If you aren’t around for your family, what will your legacy be?
After 13 years of marriage, plus a couple of other long-term relationships before that, I’ve been privy to many conversations with women as to where we men fail as husbands.
Some of those were relayed from a third party, about their own husbands, and some of those conversations were ones where my wife and I were discussing our own marriage. So I’m not gonna pull a fast one on ya and say that I’ve got marriage all figured out. But after all of this time, I’ve certainly learned what doesn’t work. And it seems to me that if we take what doesn’t work in a relationship, turn it upside down and then apply it back to the marriage, we’ll end up with some ways to be a better husband without resorting to empty clichés and pop psychology.
After all, men may be from Mars and women from Venus, but that’s no reassurance to any of us when our marriage feels like it sucks. We need actionable items. Honestly, to be a better husband and a better father, you need to actually friggin’ show up. Not to just put in an appearance, but to suit up and show up with game.
One of the top gripes I hear from wives is that their husbands simply aren’t present in either daily family life or at family events. Sure they live there and perhaps interact with their wife and kids occasionally, but for the most part these men are either so consumed by their work or hobbies they don’t make time for family. Or they somehow believe that they are separate from the family.
I understand about being consumed by work. Sometimes it’s because it’s something we’re passionate about and sometimes it’s because we feel stressed that we don’t have enough money to pay our bills. Either way, when our work takes over our lives outside of normal working hours, we’re not able to fully show up and be present with the family.
If we count our wife and child as the most precious pieces in our life—so integral to our being that to lose them would be incredibly painful—then why can’t we put forth the effort to be a better husband and father by being present with them?
I’m not talking about 8 to 5 during the work week, I’m talking about the rest of the time—weekends, evenings, mornings maybe. There’s a whole hell of a lot of hours leftover, even after accounting for workaholic tendencies. But too often, distractions take our mind and attention elsewhere while we’re having time for family, so we need to turn off the iPhone and power down the laptop, and just pay attention to our wives and kids.
But it doesn’t end there. Husbands need to be willing to go places and do things with their wives and children, even if (perhaps especially if) they wouldn’t choose those activities on their own. After all, having a wife and family is about compromise and cooperation and inclusion, not maintaining completely separate lives.
More often than not, when attending some sort of gathering or event with my family, I ask other moms, “Where’s your husband?” The reply is usually something along the lines of “At home, working on…”. And then later I learn that to those wives, it is an issue in their marriage: Their husbands aren’t showing up.
I’m not advocating always doing everything your family wants you to do, every time they want you to. What I am saying is that we need to show up and be present in our relationships and in our family. Not tomorrow, not next week or next year. Now.
Work will wait. Kids grow up fast. Marriages stagnate and fail. And we can’t ever go back and change any of it, so we need to make sure that what we’re spending our time on is what we want to leave as our legacy.
[I wrote this coming from the view of a husband, a married man, but I think it certainly applies to any other form of relationship, from a boyfriend or partner to a girlfriend or wife. And yes, that is me with the pink moustache at the bottom of this post. I showed up, and I got a free facial hair accessory.]
—Photos Top: Alejandra Mavroski/Flickr; bottom: Derek Markham