Marriage: How Husbands Can Grow Their Leadership

(Part 3 in a 3-Part Series)

Sandra Dillon: February 25, 2018

husband leadership 1

Leadership Starts at Home

A man wants to be respected by a wife who also encourages him as he steps out in leadership. A wife wants a stronger leader who rules with a soft heart and provides for her basic needs of security, affection, communication, and leadership (Evans, 2012). When asked, most women say they wished their husbands were stronger leaders of their families. Marriage: Why Wives Need Husbands Who Lead and Marriage: Why Some Husbands Fail to Lead, shed light on the importance of leadership and the underlying dynamics that result in poor leadership.

Now more than ever, wives and children need strong leadership from their husbands and fathers. Society and new cultural norms are heavily influencing families’ health and stability as well as redefining leadership in ways that are deviating from God’s truth and what wives need. For men dedicated to grow their leadership on the home front, there are several steps they can take to move the leadership needle farther right.

Steps Husbands Can Take to Increase Their Leadership

Depending on where a husband’s abilities reside on the leadership continuum and the strongholds that are affecting his leadership, he may need to make changes in several areas. From my experience, many husbands struggle with putting pride aside their pride and admitting they need to work on leadership.  However, growth in a husband’s leadership not only benefits his family but also the husband realizes greater self-control and self-confidence that come with his new-found leadership behaviors.

If you are a husband open to improving your leadership, you may consider the following:

  1. Be open in how you define leadership—research, discuss, and pray about it. The world communicates one way, but is it God’s way?
  2. Get real with your leadership style—ask your wife and trusted friends how they’d describe your leadership style. Humans are poor judges of their own behaviors, because they evaluate them through their own filters/lenses.
  3. Seek help to heal past hurts that interfere with your leadership—consider therapy if needed. It’s difficult to grow and move forward when an emotional wound needs immediate attention.
  4. Recognize the problems within your family—every family is dysfunctional; it’s only a matter of degree. What dysfunctions are attributable to your existing leadership behaviors and decisions?
  5. Take responsibility for your behaviorapologize—say you’re sorry when you’re wrong as it shows strength not weakness. Everyone makes mistakes and needs to be accountable.
  6. Get vulnerable with your wife—talk openly and honestly with your life partner. Share your struggles and challenges. Ask your wife for support in ways that are helpful for you.
  7. Forgive people—lead with a soft heart.
  8. Pray—seek God’s guidance for wisdom, truth, and discernment.
  9. Seek feedback after making leadership changes—leadership improvement only counts when others see and feel the change.
  10. Get a coach—define and work toward goals and behaviors that increase leadership. Everyone may not need a therapist, but everyone can benefit from a coach.

Evans (2012) says the best leaders are husbands, who put their wives above all else, communicate admiration, love, are faithful, show non-sexual affection, and are dedicated to provide for their families. Without a doubt, wives appreciate husbands who are vulnerable and committed to work on leadership by putting words into action.


Evans, J. (2012) Marriage on the Rock: God’s Design for Your Dream Marriage. Dallas, TX: MarriageToday

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and premarital/marriage coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at

Marriage: Why Some Husbands Fail to Lead

(Part 2 in a 3-Part Series)

Sandra Dillon: February 19, 2018

Husband leading wifeIn Marriage: Why Wives Need Husbands Who Lead, the article explained why it’s necessary for husbands to be servant leaders in their marriages. Sadly, society’s messages and the impact of broken families have conspired to undermine men’s confidence and ability to lead well. Boys don’t have biological and spiritual fathers in their homes, who can show them how to become successful leaders as they journey into manhood. Even when a man acknowledges he should lead better, many still struggle with how to step into these behaviors. Evans (2012) brings insight into the underlying contributors to the four types of damaging leadership styles that are playing out in today’s marriages.

