Don’t Meet Me Halfway


Today is Jennifer’s and my 25th anniversary. Like any relationship that has endured so long, our marriage has many facets or levels to it. And because I believe that the power of all leadership comes from the power of relationships, I thought it worth sharing a little about ours.

Lesson One: Generosity is a multiplier. I know it’s bizarre, but I’ve always had this image that marriage is like a football field. I come from my goal line. Jennifer from hers. If I’m “willing to meet her halfway,” I’m, well, … doomed to failure. There’s too much pressure, ego, insecurity, and difference in perspective to possibly succeed with no margin for error. If, on the other hand, we are each willing to go 60 yards instead of 50, we now have 20 yards to work with. Sometimes I can get away with 50, sometimes maybe 45 yards, but in the long run, I’ve got to commit to the extra 10. (I don’t mean this in a technical or structural way, for there have been stretches – especially given Jen’s jobs – when it comes to time or tasks, that I have consistently done more than 50. But her spirit of giving more under those extraordinary external demands was always there.) If you think of your key relationships, how far down the field are you committed to go?

Lesson Two: Tell your truth. Notice I don’t say “tell the truth.” When we’d been married about six years, I told Jennifer a lot of “the” truth: how she needed to deal with conflict, with issues in a certain way, with her and my feelings. Mind you, I didn’t say it was “the” truth, but I had and displayed a certainty about my positions and my values, as if they were “the” truth. I’ll never forget a moment when we were standing on opposite sides of the bed in our first home. I was fit to be tied, trying to get her to see something about her behavior. She just would not buy the premise of a complaint of mine, and said with the solidity of a person who will not be moved – even if the sun should rise and set and the days pass one after the next – “You can’t expect me to be you.” She threw me back on myself. And that was great (although painful and isolating at the moment). I didn’t stop having perspectives, opinions, and even disappointments that she didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t see things my way, but I slowly learned to share “my” truth, respecting that she had hers.

That marital lesson has helped me see so many times how I have wanted others to see my view and accept my truth, but then find that I could choose instead to try to “get” their point of view and be enriched by it. Gosh that sounds easy. But when it’s a political critic, a rebelling teenager, or yes, Jennifer sometimes, darn I wish they could just see “the” truth!

Lesson Three: Relationships are precious gifts, freely given, slowly developed and so easily trashed.  Jennifer and I see each other’s shortcomings, but we focus on our gifts. One gift was the tenderness and trust with which our parents treated each other. We don’t yell, because our parents didn’t. We don’t cheat, in large part because we had great models. We want to pass a similar legacy – that in a world that preys on our restlessness, continually beckoning to a grass that’s greener – we believe that our word matters.  And our relationship is a gift which we hold – together – each able to treasure or trash it, and we’re committed to reverencing the gift.  On Saturday, with our three kids as the fruits and primary beneficiaries of our love, we renewed our vows to treasure each other and treasure our relationship.

We have been so sad to watch our friends in the community of governors inflict such harm on their spouses, children, staffs, and states. We don’t feel self-righteous, and don’t sit in judgment. Indeed, I know that “there but for the grace of God, go I.”   Yet I believe that every parent is a “governor” and a “first gentleman” or “first lady” in their own worlds, and everyday leaders to their children on a grand and heroic level.

Love and leadership are truly precious gifts we hold. We’re best to remember so we can lead

With our best self,


  • Congratulations on 25 years of wedded bliss!

    It’s interesting to think of compromise as something other than 50-50. It would seem that if you’re able to ‘go 60 yards’ on one thing, that you should be willing to only ‘go 40 yards’ on something else, if and when circumstances warrant.

    In a world where there are so many ‘leaders’ are in so much trouble for their misdeeds, it is refreshing to see true ROLE MODELS like you and Jennifer. How wonderful that you two truly treasure your love for each other! The Obamas also fit that category, as did the Reagans – role models of true love for one another.

    God bless both of you – here’s to 75 more years of wedded bliss! (Who says you can’t be married 100 years? 😉 )

  • Congratulations to you and Jennifer on 25 years of marriage. I like your analogy to the football field. The way you describe it, the field is actually 120 yards long. Maybe that’s what you get when you combine Canadian and American football?!

    Best of luck on many more good years together.

  • Congratulations to you and Jen & your family on 25 years!! Thanks for the Monday Morning good vibe. It’s great to hear of success amidst the craziness of life.

    Love the yelling across the bed – my husband and I of nearly 14 years ‘process things’ in totally opposite ways – he internally by thinking/stewing and me externally by expressing/talking out/arguing – and neither of us deals well when the other tries to force them to function in their ‘way’ – what we have learned is similar to your lesson – we both know how the other is, we both try to allow for it, but we both know occassionally we’ll both step over the line and expect the other to ‘be like us’ in the midst of crazy daily lives. What we also both know is in the end – the extra 10 yards we give the rest of the time will keep us aware that forgiveness, understanding, and love are there when we’re done processing the current ‘crisis.’

    Again, thanks for the thoughts and pearls on a weekly basis – passed this one on to my husband and grown children (30 and 22) – it took me until the 2nd time to find the one who would go 60 yards. And many more happy years to you and Jennifer and your family.

  • Congratulations to you and J1 Dan. You are two of my favorite people on the planet. Compromise is a biggie!! I wish that I had learned how to do it sooner. May you have a lifetime of Happy years together. ~The TIP Lady

  • Congratulations, Dan and Jennifer! Glad your kids celebrated with you. Much happiness in the coming year!

  • Congratulations on your silver anniversary! My husband and I are celebrating our 30th anniversary today ( a good day for a wedding), and I agree with your observations and viewpoints. I hope you and Jennifer have many more happy years as you grow old together.

  • Congratulations, Dan and Jen. This personal perspective that led to 25 years of marriage is also applicable to every day work life. As a recently retired classroom teacher, there were many times when I had to go past the 50 in order to help my kids to be successful (and sometimes I had to figuratively drag them to the middle) But there were also those times when the kids were way into my territory and making me a better teacher. There were times when I had to deal with parents that made it so that I wanted to dig in my heals, but to help their child grow and learn, I had to give those 10 or 20 (or more) yards. As a union leader and negotiator there where many times when if it was not for the willingness of all parties to work back and forth and to cross into the “opponents” territory we would have been deadlocked and angry. And now as a parent volunteer, my perspective is so different and the give and take has changed.

    Thanks for your insightful words. (And that is “the Truth’)

  • This was very tender and offered great insights and sound examples. Thank you and Happy Anniversary…you guys get it!

  • What a lovely and relevant we could get MORE people to play “football” the way you and Jennifer figured it out…divorce attorneys might need to expand into other areas!May you have 50 more wonderful years.

  • Carol,
    Thanks for sharing your experience. Jennifer and I were speaking to students at Northwestern University. As we talked to them about their considering a life-in-politics, Jennifer suggested they learn the Myers-Briggs. As she said it’s helpful for career, but even more for relationship. Not sure whether that was a resource for you or not, but your comment reminded me of how extremely useful it is.

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