Leadership and Marriage

Effective leaders and effective marriages have three things in common:
1. Leaders and partners learn from their experiences.
2. They learn how to adapt to changing conditions.
3. They pay attention and anticipate probable future problems.

During the winter of 1911, Robert Scott was racing to be the first man to get to the South Pole. He set off on a journey of adventure with the potential for enormous satisfaction but also filled with hardships and difficulties–just like the adventure of marriage.

However, Scott violated all three principles. He totally disregarded what the Eskimos had learned from centuries of experience and harnessed 19 dogs in single file pulling 5 sleds in a row. The dogs simply could not survive for long pulling the sled system Scott devised. He failed to learn from the experience (Principle #1) or adapt as necessary (Principle #2).

He also dressed his men in tight canvas clothing and separate hats, which let the cold in, ignoring Eskimo clothing traditions and failing to anticipate the harsh climate (Principle #3). His men suffered horribly from temperatures of 50 and 60 degrees below zero while hauling 200 pounds of weight per sled.

Scott paid the highest price possible. His frozen body was found buried under the polar snow. Meanwhile, Roald Amundson, who traveled at the same time of year, made it safely to the South Pole and back because he applied the lessons of Eskimo experience.

Problems in marriage are inevitable. Eliminating or avoiding them is not your challenge. The bigger question is, are you having the same repeating problems that you had last year and the year before?
If so, consider these questions.

1. Do you learn anything from experience?
Are you trying new ways of thinking about your problem?
Do you reach out to other couples for fresh insights or different ways of doing things?
Are you waiting for your partner to go first, or are you willing to take the initiative?
If you think trouble is brewing, do you bring it up or wait until your partner explodes or comes to you with enormous frustration?

2. Do you adapt to changing conditions?
Do you rise to the occasion of changing conditions, or do you just get angry or feel like a victim because things have changed?
Are you in a power struggle where you won't experiment with novel solutions?
Are you taking emotional or behavioral risks to break the logjam?
Do you view the changing conditions as the fault of your partner or do you understand that life circumstances challenge both of you with unexpected conditions?

3. Do you pay attention and anticipate probable future problems?
Do you pay attention to your finances?
Do you think ahead about how children's schedules will affect you and your partner?
Do you try to protect your partner from unnecessary stress?If you are ready for some soul searching, pick any of these questions and push yourself to take a new risk this month.In the months ahead, we will share some tips for negotiating effectively with your partner and also share three types of decisions that work best with different kinds of problems. In the meantime ask yourself, what are you doing to make yourself a better leader and a better partner?

Have something to say?

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Dr. Ellyn Bader

Dr. Ellyn Bader is Co-Founder & Director of The Couples Institute and creator of The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy. Ellyn is widely recognized as an expert in couples therapy, and since 2006 she has led innovative online training programs for therapists. Professionals from around the world connect with her through internet, conference calls and blog discussions to study couples therapy. Ellyn’s first book, "In Quest of the Mythical Mate," won the Clark Vincent Award by the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists for its outstanding contribution to the field of marital therapy and is now in its 18th printing. She has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including "The Today Show" and "CBS Early Morning News," and she has been quoted in many publications including "The New York Times," "The Oprah Magazine" and "Cosmopolitan."

Read Other Popular Articles

Here are the Zoom Details to Join the Call Live:

One tap mobile :

US: +16465588656, 82302466709# or +16469313860, 82302466709#

Telephone (US):

+1 301 715 8592
+1 312 626 6799
+1 346 248 7799
+1 646 558 8656
+1 669 900 6833
+1 253 215 8782

Webinar ID: 82302466709

International numbers available

We will send out an email reminder on the day of the call.
There will be a replay available within 24 hours.

Learn from a pioneer and leader in couples therapy training as she shares exactly what to say in difficult therapy sessions.
We respect your privacy.
We won't sell or rent your infomation to 3rd party marketers.
Msg & data rates may apply for text messages.