As a leader, the health of your marriage directly impacts your effectiveness. Nothing will undermine it faster than a bad marriage. And few things will advance it like a good one.
But it’s not easy. All marriages are works in progress. I’ve been married to Gail for thirty-eight years, and we’re still working on ours.
We recently spoke to our friends Jeff and Mandy Rose on the Marriage More podcast to talk about what we’ve learned along the way.
As I reviewed our conversation, I identified three rules that Gail and I have followed and that can help any marriage, especially around the areas of:
If you’re a leader looking to improve your most important relationship, I strongly recommend you listen.
Rule 1: Prioritize Your Marriage
Several years ago, work-related stress sent me to the emergency room. Not just once, but three separate times! I was sure I was having a heart attack. One thing I learned from that brush with mortality was that work was too important to me and working on my marriage was not nearly important enough.
With Gail’s help and patience, I changed all of that. I love my work, but I also love my marriage. And I’ve come to see how one affects the other.
I’ve learned the importance of going to bed at the same time and leaving the computer at the office. Exercising together. Worshipping together. Having uninterrupted conversations by ourselves and also with our family around the dinner table.
These incremental steps, taken over the years, have made for a better marriage—and that affects everything else. The more stable and supportive my life at home is, the more confident and certain I feel when I step out.
Rule 2: Understand Your Differences and Value Them
In our case, opposites truly did attract. Gail and I took personality tests in premarital counseling, and they revealed we were exact opposites in almost every way.
That made us interesting to each other initially. But what started out as “You complete me” ended up being “You deplete me.” Our differences, which were once so attractive, became annoying over time.
Though we both went into marriage thinking of it as a lifetime commitment, after the first several years we were likely headed for divorce. It’s embarrassing to admit now, but I actually told Gail she needed to seek therapy.
After a few sessions with the counselor, Gail informed me, “Dr. Pannebecker would like you at our next counseling session.”
Eventually, this helped us to better understand and value our differences—which have been critical in helping us both grow and become who we are today. And that takes me to my third rule for a marriage you love.
Rule 3: Get Outside Support
I learned that it’s not only okay to seek outside help, it is necessary to do so from time to time.
Consuming marriage-related blogs, books, and podcasts can help. But if you want to accelerate your results, it’s best to talk to a qualified counselor who can help you recalibrate expectations and refine your approach.
Couples routinely go through premarital counseling but then are resistant to therapy once married. Maybe it feels like an admission of failure. But that’s exactly the wrong way of looking at it. Whether it’s my finances, my fitness, or my plumbing, when I get stuck, I call in help. Why wouldn’t I do that for my marriage?
“It’s the healthy people that come for counseling,” a counselor once told me. Why? Because it’s healthy to admit that you can’t do it all on your own and could use some perspective.
Even if you can’t afford counseling—and therapy can sometimes be expensive—there are a lot of alternatives. Some ministers, for instance, will counsel couples for free.
What matters most is the determination to get outside support. If you’re motivated and creative, I’m confident that you’ll find the help you need to create a marriage you love. I bet there are a lot more people than the two of you depending on it, both at home and at work.
And for more encouragement, make sure to check out Jeff and Mandy Rose’s Marriage More podcast.