When I encourage someone to “take the lead,” I don’t mean take it away from someone else. I mean step up and take the lead in your own life.
The second divorce is burnt into my memory. Well maybe not the entire thing, as a ten year old I missed all the behind the scenes stuff. But I remember the night they told me. I remember them coming into my room as I was going to bed, their long shadows in the hallway light.
All I knew was that I was losing something special.
I remember that I didn’t understand any of it. All I knew was that I was losing something special. I was losing another dad.
Over the last decade, I’ve paid attention as friends and acquaintances started divorcing, and I’ve found a pattern. In just about every case, the husbands weren’t leaders in their family.
This article probably isn’t for you if you are either A) a woman, or B) a man who has this whole marriage thing already dialed in.
However, you may identify with it if you are a guy who has dropped the ball in your marriage, through lack of awareness or action, and have forced your wife to step up and lead the family.
…when I encourage someone to “take the lead,” I don’t mean take it away from someone else. I mean step up and take the lead in your own life.
And when I encourage someone to “take the lead,” I don’t mean take it away from someone else. I mean step up and take the lead in your own life. When I say to a man “you are the leader in your family”, I’m not saying that women aren’t leaders. I am challenging men.
Don’t force your wife to be the leader because you lack initiative or discipline.
In many ways, women are stronger than men. So, when their husbands check out on the marriage and the family, she picks up the mantle of leadership … because somebody has to.
As a guy who was raised by a single mom, I’ve seen the power and love demonstrated by a strong woman leading our family.
As a guy who was raised by a single mom, I’ve seen the power and love demonstrated by a strong woman leading our family. This article isn’t a call to action to women because they’ve already done it. The primary problem in marriages isn’t a lack of leadership on the part of women.
It’s their men.
Now, this isn’t a popular message among men. We don’t like to own up to this. When I’m talking with a guy who’s been divorced, I rarely hear this as a reason for why their wives left them.
I do, however, hear this message loud and clear from the women who left them. She couldn’t fix it by herself… She desperately wished their husbands would have taken responsibility and lead.
Your wife wants you to take the lead.
Let me be clear about what that means. She’s not looking to be dominated and bossed around. She’s not looking for a hardass. She’s not looking for a micro-manager. She’s not looking for someone who’s constantly hurt, resentful, angry or disappointed.
She’s looking for a man who is confident enough to set a direction for the family and keep everybody moving forward.
She’s looking for a man who is strong enough to be vulnerable and talk about the most important things. She’s looking for a man who is confident enough to set a direction for the family and keep everybody moving forward. She’s looking for a man who is brave enough to do the right thing even when it’s really tough. She’s looking for a man who has thick enough skin to not take things personally.
As a leadership coach, I have lots of conversations about marriage. Being a better leader in their family is a regular topic of conversation whether my client is a man or woman. And because I work with men and women, I hear both sides. I’ve heard what she wants and I’ve heard what he wants to be.
Here are three specific actions you can take today in order to be a better leader in your marriage:
1. Set family and individual goals. As a family, make written goals about what you want to accomplish this month/quarter/year. Some goals can be for the family, like taking weekend trips, family activities, being healthier, etc … as well as individual goals for each family member. Even young kids should have goals.
2. Hold family meetings. Meet once a week to discuss what’s working, what’s not working, the family calendar for the coming week, and any other important recurring topics. Make weekly commitments to your family about quality time together, chores, etc… and ask to be held accountable. Then, once a month review the family goals and check in on how everybody is progressing, what they are struggling with and what support they need.
3. Lead by example. You are a role model for the family. If you take care of your fitness, keep your commitments, and set aside time to spend with your family, they will do the same.
Remember, everything is a leadership issue. If your family is unhealthy, if there is always drama, if your wife and kids are stressed out and running from one thing to the next, look in the mirror. It’s on you.
There is no greater responsibility and honor than your role as husband and father.
Step up and take the lead.
Photo by Flickr/Will Fisher
Regina, Very kind words. I really appreciate your encouragement and support. It’s spot on what you say about listening. I agree that listening and curiosity are two of the keys to being able to lead people effectively. Us men grow up in this culture where we think we have to have all the answers and we have to fix everything for people. That’s a lot of pressure to put on ourselves. Until we learn to stop thinking we already know the answer, and we actually start listening to other people, we aren’t going to be able to lead anybody, much… Read more »
Jeremiah, Props for writing this, and starting the dialogue that I’m also reading here. Your honesty, integrity and COURAGE in talking about leadership in relationship is laudatory and effective. I read your posts regularly and always learn something, and often, smile or chuckle at your hard earned wisdom; and your wisdom is earned indeed. I imagine that your daughter is going to find a partner that respects her and will hear her clearly (and be willing to engage in the dialogue) and that is a result of what you are modeling as one of her parents. Brava! I recently heard… Read more »
It’s interesting to me that you take the women at their word when they say their divorces were the faults of their husbands, but when men say the same for their wives, you scoff at the idea.
To me, this looks like a pretty big bias on your part.
I don’t take the women at their word. But, I wrote this article for husbands. I could write a very similar article for women, challenging and beseeching them to step up and take the lead in their marriage. Most of my clients are men, so I talk with them about what they can do to take the lead and create a remarkable marriage. Because they can’t fix their wife, I focus on what the husband can do to become a better version of himself and a better leader. I do have women clients, and I talk with them about the… Read more »
“This article isn’t a call to action to women because they’ve already done it. The primary problem in marriages isn’t a lack of leadership on the part of women.” “Now, this isn’t a popular message among men. We don’t like to own up to this. When I’m talking with a guy who’s been divorced, I rarely hear this as a reason for why their wives left them.” “I do, however, hear this message loud and clear from the women who left them. She couldn’t fix it by herself… She desperately wished their husbands would have taken responsibility and lead.” Those… Read more »
This article is insightful and probably applies in some cases, but it is written by a guy who lived that particular scenario. Twice. Not all divorces are the fault of uncaring dads who don’t want to be dads. Some moms are totally abusive, either physically or emotionally. Some are total junkies. Some dads divorce for good reason and stay in their kids lives. Some moms out there shouldn’t even have their kids, for very valid reasons. Even still, dads in that scenario face long legal battles just to get a mom to communicate basic information that benefits the best interest… Read more »
Great points. And, I’m not denying that I still have some unresolved dad issues 🙂 You are right, some dads are just not fit to be a dad and some marriages are not worth saving. That being said, those aren’t the marriages I’m talking about in the article. I’m talking about marriages with two good people who truly loved each other at one point and wouldn’t have wanted their marriage to end. My dad and step-dad didn’t fail as husbands because they didn’t care, they are both really loving, kind, smart guys. They failed because they either didn’t understand their… Read more »
You know what I hear when wive’s say they want their husbands to ‘take the lead’ in the marriage? I hear wive’s saying it’s tooo haaaard to make decisions and it’s toooo haaaaaard to take responsibility and actually DO something. That’s the way it was in my marriage and I was miserable. My now EX-wife’s inability to take responsibility and make any decisions on her own meant that I had do it for her. I took the lead in most everything and I hated it. It’s not that I don’t want to take the lead on anything, but not for… Read more »
Sometimes people just marry the wrong person and there was nothing they could have done differently to make a happy marriage. But not typically. Typically, we get the marriage we create. Now, I’m not saying that you can single-handedly save the marriage or fix your wife, because you can’t. What I am saying is that most husbands completely miss the boat when it comes to providing solid leadership to their wife. Just about every time, we can lead our wives through tough/scary things if we understand how to do it. It sounds like you are still sad/angry about your wife… Read more »