Damaging Leadership Styles

Evans (2012) describes four major types of “destructive” husbands—referring to one who knowingly or unknowingly destroys his marriage by how he leads his wife and family. Characteristics of each type are:

  1. Dominant: pride overrules humility; control-driven; rules over versus rules with; dominates into oppression
  2. Passive: wears the uniform but won’t do the dirty work; no accountability; sulks or withdraws when he doesn’t get his way
  3. Immoral: lusts for other women; sexual promiscuity in mind, body, and spirit
  4. Distracted: ruled by busyness and selfish pursuits; focuses on job, hobby, recreation over family; unhealthy priorities

Damaging Leadership Causes

Evans (2012) also discusses several potential underlying causes that create men with damaging leadership styles. Hopefully, the following insights will bring awareness and discussion about the sources and behaviors that result in unhealthy leadership. I appreciate the leadership role that men were designed to hold and want women to receive the blessing of security that leadership brings. My hope is that once a couple understands the forces that impact a husband’s leadership style, he’ll make changes to put the couple on the path to a dream marriage.

Dominant Leadership Style

Some husbands who dominate their wives may have been under-nurtured as a boy or had detached parents—having never received words of encouragement or the attention and affection he needed. He’s not able to give what he doesn’t have.

Another reason may be mis-modeling by a boy’s parents during his formative years, where he’s carrying dominant behaviors forward into the next generation.  His behaviors reflect his desire to master control over people and his world.

Dominance can also be sourced from insecurity. Without a father in the home as a child, a boy doesn’t learn how to love and respect a woman or know how to develop a healthy relationship.

In some cases, the husband simply has a dominant personality temperament. In all cases, a dominant husband focuses on control versus serving his wife.

Passive Leadership Style

Converse to the dominant leader, a passive husband can mature out of a boyhood journey where he was over-led or over-nurtured by his parents. Because his parents made too many of his decisions and over-controlled his behaviors, he never learned to do for himself or developed appropriate self-control.

Like the plight of dominants, passive husbands may have also suffered from parental mis-modeling or been born with a passive temperament.

Interpretation of the women’s movement has also intimidated some men. Chastised for certain views and behaviors, they are reluctant to assert themselves and choose to do nothing versus do the wrong thing.

In some cases, passive husbands may just be lazy. Initially, they seem sweet and accommodating, but later they drive their spouses crazy as these wives are forced into picking up the slack.

Immoral Leadership Style

Pornography has gripped the minds, spirits, and finances of an untold number of men. Some of this immoral behavior can be rooted in rejection by a man’s parents. When boys are deprived from physical affection during boyhood, they can easily develop a stronger appetite for physical contact than normal.

Pornography taps into men’s heightened responsiveness to visual stimulation. Sadly, when a husband has an interest in pornography, many wives feel devalued. These women express feeling “not enough” for their husbands.

Distracted Leadership Style

A distracted husband is too busy with his own interests to make his wife and family a priority. “Performance motivation” may be the source of this distraction, where a man only felt love and approval by his parents when he performed.

A second cause may just be greed. He justifies his behavior under the disguise of working hard to provide the family, when in truth, the husband is starving them of attention.

In some case, a distracted leadership style is simply an expression of distorted values and thinking—believing wives and families are extensions of their work and lives.

Some husbands are distracted due to unresolved conflict within the marriage. In these situations, men typically turn their attention to work where they get recognition, appreciation, respect, and admiration.

Do You Identify with One of These Leadership Styles?

People are generally challenged to see themselves as others see them, so it’s unlikely that a husband would read this and identify with one of these leadership styles. If your marriage is not a dream marriage, I would seriously consider whether one of these leadership types are at work within your relationship. You may get more insight by asking your spouse:

  1. How would you describe our marriage?
  2. What characteristics and behaviors do you appreciate most in me?
  3. What characteristics and behaviors do you wish I would change?
  4. What would change look like in action?

Answers to these questions will hopefully bring greater understanding and stimulate the conversation to find ways in working toward a healthier marriage.

Next Up in the Series

Women want to be led—led in the right way. Leadership is a complex subject, and hopefully, this article provides insights into why some men don’t lead as well as they should. Regardless of the contributing factors to poor leadership, men are not absolved from the responsibility of leading well. In the final part of this three-part series, we will explore “How men can change and learn to lead well.”

For those readers who may be wondering whether there’s help for destructive wives—ones who refuse to be led by their husbands.  The answer is yes and that is another series.


