29 August 2012

A Husband's Fear of Failure: The Growing Epidemic

Why do so few husbands feel comfortable leading in their homes? The same men who confidently head up corporations, lead big teams, or run the show at work shrink from leadership responsibilities at home. When given the opportunity to play the commander at home, they shyly withdraw and pretend they haven’t noticed the leadership position was even available. What makes the difference? Why the timidity at home? What is it about his family and home that proves so intimidating to a grown man?

Perhaps the answer lies in what the family and home mean to the man. Both these elements represent a place of safe retreat for the husband. In his home, with his family, the husband can unveil his inner man - he can expose his vulnerability, especially to his soul mate, his wife. His wife already knows about his weaknesses and shortcomings. If anything, being a leader to her should present no threat simply because the man can be himself - his spouse already knows his secrets. He doesn’t have to pretend or cover up his inadequacies. Yet, knowing she won’t be surprised if he doesn’t measure up or if he makes mistakes doesn’t seem to reduce the pressure that the husband feels. Instead, it seems to intimidate him more than the challenge of being the leader before strangers in the work place.

Before those who he cares most about, the husband appears most afraid to fail. He is afraid to take chances and tread on issues he isn’t guaranteed to have the skills to handle. It doesn’t help to know that his family don’t expect perfection. He demands perfection of himself, and knowing he cannot deliver it, he avoids the challenge. He knows he cannot fake it until he makes it, because his wife will know when he is faking confidence in his role. So what does the husband do? He pegs the leadership responsibilities as too overwhelming to deal with, and gives in to the fear of failure. He allows his fear of what might go wrong to keep him from leading his family into the kind of relationship everyone dreams of having. And each time he submits to this fear, it becomes increasing more difficult to step up to the challenge of leadership. Before too long, he dreads coming home, because home and family remind him that he hasn’t measured up to being the perfect husband and father.

Is there nothing left for such a husband? Should he give up on having a satisfying marriage, a happy family life, a stable home? Is he really doomed to be the useless couch potato he is sure his wife thinks he is? A husband’s comeback isn’t easy, but it is possible. He can choose to live with his fear of failure and an unhappy marriage, or he can choose to become the leader he was born to be. It starts with a choice.

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