By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
It’s been said busyness is today’s badge of success. But it’s not necessarily a perk when it comes to your marriage.
Despite the myriad of reasons you might need to slow down a bit, your spouse most likely needs you to be less busy, too, in order to take care of yourself, take care of what matters, and be available to your marriage and family.
Whether it’s you or your spouse who needs to be less busy (and I’m guessing it’s both of you), we all could use ways to improve our marriage, family, and spiritual life which inevitably happens when we become less stressed. Here are 8 signs your marriage needs you to be less busy:
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1. You Feel Overwhelmed
It’s easy to get to that place where you feel there’s too much on your plate. But you don’t just need more sleep at night or a getaway with friends for a weekend. If you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or constantly tired, it’s going to damage your relationship with your spouse.
If you’re not healthy--mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually--it’s difficult for the marriage to be healthy.
Let some things go. If you’re out four to five nights a week, choose to keep just one or two of your activities or responsibilities that bring you the most joy. (Notice I didn’t say keep the ones that paid the most or made you feel the most needed.) Then, without feeling guilt or shame, let the rest fall by the wayside, so your marriage doesn’t.
2. You Are Forgetting More
Did you know that failed memory can be an indication of too many things going on in your brain? That often means there are too many things going on in your life and schedule.
While failing memory can also be a sign of other problems, like aging or the onset of dementia, it is often simply a matter of having too much on your mind that you can’t focus on what’s at hand or give your all to the people and projects that mean the most.
Did you forget that lunch appointment, something your spouse asked you to do, or what your child just told you a few seconds ago? Too many compartments in your brain are filled with too many things to do. Cut the busyness, and the internal noise, by focusing on the few things--and people---that matter in your life.
Sometimes that’s a difficult choice at first, but it often becomes the wisest and most effective choice you make.
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3. You’re Less Patient and More Easily Aggravated
When I wrote my book, When You’re Running on Empty, I included a list of symptoms of burnout from a medical doctor who regularly diagnosed burnout cases. In addition to symptoms like chronic fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and decreased concentration, that list also included telling signs like “increased irritability, anger at those making demands, cynicism, negativity, a sense of being besieged, and exploding easily at seemingly inconsequential things.”
Upon reading those symptoms, my husband Hugh--who was a senior pastor at the time--realized he was in full-fledged burnout and was ready to take a year’s sabbatical (unpaid, by the way).That’s how serious burnout can be to one’s personal health, spiritual life, and marriage.
After a year at another kind of work (that was actually more physically demanding and paid less), Hugh was ready to return to the mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges of fulltime ministry. He was also able to once again be the patient, kind, and loving man I married.
Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (NLT). If you’re not lovingly bearing with your spouse in all things (1 Corinthians 13:7), it’s very possible you are too busy and maybe even experiencing burnout.
4. Responsibilities Are Being Neglected
Is your home constantly a mess? Has your yard attracted the attention of the homeowners’ association in a nasty “clean it up” letter? Are there projects waiting to be done, broken items waiting to be fixed, and clutter waiting to be cleared in every corner of your home?
Our homes should be a sanctuary--a place where you and your spouse feel relaxed, safe, and at peace. We should never feel tension, stress, or a sense of dread when we look around and see the mess and neglect we’re living in. If that’s the case, one or both of you are too busy and whatever is taking you out of your home to do other things needs to be brought back into balance.
Sit down with your spouse and talk about priorities when it comes to living with a sense of order. Studies show that when your desk is cleared, you are more productive, when your house is clean you are less stressed, and when your bedroom is clutter-free you can be more creative and at ease.
If things around you seem to be spinning out of control (or broken down altogether), one or both of you is way too busy. Slow down and take the time to put things back in order.
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5. You’re Too Tired for Physical Intimacy
Work or relational stress--or simply too many tasks on the to-do list that aren’t getting crossed off--can make anyone feel too tired to make an effort to be close, physically or emotionally. If that’s the case, look at what appears to be more important than your spouse or your marriage. Yes, the bills need to be paid, but there will be a lot more bills to pay on a single income if you lose your marriage due to being out of touch.
If you don’t regularly set aside time for a date night with your spouse, then start doing it now. Get your calendars out, schedule at least one night a month, for starters. Then work toward eventually scheduling one day or night a week when you can spend quality time together.
As you spend more time together enjoying one another’s company, the fires of passion may be re-stoked and physical intimacy can come back into the picture. Or, be deliberate and intentional on protecting private, intimate time together.
6. Conversation Is Dropping Off
When is the last time you had a meaningful--or healing--conversation with your spouse? Chances are, when you’re busy, you are more apt to “drop it” than take the time to address marital issues and work them out.
Like a car that hasn’t had an oil change or regular maintenance in a while, your marriage can suddenly stop running from neglect. Healthy communication--both sharing your heart and listening to your spouse do the same--is one way to see into your spouse’s heart and let them see into yours.
Intimacy has been defined as “into me- see” and if you’re not verbally and emotionally intimate, the physical intimacy (as mentioned in No. 4) can be nonexistent or not meaningful. Take the time to talk--and listen.
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7. Laughter Is Lacking
Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh, and chances are it’s time to laugh in your marriage, especially if you’ve gotten too busy. In our book, When Couples Walk Together, my husband and I explored the benefits of laughing together. Yes, life is serious, and apparently busy.
But your marriage may be dying for some laughter. And if it is, you’re obviously too busy.
My brother works as an analyst and code-breaker for the FBI. At times he deals with disturbing matters that he doesn’t want to take home with him. Because of that, he sees the value of looking for comedic events throughout the day to share with his wife, who is a second-grade teacher and does the same.
This helps keep laugher in their marriage and sanity in their lives. Each evening they share the humorous events of their separate days and make sure the other knows all about their interactions at work so they better understand the funny events that occur.
They even come up with code names for people so they can talk or laugh about it with some privacy in front of their children. Sometimes you have to go covert with the funny things you share. But that creates a bond, too.
And keeping laughter in your marriage not only eases the stress, it keeps you talking and being deliberate and intentional in your marriage so you don’t let busyness or the burdens of the day overtake your marriage, too.
8. More Than Six Months Has Passed Since the Two of You Went Away Together
If you’re not getting away together at least twice a year, just you and your spouse, then you’re definitely too busy (or your marriage is not a priority).
Most jobs allow at least two weeks of paid vacation a year. If you don’t get that, there are weekends. If either of you is working without at least two days off a week, you’re putting work or finances or the need to be busy over the health of your marriage. Make the sacrifice.
My husband hasn’t had paid vacations in several years, now that he’s working two part-time jobs. Yet, we save all year to make up for his time off so that we can have some extended time together.
What are you willing to sacrifice for the sake of your marriage? What are you willing to invest so the two of you can have a closer connection?
Work can wait. The job can wait. In-laws and friends and expectations others have on you can wait. But perhaps your marriage can’t.
You didn’t commit “til death do us part” to your employer or even your extended family. Invest in what matters most or make it a matter of prayer so that you can. God honors your desire to invest time in your marriage.
Bring Him into the picture, surrender to His ways, and see Him come through for you by providing the rest you need.
For more on improving your communication with your spouse, see Cindi’s books, When a Woman Inspires Her Husband, and 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband. And for more on living a less busy life, see her books, When Women Long for Rest, and When You’re Running on Empty.
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