite fly better."
The kite also doesn't think, "I'd rather be on the ground holding the string." The kite thinks, "I am grateful to have someone making sure I don't fly away and get stuck in a tree."
What if a string holder has no kite? Of course, the string holder can go though life doing the things that string holders do. Keeping their feet on the ground. Being steady, reliable. But the enjoyment and fulfillment won't be there.
And kites can go through life without a string holder. Indeed, a couple of kites can get together, but unless one becomes the string holder, there is going to be a lot of tumbling about along the ground with short periods of flight.
Some people say that in their relationships, they take turns as kites and strings. At one point in their lives they were the kite and then later their partner was the kite.
As I think about my life, there have been some times when I have been the kite and my wife has held the string.
Sometimes, as the kite, I want to fly too high or too far. My wife, as the string holder, has to reel me back in a little. Not to squash my dreams, but to keep me in check.
It doesn’t matter which role you take on in the relationship.
It’s ok to be a kite.
It’s even more ok to be the one who holds the string.
If that’s your role, embrace it and hold the kite so it can fly.