Evans, J. (2012) Marriage on the Rock: God’s Design for Your Dream Marriage. Dallas, TX: MarriageToday

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and premarital/marriage coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at

Marriage: Why Wives Need Husbands Who Lead

(Part 1 in a 3-Part Series)

Sandra Dillon: February 12, 2018

Most of my leadership focus has been with paying clients who want to work on their leadership skills in the area that pays the bills, yet neglect investing in their most important relationships at home. What’s more important: spouse, family, or work?

husband leadershipThe sad truth is that some men are succeeding at work and failing in their marriages. They pour time and energy into work—justifying to themselves they are sacrificing for their families. The more they feel like a failure at home, the more they gravitate toward work where they get acceptance, appreciation, and recognition. At home they feel like a failure when they receive criticism and negative feedback.

Why a Man’s Leadership at Home is So Important

A man’s leadership at home is a topic dear to my own heart as well as from sentiments shared with me by couples receiving relationship and marriage coaching. I am a child, sister, wife, mother, and ultimate survivor of poor leadership, and lucky for me a winning, well-led, later-in-life wife.

Although a man’s leadership is an important part of God’s design for marriage, I believe this truth transcends all faiths based on my experiences while an agnostic for the first 48 years of life and Christian for the last eight. My stories of male leadership have spanned (1) a father who disappeared from my life when I was 6 years old, (2) a stepfather and mother who divorced after he failed to work either inside or outside the home, (3) my now ex-husband who refused to work at 52 while he expected me to be the sole family provider for another 26 years, and (4) my second husband of more than 5 years who exemplifies a true leader who I willingly follow.

When husbands don’t lead themselves and their families, everyone suffers. Marriages can breakdown, divorce creeps into conversations, wives and children can feel physically and emotionally abandoned. At best an overwhelming sense of apathy takes hold within the family culture. Women become frustrated and fearful, and sons never have a role model to learn what it means to be a true leader.

What do Wives Need from Their Husbands?

You’ve probably heard that women are complex but men are simple. I would argue that women are also easy to understand, if a husband can accept their wives’ needs are very different than theirs. What do women in general need from their husbands?  First, and foremost, Evans (2012) states women want (1) security, (2) affection, (3) open communication, and (4) leadership. What is the most common compliant expressed in marriage counseling? Lack of leadership.

Wives’ Leadership Needs

Women want to be led by a caring and righteous man throughout their lives (Evans, 2012).  Leading does not imply and suggest domination or control. Women want to be led spiritually, financially, and with the discipline/training of their children.  When wives do not get the leadership they crave, they become frustrated, which typically results in them nagging to get what they so desperately want. When a wife is forced to take on the leadership of the family along with her wifely and motherly duties, she becomes resentful.

Some women have difficulty allowing their husbands to lead based on their own traumas and insecurities which drive them to control everything in their lives.  The best marriages are those where a man leads by treating and consulting with his wife as an equal partner. He seeks her input; they have healthy discussion and debate; her desires are seriously regarded; the full impact on the family is considered in any decision he makes. The happiest Christian couples would likely say their marriage is 50/50, with the husband getting an extra 1% when they need a tie-breaker decision.

Next Up in the Series

Leadership is a complex subject, because it involves people and the current manifestations of their personal histories and relationships. This article lays the foundation on why it’s important for men to lead in their marriage and families.  Women want to be led—led in the right way. Living out good leadership is not as easy as understanding its importance, so stay tuned for the next parts in this three-part series.

  • Why some men fail to lead
  • How men can change and learn to lead well?

For readers who may be wondering whether there is help for destructive women—those who refuse to be led by their husbands.  Yes, and that is another series.


Evans, J. (2012) Marriage on the Rock: God’s Design for Your Dream Marriage. Dallas, TX: MarriageToday

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and premarital/marriage coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at

Self-Confidence: How It’s Revealed In Your Relationships

Sandra Dillon: February 9, 2018

While conducting one of my Building Better Relationships workshops, an attendee asked me, “How can I give my girlfriend the self-confidence she needs?” Depression or mental illness was not a factor—just low self-confidence, which had supposedly manifested in her not expressing what she wanted, arguments, silent treatment when she didn’t get her way, a general feeling of discontent, and lack of action toward going for what she wanted in life. My reply was, “You can’t give your girlfriend self-confidence. She has to earn it for herself.” *

Self Confidence3

What is Self-Confidence?

