Monday, December 21, 2009

Husbands, We Have a Problem

I joked with a colleague the other day that perhaps we should change our approach to leadership development. It seems that the men who attain the highest success in our culture cheat on their partners. So along with communication skills, public speaking, and conflict resolution, perhaps we should teach infidelity. Why fight the force of a growing trend?

Seriously. This is getting ridiculous. Mark Sanford. Rick Pitino. Steve McNair. David Letterman. And now, Tiger Woods. This past year has not been a good one for vows of matrimony.  (Update: 2011 is not much better thanks to Anthony Weiner and Arnold Schwarzenegger among others).

Worse than the seedy exploits of these superstars is our collective reaction to them. As a society, I fear that we are growing more comfortable with infidelity. We watch these occurrences more with fascination than judgment, and we’re allowing the behavior to become increasingly normalized. Nike co-founder Phil Knight said about Tiger Woods: "When his career is over, you'll look back on these indiscretions as a minor blip, but the media is making a big deal out of it right now." Sure - just a minor blip.

I became very angry when I heard several commentators remark that Tiger Woods needs to work hard to win back the support of women, since men will come around more quickly (if they haven’t already). Translation: men don’t care about other men committing adultery. Besides, the women were hot, and any red-blooded man probably would have done the same thing, right? After all, who cares about a few "minor blips?" It's normal.

“He was a terrible husband.”
“He was an awful partner.”

“He was unfaithful to the ones he loved.”

“Well, of course he was. He’s a typical man after all!”
It’s a problem of integrity, and someone needs to step up and lead the good fight. Men, at a young age, need to be taught the significance of being a good husband/partner. They need to reflect on what that means, and how much work it takes. They should be challenged to undergo deep self-reflection on their own values and the values they would seek in a life partner.

Do you know what would help? How about male-only organizations that can take men in their formative years and show them the value of taking oaths and living by them? These organizations could also create a system of accountability, where men are free to call out other men on their unethical choices. Essentially, they need to be organizations that prepare men to live to a higher standard of values.

Anyone know of any groups like that?

As fraternities, we can change the course of our society. There is a problem – marital infidelity. We can be the solution. If we perform our duties correctly, we will send forward men of integrity that will model the way. We can help them, by providing seminars on marriage to our members. Wouldn’t that be a valuable part of the senior year experience? How about alumni retreats to discuss how fraternal values matter in marriage? There are many things that we can do.

Let’s be the leading organization for building strong husbands and partners.

“He was a great husband.”
“He was a committed partner.”

“He was steadfastly faithful to the ones he loved.”

“Well, of course he was. He’s a fraternity man after all.”