Leadership and Marriage: a little insight to building long lasting relationships
I've heard people say that "50% of all marriages (in America) end in divorce." This, unfortunately, is very close to the truth. While the actual statistics are lower, 50% is the projected number if we stay on the current trend. Now I could spend a lifetime trying to figure out why couples get divorced, but I'd much rather discuss some things that I have seen help strengthen and evolve people's (as well as my own) marriage. I think I should note that for all intents and purposes, I will be referring to marriages which were based on a mutual decision and dedication to one another, and not to any unions formed for legal or otherwise convenient purposes.
The reason I think leadership plays a key role in marriage is because, quite simply, leadership is about one's relationships with people. I touched on this in my first hub. My own involvement in a leadership development program has me on a subscription to a system consisting of books and CD's, as well as associating with other people who are actively pursuing their own leadership skills, goals and dreams. These tools are about more than just "leading" people. They range from people skills, to relationship building, financial literacy, and improving your own self image.
Leadership teaches all around success. It is because of this success, which ultimately makes you a better, more confident, trustworthy person, that leadership skills can help you have a happier, more fulfilling marriage. It goes without saying that the happier you are with yourself (as a person), the happier you'll be with someone else (as a spouse or partner).
Where is the love?
Marriage is supposed to be based on love. But then what is love? I mean, it's gotta be more than just saying "I Love You." And love isn't something that happens on Valentine's Day (don't get me started on all the "Hallmark" holidays, i'll save that for another blog), and then goes away until the person's birthday, or the Holidays. It should be constant. But can it be?
Everyone has bad days. Life happens. I don't think it's possible to be full of love or to express love at all times, ever. But what if love could be stored, for use on just such days, when you or your spouse (or partner) just had none to give? Just imagine, a backstock of love.
Now your speaking my language...
In his book The Five Love Languages (one of the books in our system), Dr. Gary Chapman suggests that we all have a "love tank", and that we can make deposits or withdrawals from this tank. But as long as there is love in the tank, meaning it doesn't reach empty, the relationship has a chance to thrive. He also goes into detail about how we make deposits or withdrawals, depending on people's love languages. I will try to give an example, without divulging too much of the book (it really is a must read for any couple).
A person's love language is how they express and receive, love. So it becomes paramount to know your own love language as well as your spouse's. I've met quite few people who just could not figure out why they weren't happy, even though their spouse was always doing things for them; cleaning, cooking, washing the dishes, the car, the dog, etc. Such was the case for one of our friends. See, her spouse's love language was Acts of Service, which meant he showed her love by doing things for her, and in turn felt love when she did things for him.
Now, the status quo (and maybe your in-laws as well), would tell you that you should feel loved when someone does so much for you. I mean it makes sense right? But as it turns out, her love language was Quality Time, so what she needed to feel loved was for him to stop what he was doing, sit down, look her in the eye, and ask her "Hey baby, how was your day?" She just needed some time together, plain and simple.
So here he is running around downstairs doing all these things thinking he's "the man", and she's upstairs thinking, "Why won't he stop spending so much time down there and come up here and talk to me?" Quite the conundrum.
You see how quickly the love tank empties if you aren't aware of each other's love language. Just so you know, the other love languages are Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch and Gifts (giving and receiving). If you never read another relationship book in your life, read this one. Then read it again. Every year.
Now I do not, for one second, want you to think I have any or all the answers. I am merely a student of leadership. None of us is perfect, and we all have our own little idiosyncrasies, those wonderful little traits that make us either totally interesting or completely annoying, depending on the mood of our spouses(0r, some would argue, how long you've been together). I will be the first to tell you it is way too often my own wife (whose love language is in fact, quality time), has to remind me to spend some time with her. But the fact that we've both read the book has helped immensely because: 1. She knows what it is she needs to alleviate whatever feelings she may be having, and 2. I know as well. I tend to be a bit of a loner, and I enjoy my alone time on a daily basis. But she and I both know this, so we kind of have an understanding.
This brings us to the next element of building a long lasting relationship (with your spouse or other wise), understanding their personality.
I think the first and most important thing you should know about a person's "personality" is that while there may be a dominant trait, it is never a constant, non-stop thing . Everyone has the capacity to display any and all personality types at different times under different circumstances. Secondly, any sane and reasonable person has the ability to learn to control their emotions, so the popular excuse "That's just the way I am. It's my personality..." is an unexceptible cop out, especially if it's towards your spouse. But hey, no one said leadership is gonna be easy.
That being said, I think understanding someone's personality is an ever evolving, constantly changing educational process. So take the time to get to know your spouse. Understand what motivates him or her both positively as well as negatively. Re-live the honeymoon stage, ask the little questions. Would you believe I've known my wife for 8 years and I just learned what her favorite color is two weeks ago! To my undying shame I don't know how that slipped by me! But it did open my eyes to how many things there are about her that I still don't know.
I could probably come up with one thing every day to ask her about herself that would reveal little things about her personality, and our relationship could flourish because of it.
There are quite a few good books out there on personality types, and I would highly suggest reading at least one or two. The one or two I would recommend are Dr Robert Rohm's "Positive Personality Profiles" and Florence Littauer's "Personality Plus."
These are easy and fun to read, and they give priceless insight on how to deal with different personality types. Everything from how to motivate them to what not to expect from them. The positive effect this knowledge can have in a marriage is obvious, but imagine the impact it would have with all of your human interactions (maybe even non-human, who knows?)
Happy family, happy marriage
On the flip side, you can also use this knowledge to better raise your children. If you and your spouse don't agree on how to raise the kids, the consequences can be huge. So discuss it before the baby arrives, and read, read, read! There is a love languages book for children by the same author. Get the knowledge and apply it.
My twins are only 15 months old, but they already show enough characteristics to determine what their dominant personalities and their love languages are. Alexis (oldest by 1 minute), is the outgoing people person. Her love language is physical touch. So my wife and I know that the reason she comes over to us every so often for a hug in between playing is not because she has co-dependancy issues or is being too "clingy." It's because she needs it.
You also need to understand that abusing a person's love language is the easiest and worst way to hurt them. I remember swatting Alexis' hand when she wouldn't stop grabbing something (they're both as stubborn as their parents), and she was absolutely devastated. She cried like she was heartbroken. Now I know why.
It also helps in disciplining your kids. With Alex (for short), spanking is obvoiusly not the way. She's an outgoing people person, so maybe grounding her and taking away phone priviledges is the way to go. You get the picture.
But I digress. This hub is about marriage, not raising children. Hopefully, I've conveyed my own passion for leadership and self improvement and how it can develop and nurture a happy marriage. It's working for us, I hope it works for everyone else too. So go read a book! Never stop learning...