Self-confidence is the realistic, positive belief that you can influence your world—that you have the abilities, personal power, and judgment to overcome obstacles and get what you want in life. You trust yourself and what you can do!

Self-confidence can only be developed from within a person. No amount of participation trophies, positive words, or kind gestures can build self-confidence, because these are only externally applied props. Although these supports are enjoyable rewards, they are only cheer-leading tools, and for some, these tools are meaningless and have no value.

You can’t ask, beg, or pay any one any amount of money to do the hard work that it takes to build your self-confidence. What spouses, partners, friends, and family can do is be supportive by providing encouragement, brainstorming, and feedback which is akin to helping a person help himself. You have likely heard the expression—do with and not for.

When does Self-Confidence Start?

Building self-confidence starts in infancy when parents decide to what degree they will respond to their crying baby. Crying is an infant’s only tool to influence his world and get what he wants. Assuming his physical needs are met, how much should parents coddle their infant and when should they allow him to self-sooth.

Self-confidence continues to grow when a toddler ventures out to explore the world away from the view of his parents. Although children need to know they can run back to their parents as a place of security, they also need their parents to challenge them and let them make and learn from their mistakes. Children who believe they have some mastery of their world tend to have the highest self-confidence. Some kids break the mold and seem to have a genetic contributor that gives them resiliency. Even adults who didn’t have an idyllic childhood can grow their self-confidence.

How to Grow Self-Confidence

The only times I’ve seen self-confidence grow in adults is when they attacked adversity head-on, worked hard, worked smart, and never gave up on improving themselves and their situations. When they hit a wall, instead of turning around and giving up, they instead figured out a plan of approach to get to the other side. They found a way of either digging under it, blasting through it, crawling over it, or stepping around it.

When you get to the other side of the wall, look over your shoulder, and can honestly say to yourself, “I did that,” that is the point when your self-confidence climbs another rung on the ladder. Self-confidence increases when you believe if you put your heart, mind, and soul towards something you can accomplish it, and you proved it to yourself when you got to the other side of the wall.

Role of Family and Friends in Building Self-Confidence

When spouses, parents, and friends do for you what you should be doing for yourself, they are robbing you of the opportunity to grow your self-confidence. When they rescue you from the consequences of your decisions or actions, they are again robbing you of a teaching opportunity that can grow you. They may not be stealing a piece of you, but they are starving you of what it means to be a fully functioning, resilient, and ultimately happy individual.

The next time someone wants to bail you out or do something you know you should be doing, I would suggest you say, “No thanks. I can do it, but I sure wish you’d keep checking in on me. I may need your support, and this is what support looks like…”

*Note: Men suffer as well as women from poor self-confidence.

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and premarital/marriage coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at

How to Have a Thriving Marriage

Sandra Dillon: February 6, 2018

Love FamilyAs a coach who leads couples through premarital and marriage coaching, most of the programs are designed around understanding how individual personalities mesh and equipping with tools to navigate a long-term successful relationship. Evans (2012) brings a fresh perspective that starts with God, our relationship with Him, God’s design for marriage, and the adherence to laws that help couples sustain a thriving marriage over time.

Our Deepest Needs

Evans (2012) proposes that people have four basic needs that we consciously or not strive to satisfy.  We feel fulfilled when we have:

  1. Acceptance: feeling that you are needed and loved by others
  2. Identity: knowing that you are special and significant
  3. Security: recognizing you are protected and provided for
  4. Purpose: understanding your reason for living

Non-Christians and many Christians as well look to personal accomplishments, family, friends, possessions, money, jobs, and pastors, to get these four needs met on a consistent basis.  A significant subset put enormous pressure on their spouses and children to fulfill those deepest needs.  The result?  Grave disappointment.  Why? Because no human, not even your spouse, can meet your deepest needs.  With people suffering from some degree of selfishness, imperfection, and limited resources, they will naturally disappoint and at times hurt you.

