At the time of this writing, I have been married for 10 months. It's been an incredible ride with Christie, my wife, and I'm very lucky to have found someone like her—beautiful, affectionate, sophisticated.
I always joked when people ask me how marriage is going – "It's marital bliss! Every day is better than the last!" And although I love my wife to death, every day is not always better than the last. Some days there are arguments, uncomfortable situations and emotional storms that come with the complexities of sharing every part of your life with another person.
Weirdly single for most of my life, I did not always know what to expect when preparing for a lifelong relationship. Confrontation-averse, I thought the greatest of couples wouldn't squabble and could really only go as far as kindly disagreeing. Compromise killed arguments like Round-Up does weeds. Or at least I used to think so.
In knowing that a marital relationship is not always going to feel like a tropical paradise, I now understand that taking an active leadership role in the relationship is critical to a healthy and successful marriage. Mitigating challenges with finances, occupations and children are ongoing and need constant attention.
To date, I have learned two valuable leadership lessons that create a healthy relationship.
Kindness Is Not Weakness
As an aspiring cookbook author, naturally my wife loves to cook. And I consider myself the luckiest man on the planet because she cooks dinner for me every single night when I get home—always a healthy meal. She is relentless in the kitchen and whips up some of the best meals a man could ask for.
Not only that, she does a hefty number of chores that I, admittedly, do not like to do. She's a bathroom-cleaning, dish-rinsing, dog-washing, laundry-folding, sheet-changing, interior-decorating, grocery-shopping machine. All she kindly asks is that I take out the garbage and put my dishes in the dishwasher. Full disclosure: I usually bat .500 with that.
It has taken me a while to realize that she doesn't do these things because she necessarily enjoys them. She does them because they need to be done. And she is sacrificing her time and energy for me. Her self-interest routinely takes a backseat to my occupational needs. This kindness is not weakness, but rather awesome strength.
Even more, her kindness is not a method of surrender. It is an active and strategic process rooted in self-sacrifice.
It is not enough for me to simply acknowledge her efforts, although that's all that she asks for. It is imperative, as a coleader in this marriage, to thank her for her efforts. Dinner for two, weekend away, or a simple thank-you note is all it takes to let that special person in your life know that you recognize and appreciate everything they do for you.
And don't be scared to go to town on some greasy dishes, fold some laundry and spray the dog down with the hose.
Marriage, Like Leadership, Is a Decision
It takes far more than love to keep a marriage alive and well. In fact, love is the easiest part of the entire thing. Relationships get tangled quickly when we fail to recognize that change is a large, non-moveable variable that is always in the equation. And with change comes the decision to stay committed.
We don't live life in a vacuum—every year, every day, every moment is unique and varying degrees of different from what we have experienced in the past. It takes a potent combination of wisdom and resiliency to continue to thrive with one another.
To assume a leadership role, it is imperative we make the conscious decision to give our partner, staff or team the attention they need to feel the love. Take deliberate and direct action to have their best interests at the forefront of your frontal lobe. This purposefully translates into making every decision with them in mind.
Assuming a leadership role in a marriage is tall order. However, in 10 months of being legally bound to someone, I have learned that it will take every ounce of effort to allow both people in a relationship to thrive and accomplish everything they want to in life. I sometimes come up short, but every day is a new day to be better by making her better.
Tim Paul is the founder of LeadershipStrikeGroup.com. A lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and a 2010 Naval Academy graduate, he has been training and performing as an operational leader for more than 10 years. He currently lives and serves as the nuclear engineering officer recruiter in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his wife, Christie, who is an aspiring cookbook author.
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