Marriage – The Leadership Team Begins at Home
Posted by Orrin Woodward on September 23, 2010
The sad state of most marriages, nearly half ending in divorce, most others in a tedious state of non-aggression, but hardly any truly happy, concerns me. I do not claim to have all the answers, nor even most of the answers, but I have learned a few lessons in my 18 years of marriage to one of the strongest willed ladies I have ever met. In truth, I am sure she would say I am the strong willed one. Don’t get me wrong, Laurie and I love each other dearly, but that didn’t make our marriage happy or workable in the early days. Bringing baggage into a marriage, having to be right, and suffering from low self-esteem are not recipe’s for success in anyone’s marriage book. What are the key principles to apply and what are the principles to avoid in building a happy marriage? This was the question that led Laurie and me on a lifetime quest to improve our own marriage, and subsequently, hopefully, any marriage in our community. As God led us to faith in His Son, we started asking questions on what our Biblical roles were as a husband and a wife.
How can two people who love each other enough to publicly profess it in a marriage ceremony end up months, if not weeks after, in a crazy cycle of turmoil and despair? Who is the leader in a marriage? What does the leader do? Is it true that anything with two heads is a freak? I teach men that they are responsible for the results, good or bad, in their household. This doesn’t mean they they should be a dictator, in fact, it means nearly the opposite since a leader is defined as a servant. Yes, I am the leader of my family, but that just means that I am the first to sacrifice when sacrifice is needed, that I am the first to accept responsibility when things go wrong, and that I must develop a plan to rescue my family if they need rescuing. Leaders cannot pass the buck and men have been given the responsibility to lead their families whether that assignment is easy or not. Just as there cannot be two starting quarterbacks with only one football, there cannot be two heads on one family team. Until this is settled, no proverbial touchdowns will be scored by your family.
Let me give you a few examples from the Woodward marriage. First, Laurie and I both wanted to make the final decisions in our house on nearly every issue. This led to numerous disagreements, arguments, and perpetual unhappiness. The situation continued for years until I finally understood what Stephen Covey meant when he stated, “Big rocks first,” wrapped in with the Biblical concept of dying to self. Mr. Covey taught the futility of majoring on minors with a beautiful analogy of a jar being filled with big rocks, small rocks, sand, and water. The placement of the small rocks, the sand, or the water in prior, will not allow enough room to squeeze all the big rocks into the jar. This example captures the essential point that big rocks are the majors and leaders must focus on the majors. Laurie and I spent so much time arguing over small rocks, sand, and sadly, even water, that we had no energy or focus left for the big rocks. My big breakthrough here was to surrender my desire to be right on all the small rocks, sand and water, while maintaining leadership over the big rocks.
If the big rocks are placed in first, it’s much easier to get the smaller rocks, sand, and water into the jar around the big rocks. Every marriage is unique, meaning the particulars may vary, but the principles will stay the same. Instead of Laurie and I arguing over every decision, I willingly surrendered 90% of the issues as “not majors,” while retaining the 10% which are critical to the success of our family. If you asked Laurie, she would tell you that at least 90% of the time we will do what she wants, as I trust Laurie’s judgment and it doesn’t meet the big rock criteria. But when I need Laurie’s support on a big rock, I have it, because she understands that I have surrendered on the minors to have her support on the majors. I am amazed at how long it took me to understand that arguing over the 90% only hindered my ability to lead on the 10%. Whoever said, “Happy wife means a happy life,” was preaching real truth! Yes, that means I have watched my share of “chick flicks,” yes that means I eat at Mexican restaurants more times than not, but that’s hardly a sacrifice worth arguing about. Serving one’s wife and ensuring her happiness is one of a husband’s greatest responsibilities. You can tell a lot about a man’s leadership in the house from the countenance of his wife.
Another key point I would like to share with couples is the power of mentorship. If the husband is serving on the 90%, then he needs the wife’s support on the 10%. If the couple’s mentors have developed a plan for their future, it makes sense to follow it. One of the quickest ways for a man to fail is for him to stop mentoring with his leader and instead mentor with his wife. Don’t misunderstand me; a man should always seek input from his wife on all major decisions, listening to her thoughts and sharing his thoughts. But after listening and understanding he must make a decision and that decision must be supported 100%. If the wife starts giving cross-counsel that is different than the mentor’s, the man is placed in a moral quandary. On one hand, he loves his wife and wants to please her, but on the other hand, he respects his mentor and the results he has achieved. When a man is cross-counseled, he hits analysis paralysis. Being unsure of counsel makes him tentative in his actions. This is one of the reasons that Laurie and I have learned to mentor the couple together and not individually. Gathering all the facts, hearing all sides of the truth, and addressing issues with all parties present, are just a few of the advantages of mentoring together.
I have learned over the years that when a man is placed between his mentor and his wife, he will eventually succumb to his wife’s thinking, often to the detriment of his calling. Why is that? The simple answer is that the man spends much more time with his wife than he does his mentor and his wife offers services to him his mentor is unwilling to provide. 🙂 Serving your wife and seeking first to understand is not the same as mentoring with her. When you have successful entrepreneurs willing to mentor your husband, why would you choose to interrupt that mentoring by cross-counseling? Everyone is free to do what he believes is best for his family, but Laurie and I decided early that I would listen and learn all I can from her while mentoring with the top leaders in the areas in which I needed counsel. By getting on the same page, husbands and wives stop arm wrestling each other, stop claiming pyrrhic victories over each other, and fulfill the purpose for which they were created, together.
Getting on the same page, working together to pursue your dreams, and serving one another unconditionally are keys on your journey to success. Call a family meeting weekly, developing a “safe zone” to talk over any issues that may be hindering your family from the accomplishment of its dreams. Do not attack one another, but listen carefully, asking yourselves how you can each improve to serve the other better. The real TEAM begins at home and expands outward from that solid foundation into the communities. Get it together, together and your Faith, Family, Finances, Fitness, Friends, Freedom, Fun, and Following will all improve. One final thought: the Bible states that love covers a multitude of sins. Since all of us need love and forgiveness, let’s start in our homes. God Bless, Orrin Woodward