What Happens When We Turn to God to Satisfy Our Needs

Only God can meet our deepest needs. When a couple releases unrealistic expectations of their spouse to fully meet his or her needs, both are then open to have these needs met by God. Spouses are then free to support the other in their individual Godly purposes as well as live out the mission of their marriage. The chance of divorce is minimized, because neither has the pressure of being the provider of their spouse’s acceptance, identity, security, and purpose.

God’s Four Laws of Marriage

Evans (2012) references 4 laws of marriage that God created.  When we abide by these laws, marriages not only work, they thrive.

  1. Law of Priority: When a husband and wife leave their families and become “one flesh,” they put the other above every other earthly relationship. Their spouse comes before parents and their children. Time, energy, and resources are prioritized and protected for the spouse and the health of the marriage.
  2. Law of Pursuit: Like anything of value, marriage too is hard work. Spouses put forth intentional effort in pleasing their partner and investing in the marriage.
  3. Law of Possession: Because marriage is a complete union, everything is owned and managed jointly. Without this operating agreement, mistrust, jealousy, and reduced intimacy creep into the marriage.
  4. Law of Purity: When a couple is “one flesh,” nothing is withheld from the other. Every aspect of the body, soul, mind, and spirit should be shared without shame or fear. Marriage requires spouses to be totally open and vulnerable with each other.

Breaking any one of these foundational laws will cause turmoil within a marriage. Breaking two or more typically spells doom.  This brokenness may not lead to court, but it may lead to separate bedrooms. Is a marriage held together solely by paper any better than divorce?

Where Do Most First Marriages Get Off Track

In my experience, first marriages unknowingly start to develop their first crack when they violate the Law of Pursuit. In an over-scheduled society and drive for success, couples tend to focus their energy on jobs, careers, and fun activities. This focus intensifies when children come along, and parents want to provide them with the best things and opportunities. Marriage takes a backseat to all the other demands for time, money, and energy, and spouses start to take each other for granted.

Where Do Most Second Marriages Go Wrong

When I coach couples, who are marrying and have biological children from previous relationships, they typically set their second marriage up for trouble prior to even saying their “I dos.”  I find the Law of Possession is the most common struggle from the start, when they decide to keep some money separate and discipline of the child is reserved only by the biological parent. They’ve already designed division into their marriage.

What Should I do Before Saying “I do”

With an average divorce rate in America of ~ 50% and second marriages at ~ 70%, I would encourage everyone who is dating with the intention of marrying to pray, think about, and answer the following questions for themselves:

  1. Am I relying on God to get my deepest human needs met?
  2. Do I have reasonable expectations of my spouse and marriage?
  3. Am I willing to sacrifice and abide by God’s 4 laws of marriage?

If you can honestly live out a “yes” to these three questions, you will likely have a model, not perfect, marriage and find that others seek you out for marriage mentoring.


Evans, J. (2012). Marriage on the Rock: God’s Design for Your Dream Marriage. Dallas, TX: Marriage Today.

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and premarital/marriage coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at

Trust: Do You Have It and How to Build It

Sandra Dillon: February 5, 2018

Trust 2During premarital/marriage coaching, I frequently discover that the topic a couple is arguing about is not the root issue that needs to be resolved. What they need to repair is the distrust that has either slowly crept or jumped into the relationship. Most couples identify violations of trust with the “big stuff” such as having an affair, drug addiction or alcohol problems, and hiding or secretly spending money. By all accounts, these behaviors are clearly violations of trust. However, what most couples may not realize is that the “small stuff” over time has the same ability to create distrust and insidiously undermine the relationship or marriage.

Without trust you can’t build anything of sustainable value. Trust is the foundation on which strong relationships are set and a critical element in any committed relationship. People can tell you whether they trust someone based on their feelings, but they may not necessarily be able to define the characteristics and behaviors that build trust.

Trust in a relationship is akin to the foundation of a house. You’re building a home. You know a solid foundation is important to stabilize the structure and allow it to withstand severe weather conditions. After the concrete is poured, you take the foundation for granted. You focus your attention to the other features of the home such as the number of bedrooms and baths as well as the size of the kitchen. You expend a great deal of effort designing the small details and decorating the interior. Your money and energy are overwhelmingly poured into creating a warm and comfortable home, while you fail to appreciate that the foundation is protecting it all.

