Q: I'm newly married and a soon-to-be dad. I never knew my own father. So, it's intimidating to think about teaching my son to be "manly." What does "manliness" really look like?
Jim: There's a regrettably common misperception that "manliness" equates to brute power and strength. But when it comes to being a good husband and father, I'd suggest something else. How about "sacrifice"?
I know: A lot of guys consider "sacrifice" to be weakness. That's unfortunate, because when you look at healthy families, you generally see a common trait: sacrificial men. These are the guys who show up at their kids' soccer game even if they'd rather stay home and watch football. They're patient with their children when a bike gets left in the rain for the umpteenth time. Men who sacrifice develop stronger, more loving family relationships.
Really, it's a paradox. We're at our strongest when we lay down our lives, even in small ways, for our wives and children. That's hard to do, and we don't always do it well. But that's why it's called "sacrifice." The Golden Rule says to "treat others the way you want to be treated." That often -- usually -- requires humility and sacrifice.
We fathers have to challenge ourselves to sacrifice for our families. We should not only tell them we love them. We need to show them that they're the most important people in the world to us. It could be getting home early for a date night dinner with your wife. Maybe it's curbing your temper and lovingly correcting your child when they're careless and scratch your car. Sacrifice will lead you to make significant decisions. But being a dad is a very significant experience.
For help with your fathering, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: I think my marriage is pretty good, although my wife doesn't always do things the way I'd like. When I try to talk about such things and make suggestions, she just shuts down. Am I missing something? How can I get her to see my point of view?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: We all want our lives to function in ways that suit us. It might be our very specific coffee order or keeping our home at a certain temperature. And when something doesn't work the way we like, we usually try to control it.
Unfortunately, many people take a similar approach to marriage. Controlling behavior can often occur because one spouse doesn't feel loved and validated by the other. So, they try to control their spouse's actions to ensure they get the relationship they want. But taking charge over your spouse doesn't foster connection and love. It actually destroys it -- because control erodes the very foundation of the marital relationship, which comes from partnership and oneness.
Here's the blunt truth: If you try to control your spouse, you're in danger of losing your marriage. A spouse who feels controlled will eventually try to escape. That may be through an affair, a divorce or, at the very least, spending all their time with friends or in another part of the house.
So, here's the cure: Give up the role of "boss" and start cultivating a relationship of openness and warmth. That obviously requires give-and-take, and likely includes some compromises. It may well (probably) take the help of a professional counselor. But when a couple learns healthy ways to connect and become equals, they're on their way to a strong and healthy marriage.
If you need some help getting started and would like to talk to one of our staff counselors (which I would strongly recommend), call 855-771-HELP (4357) or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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