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Thursday, October 13, 2016

If you don't have the marriage you want, maybe you've been asking the wrong question.

Of course you want to have a great marriage. Who doesn't? But perhaps you feel like you've struggled for years to get there, yet with only limited success.  If so, then this post is for you.

If you don't have the marriage you want, you might need to start by asking a different question. Let me explain using a lesson from the business world.

Start with Why

Leadership and management guru Simon Sinek wrote a book a while back called, "Start With Why." His "Golden Circle" theory is summarized in the following graphic.

Bear with me as I summarize, or you can see Sinek explain it in this TedxTalk.

Inside Out

The basic premise, according to Sinek, is that conventional companies work the gloden circle from the outside in. They focus first on the What - their product or service. Then they spend a lot of time talking about How - the process of delivering that product or service. They rarely talk about Why.

Great companies, Sinek explains, do it backwards. They focus really hard on the Why. Who are we? What are our core values? Why is our Mission important? What do we believe?

From there they move on to the How, which is best examined in light of the Why - the core mission. How do we walk out our core values in light of who we are? The What (product or service) then flows most effectively out of a well-defined Why and How.

Marriage From Inside Out

Conventional marriage thinking goes a lot like conventional business thinking: outside in.

In that case, most couples would say their What is to have a good, strong marriage that lasts a lifetime (or something similar).

The How of marriage is made up of the things we do that we hope will help accomplish our What - that will help ensure a good marriage. Date nights. Good communication. Regular sex. Shared financial goals. Etc.

Now there's nothing wrong with date nights and good communication. And having a great marriage is a good What. The problem is, as is the case in business, it's the wrong question to start with.

It's best to start with the question, "Why?"

The Why of Your Marriage

Sinek equates your Why with your purpose or mission. Consider this question: "Our marriage exists for the purpose of __________."

Here are a few possible Why examples:
  • To enjoy maximum intimacy (my personal belief is that intimacy, in every form, is the ultimate goal of marriage)
  • To fulfilled our destinies - to ensure that each of us reaches the destiny God has for us
  • To walk in oneness - to fully explore and apprehend the benefits of two living as one
  • To be an accurate portrayal of Christ and the church - for our marriage to reflect as closely as possible the bridal paradigm

What is the ultimate purpose or mission of your marriage? Have you thought about it? Have you talked about it? It's a great topic for your next date night.

There are also some Why's I would definitley NOT recommend:
  • To make me happy
  • To complete me
  • To have my emotional needs met
  • To have as much sex as possible
  • To benefit financially

Although these might be an outgrowth of your legitimate Why, they aren't a good place to start.

Rethinking Your Hows

Consider your Hows in light of your Why (once you have established what it is). Do the things you are doing, thinking and saying line up with your mission? What do you need to eliminate or what should you add to your marriage in order to realize your Why?

For example, if intimacy is your ultimate goal, consider whether you are experiencing intimacy in every area of your life. If spiritual intimacy is lacking, make a plan to nurture it. If sexual intimacy hasn't been a priority, make a plan to change that. If you've been living separate financial lives, consider how to join together in your handling of money.

Re-imagine Your What

If your What is to have a great marriage, talk with your spouse specifically about what it would look like if you were to fully live according to your Why.

Using the intimacy Why, what would a marriage with maximum intimacy look like? What characteristics would your marriage have? How would it impact your children or your community? What would be the visible signs that intimacy is at the forefront of your marriage?


Marriage is not a business. It's a unique God-crafted covenant-bearing institution. But I think Sinek's Why-How-What actually applies directly. Get the Why of your marriage right, fill your marriage with the right Hows, and you have a much better chance of a successful What - a great and lasting marriage.

What do you think of applying the Golden Circle to marriage? Does it work for you? Would you like to share your Why with us? Let us hear from you in a comment.


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