Fast forward several years, and a crack forms in the foundation. Your house is not in jeopardy yet, but unchecked, the first crack gets bigger, more cracks appear, and some settling occurs. Now the house has cracks in the floor tiles, walls, and ceiling. The house is looking worn and possibly unsafe to live.

In many cases, people choose not to fix the underlying problem but patch it so it doesn’t appear so obvious. In extreme cases, you may decide to sell the house—get out and start over, building the same house all over again on a different property. The TRUTH—you need to deal with the foundation—TRUST.

Trust has many components, any one of which can undermine or strengthen the relationship.  Brown (2017) has deconstructed trust into 7 major components that must be practiced and reciprocated over time to build trust which are:

  • Boundaries: Communicating and honoring clear expectations
  • Reliability: Doing what you say you will do again and again [Note: It’s important to understand your limitations and not over-commit]
  • Accountability: Making a mistake, owning it, apologizing, and making amends
  • Confidence: Not sharing with others what is shared in confidence
  • Integrity: Practicing, and not just professing values, in which you may have to choose courage over your comfort or right over fun, fast, and easy
  • Non-judgment: Helping when another falters and being vulnerable to ask for help when needed [Note: One-sided help sets the giver up to feel superior over time]
  • Generosity: Believing in good intentions when the behavior is a mistake

Which ones do you live out regularly, and which components do you need to practice and reciprocate over time to build more trust?  I would encourage all couples to get honest with themselves on which trust factors they struggle with and to share this revelation with their partner. You can then develop a specific action plan to improve in that area to build more trust.

Trust is not a black-or-white issue but one which is measured on a continuum. Where does your relationship ride on that continuum? What are you willing to do to move it in a more positive direction? Improving trust takes time, patience, and thoughtful words and actions. You must trust the process that will take you from where you stand today to a more trustworthy relationship in the future.


Brown, B. (2017). Super Soul Sessions Video: The Anatomy of Trust. Retrieved from

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and premarital/marriage coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at

Use Your Strengths to Strengthen Your Marriage

Sandra Dillon: December 2, 2017

Marriage strongThere’s no such thing as a perfect marriage, but everyone can have a great marriage. Some struggling spouses may respond: “I don’t see how; my wife is the opposite of me” or “I just don’t understand how my husband thinks.” Hope lies in the fact that awareness and appreciation of individual strengths in the marriage can narrow any divide.  Who knows?  Maybe you will create a marriage that will be a shining light for others.

As a leadership coach, I help clients identify and drive on their personal strengths.  The CliftonStrengths Assessment ( can identify and force-rank 34 potential strengths.  Your top 5 become your Signature Theme and can provide insight into what brings you the greatest fulfillment (Evans & Kelsey, 2016).  Your Signature Theme also becomes the basis of your worldview—the lens by which you evaluate and judge people, their actions, and the happiness of your relationships.

People who are like you tend to “get you.” We typically gravitate to people who share similar worldviews except in those instances were feelings of love, newness, excitement, and romance can cause us to choose someone who is different than us. In these cases, when the “love chemicals” dissipate, it is not uncommon that spouses question how they chose their mate.

Hope is just around the corner! Differences in individual strengths can help explain the emotional distancing, but knowledge of Signature Themes can also be the bridge-builder to greater harmony and closeness. There are no perfect marriages, because there are no perfect people.  However, couples who understand their own and spouse’s strengths can work as a team in bringing together the powerhouse of all their gifts.

How do you get started on this journey? Take the CliftonStrengths Assessment and get to know yourself. Share your top strengths with your spouse and learn theirs.  The more dissimilarity in your strengths rankings, the more likely you will have different priorities, perspectives, and skills.  Awareness building around strengths should increase patience with your partner, because you realize your partner is not stubborn, uninformed, or unreasonable.  Your spouse is only filtering the information through their own lens.

