Thursday, August 26, 2010

tips for thriving in a time-constrained marriage, or improving a floundering one

There are a number of reasons marriages can become time-constrained:

- Travel-heavy jobs
- Working and going to school
- Working different shifts
- No help with the children
- Caring for aging parents
- Health issues/hospital stays
- Parenting a newborn
- Parenting a special-needs child

The effects may not be felt right away, but over time they can be potentially devastating.  Marriages are nurtured by time spent together, including between-the-sheet time.  Neglecting to talk and have sex regularly leads to emotional distance, which makes it harder to cut a partner slack on day-to-day living issues.  In the absence of goodwill, little issues can overwhelm and before you know it, you're spending your precious couple time bickering.

By instituting a few safeguards, your marriage can thrive despite these challenges.

1.  Make appointments for sex at least once a week.  Most men need twice a week at least, but try not to go longer than once a week.  Otherwise, your husband may start having trouble with his thought life and with wandering eyes, even if he loves you with all his heart.  Don't underestimate his need for sex.  Start preparing mentally the morning of the appointment, so you don't find yourself making excuses in the evening.  Try to get good sleep the night before.  In the evening, wear something your husband likes.

2.  Confess and apologize readily.  You don't have time for stubbornness.  Admit what issues the Holy Spirit is working on with you, so your husband knows where your heart is.  He can't stay mad at a tender, repentant heart.  You have limited time with him and you can't afford to leave him with negative feelings.  Call him if your last interaction wasn't positive.  Try to turn it around with your words.

3.  Try to see your husband the ways Jesus sees him--as a sinner in need of grace.  This will prevent you from stewing about the ways you've been wronged.  Also, remember that as a fellow sinner, you are just as hard to live with.

4.  Take every opportunity to touch one another.  Look into each other's eyes, if only for a minute upon saying goodbye.  Give full body hugs.

5.  Staying close to God is important for so many reasons, but in your case, it is even more important.  A spouse can't be called upon to give you joy or fulfillment, and an absentee spouse even less so.  Only God can meet our innermost needs.  The people in our lives can only hope to be the icing on the cake, in terms of our self-worth and happiness.  God loves you so much, and felt you were so precious, that he suffered humiliation, beatings and an agonizing death, so that you could have a relationship with Him.  Make the most of that relationship, every day.

6.  Don't compare your situation or your marriage to that of others.  No one truly knows how healthy another marriage is.  What can seem so lovely on the outside may truly be in shambles.  Marriage, like parenthood, is designed more to sanctify us, than to make us happy.  Let God use your husband to mold and change you. Have a teachable heart.  Have a grateful heart.

7.  Identify your husband's love languages--both primary and secondary.  The choices are:  physical touch, affirming words, acts of service, quality time, gifts.  Try to send him off with what he needs to feel loved, even if he isn't doing the same for you.  Be selfless in your giving.  Let God work on your spouse.

8.  Try to discuss life details--such as bills and schedules--on the phone, so that your face-to-face time is as relaxed as possible.

9.  It's ideal to pray together regularly, but if your husband won't make the time or doesn't value this, don't insist or nag.  Ask the Lord to bring this about in your marriage.  Even weekly joint prayer is better than nothing, and is better than what most Christian couples have.  The same goes for joint Bible reading.  Be thankful for what you do have in this area.  Men usually need a godly man in their lives encouraging them to be the spiritual head of the home--especially if their own father didn't lead this way.

10.  When your husband starts leading, follow.  Believe me, this is easier said than done ( I struggle! ), but necessary for your marriage to be all that God designed.  Try to have your own mentor (a Titus 2 woman) encouraging you in this area. Following doesn't come naturally to women and this is a life-long struggle.  Don't give up on yourself!  Take it one day at at time.  And know that you can follow and still have a voice; it just isn't an insistent voice, but one that yields.

11.  If there are babies or toddlers at home, come to agreement on how you will handle nighttime sleep and comforting issues.  We are both incapable of letting babies/toddlers cry it out, so we have a modified family bed.  I nurse our babies in our bed for much of the first year, and if they are still not sleeping through the night, I go to a spare bed with them.  My husband needs more sleep than I do.  When the child sleeps through the night, or nearly through the night, I go back to the master bed and we let the toddler join us as necessary in the middle of the night. This isn't for everyone.

Whatever the arrangement, both partners should be on board.  If you don't like the cry it out method but your husband doesn't want a family bed, could you nurse/comfort, possibly sleep with baby in another room for awhile and offer to be in bed with your husband when he falls asleep and when he wakes up?  Those are the usual times of master-bed cuddling, and they may be all he cares about.

How babies/toddlers/preschoolers will be parented in the middle of the night is a big issue, but some level of compromise can usually be reached.

12.  Pray for your husband and for your marriage.  If you spent as much time praying as you do lamenting, just think how wonderful your marriage (and your husband!) would be!  Turn every complaint, every sad moment, every comparison, into a prayer.  Give thanks.

Marriage articles I've loved from other blogs:

I Didn't Marry my Soulmate

Let's Tell a Different Story

Wouldn't God Want Me To Be Happy?

Loving a Stranger, And Being Willing to Change

Five Secrets to Make a Marriage Last

A Letter to My Children About Marriage

1 comment:

Terri Tiffany said...

I've been married now for 33 years and each day is a new day filled with the challenge to be the spouse we both need to be. By now, we have fought about every stupid thing there is to fight about and they are short-lived. But going through this job loss for three years has been what has strengthened us the most--we know we are always there for each other and have each other's back no matter what. We are very domineering and independent people but in the end-- it is our love that binds us.