Have you ever heard a guy go on and on about a rental car? Rarely. Because you don’t own a rental car. There’s something different about things we own. We take responsibility. We take care of them. We’re not reckless or careless or overly demanding. Things we own get our attention. Give us a healthy sense of pride.
Get a car guy talking about his ride, and you’ll have a hard time shutting him up. But men don’t talk about their marriages much. Oh, we talk about our wives plenty. But not our marriages . . . not as a ‘thing,’ not as a responsibility or an opportunity. We’ll talk about stuff with our wives when they bring it up. But it’s usually painful because there’s something we’ve done wrong, too much, or not enough. Say to your wife, “Honey, I’d like to sit down and talk about our marriage,” she’d either faint or start recording the conversation to use in divorce court.
So why do men shy away from owning our marriages? Three reasons . . .
- It’s confusing – On one hand, “two are supposed to become one.” We’re supposed to be this seamless fusion of two people, collaborating and unified in working life out together, right? On the other hand, my wife and I are very different. We’re individuals. Neither of us wants to be told what to do. Taking ownership of my marriage sounds like a problem waiting to happen.
- It’s too conceptual – No one ‘owns’ a marriage. It’s a relationship between two people. Ownership implies rights are involved. The last time I tried to exercise my ‘rights’ in my marriage, I slept on the couch for three days.
- It takes too much courage – To step up and own your marriage means you risk being wrong sometimes. Maybe a lot. You expose yourself to criticism because you’re trying things that seem hokey and don’t work. Imagine asking your wife dangerous questions like “Tell me what you dream about” and “I want to talk about things I do that irritate you” and “What can I do to help with the house and the kids?” This kind of stuff takes balls. It’s what owners do.
In management, we learn that when two people are responsible, no one’s responsible. Sure, there are teams and partners and task forces, but ultimately, there’s a leader somewhere who’s on the hook. If I asked your wife if she owns your marriage, she’d probably say “no.” If I asked her if you own it, she’d almost definitely say “no.” But if I asked her if she’d like for you to own it, I’ll bet you a dollar she’d say “yes,” having no idea where that might lead. Our wives want to see us step up and own things. Would she like to see you own being the father your kids need? Yes. Would she like to see you own your responsibility to lead your family spiritually? Yes. Will she see huge benefit to you stepping up and owning your marriage? I think yes.
My radical idea is that in marriage, it’s the guy who owns it. He initiates. He looks for threats and takes them out. He protects, nurtures, provides and loves. When he owns it, he’s involved and committed. It’s his to be proud of. It’s no rental car . . . it’s his baby . . . on its way to being a classic!
Question: Will you take ownership of your marriage? Not next week, or after you get a promotion, or when your kids grow up, now.