The next step is to brainstorm how each spouse can use his or her strengths for the benefit of the marriage. My husband and I only share the “activator” strength in our top 5, which means we are impatient with pause and want to lead and make things happen. We are focused on performance.  When we partner on a project, watch out world.  Many people probably feel left in our dust.

My remaining four top strengths are classified as either strategic or executing: (1) futuristic, (2) learner, (3) strategic, and (4) achiever.  All of Darin’s remaining strengths fall into either influencing or relationship-building categories: (1) communication, (2) woo, (3) connectedness, and (4) individuation.  Yes, “woo” is a strength.

When you look at how we apply our strengths, I’m the business leader, and he’s the sales leader.  When Darin and I disagree on a customer approach, I typically defer to Darin, because I know he has a greater strength to understand and connect with customers than I do.  When it comes to business strategy, I will usually seek Darin’s input, but he defers to me as that is my strength.  When we disagree, it doesn’t divide us.  We are instead grateful that we have so much talent spread across our marriage.

Take the CliftonStrengths survey!  Find out your strengths and share your top 5 with your spouse over a date night.


Evans, J., & Kelsey, A. (2016). Strengths Based Marriage: Build a Stronger Relationship by Understanding Each Other’s Gifts. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books.

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website

What’s Your Favorite Marriage Tradition?

How-To-Plan-A-Successful-Couples-Road-TripWhen asked, “What is your most important relationship?” many spouses respond, “My marriage.” When husband and wife agree and act consistently on that answer, I would expect them to have a solid foundation upon which to build a happy marriage.  The second question, “How are you investing in your marriage to strengthen it?” does leave some spouses wondering how to answer.  If you paused to think about your answer, you’re not alone.

Your pause doesn’t mean that you’re not investing in your marriage but perhaps signals that you’re not as intentional as you could be. If you asked my husband or me the latter question, we would answer, “Our annual Thanksgiving road trip!” With our children grown, we decided that Thanksgiving week would be reserved for our marriage strengthening.  No other family—just us!  Mapping out an itinerary taking us thousands of miles across several states, we start from home base or fly into a new city and drive in a big loop to eventually return home on Sunday following Turkey Day.

Our family knows that Thanksgiving week is reserved for strengthening our marriage with the Christmas holiday our designated time to spend with family and friends.  If road-tripping around the country during Thanksgiving week is not your ideal adventure, I would encourage you to get creative and think of a tradition or two that speaks to your likes.  If you currently have a tradition or think of one that excites you, please leave a comment.  You may inspire other couples.

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website

Sex-pectations: The Difference and Implications of Marital Needs

his need her need 4I am crawling out on a limb as I share this perspective in the hope of helping just one struggling couple who wants to save their marriage in the aftermath of infidelity.  On the other hand, perhaps a husband or wife who is teetering on the edge of infidelity will decide to change course.  As a marriage coach, I have couples sit on my couch who are wrestling with a gap in sexual appetite.  In most cases, the husband desires more sex than his wife, and over time, this unresolved need has culminated in an extra-marital affair.  I fully acknowledge that women also have affairs, but in most cases, the catalyst for theirs starts with unmet non-sexual needs.

For the record, I believe every adult is fully responsible for his/her decisions and behaviors. However, one of my first coaching questions is usually directed to the faithful spouse: “What did you contribute to the extra-marital affair?” My question is not to suggest that this wronged spouse caused the affair, should feel any guilt, or accept any blame. My intention is to shine a spotlight on the couple dynamics that the husband and wife co-created before the affair occurred.  Husbands and wives share a responsibility in what goes on within their marriage. I would only ask this question if both spouses were committed to work on their marriage and not focus their energies on assigning blame or playing the victim card.

This pointed question expands the conversation around marital needs as discussed in Thriving Marriages? It’s All About Meeting Needs. A healthy and satisfying marriage results when each spouse tries to meet the needs of his/her spouse. As mentioned in His Needs, Her Needs, Harley (2011) discusses 10 emotional needs that husbands and wives seek to have fulfilled within their marriage.  These are (1) affection, (2) sexual fulfillment, (3) intimate conversation, (4) recreational companionship, (5) honesty and openness, (6) physical attractiveness, (7) financial support, (8) domestic support, (9) family commitment, and (10) admiration.  Men typically rate sexual fulfillment and recreational companionship as their highest needs; whereas, women favor affection and intimate conversation.  Harley (2011) states that when primary needs are not met by a spouse, over time, husbands and wives will usually find ways to get those needs met outside of their relationship.

As an example, it is common for a woman to crave intimate conversation with her husband.  When a wife does not receive it, she may innocently share her frustration with a male coworker or friend.  With no calculated intent, this intimate conversation blooms into a romantic affair.  Most likely, the man is also married and not getting his sexual needs met by his wife.  The same model holds true for husbands.  They may have no plans for an affair but are unable to hold the line at only flirtatious conversation. Unless suffering from sex addiction, neither spouse is likely to stray if their needs are met at home.

Readers may counter that spouses should not feel pressured into having sex with their spouse.  I could not agree more; however, I do suggest that a husband and wife adopt a self-sacrificing attitude to meet their spouse’s top three needs.  Love undoubtedly requires self-sacrifice.  For example, when I want to relax on the couch with a glass of wine and good book after work, my husband is in the kitchen cooking dinner and cleaning up afterwards.  Would he rather trade places with me?  Absolutely!  Yet, he knows that I will gladly gift him sex when we crawl into bed when I prefer to pull the covers over my head and drift off to sleep.

“What did you contribute to the extra-marital affair?” may be the first question on the table; however, the second is asked of the unfaithful spouse: “What did you not do for your wife/husband that led her/him to not care about satisfying your sexual needs?” Husbands and wives both have a responsibility to nurture their marriages.  When the love chemicals subside, the happy and enduring marriages require hard work and self-sacrificing decisions. I encourage couples to prioritize their individual needs and communicate their top three, so their spouse can make a concerted effort to satisfy them.  If successful, couples may be asked a third question after decades of marriage: “What’s the secret?”


Harley, W.F. (2011). His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website

A Father’s Gift to His Children


When TV cameras pan a sports field, how many times have you noticed players mouthing “Love you, Mom.” How often have you noticed dads getting credit when sportscasters are interviewing athletes after a big win? My recollection is that moms are receiving most of the public praise. Why do fathers seem to be forgotten or avoided?

As a child growing up in a single-working-mother family without any father contact, some of the discrepancy can be chalked up to the single-parent family structure.  I believe another portion can be explained by the lack of emotional bonding between fathers and their children.  Although I do not have all the answers, I do know that dads play a vital role in the lives of their children, and what boys need from their fathers differ from what girls need.

Eldredge (2004) proposes that every boy wants to be a hero and continually asks himself the question, “Do I have what it takes?”  Boys want to impress others and are often doing things that allow them to say, “Look at me!”  Since every boy is seeking validation that he has what it takes to be a man, boys often look to their fathers to help them answer that question. Even God said of his Son, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, NKJV).

On the other hand, Eldredge (2004) suggests that a girl has a different question she is looking to her father to answer.  Girls try to capture their father’s attention to answer the question of whether she is lovely and worth pursuing?  A father answers that question by letting her know that he is thinking of her and delights in her.

When fathers do not validate the core needs of their children, Eldredge (2004) proposes boys feel like a failure and girls feel abandoned.  Boys will forever try to prove they are a man and shy away from anything that might reveal otherwise.  A father’s silence can wound a son.  Since a father cannot give what he does not have, it is not uncommon for generations of fathers/sons to struggle.

Girls, whose worth is not validated by their fathers, may seek male attention outside of the family.  Children who are emotionally starved by their biological fathers, should seek a spiritual father.  Many wonderful fathers can step in to provide that need to non-biological daughters.  I am one of those girls, whose stepfather became my spiritual father. These needs cannot be fulfilled by a mother, only a father.  Mothers, on the other hand, give unconditional love, teach about mercy, and provide comfort (Eldredge, 2004).

If you are a father, consider looking for those authentic opportunities to say the words that convey to your son that you are proud of him and has what it takes to be a man.  For a daughter, make sure she knows that she is delightful and worth fighting for. Fathers are the most powerful men in their children’s lives.


Eldredge, J. (2004). You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring.  She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website