**From the get go, all of the credit for this blog goes to Anne. Thanks babe for your help!!
Yesterday we celebrated 15 years of marriage. Your anniversary is a time of reflection. We spent the evening eating and shopping and reminiscing over the past decade and a half. There’s no way Anne and I have arrived. But we’ve come a long way. We have gone through a lot of struggles. And if there’s anything that I’ve struggled at in our marriage from the beginning it’s with this issue of “time.”
Anne married a “work-a-holic.” She married someone who couldn’t say “no” to people. My heart as a pastor is to help. So my excuse for not taking a day off or vacations for the first few years of marriage was my compassion for the people I pastored and the loyalty to the church I served. From one angle, it sounds admirable. The reality: there’s nothing admirable about it. When sharing this testimony to people, I’ve heard, “well it’s because you’re such a good pastor.” I cannot be a good pastor if I’m a rotten husband. I’ll say it in the form of a TRUTH:
Starving your spouse for their “needed time” is abusive.
It got worse. I was a fan of playing “wallyball.” Simply said, it’s volleyball played in a racquetball court. I had some of my friends that would play it on a weekly basis. On top of that, I was playing softball. I felt needed my time with the guys. My long days at work, in my mind, afforded me the right to do what I wanted in the evenings. After all, I work hard. In all of this, I still came home to a time-starved wife. Her words made me feel guilty and I covered up the guilt with arguments and attitudes. She had “needed time” too but was abandoned to deal with it on her own. I’ll say it again…
Starving your spouse for their “needed time” is abusive.
Was my job/ministry so important that she needed to take a back seat to it all? What was the worth of being able to pay the mortgage on a home if my home-life was falling apart from neglect? I forgot that my wife is my first ministry. Outside of Christ, she is priority for my time and energy. But I wasn’t getting that into my thick skull. I was so out of balance. I used the excuse of “quality time together” for the time we spent with my or her parents. We didn’t date. Unless we were in bed, we didn’t spend time alone. We were both starving for “needed time.”
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul cautioned the church, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). Living “wise” involves using our time carefully. In fact, the word “wise” in the Greek means, “forming the best plans and using the best means for their execution.” As believers, we are supposed to look at our time and form a strategy so that our time spent is of the utmost quality.
“Needed time” is a phrase that means “appropriate and QUALITY time that feeds a healthy balanced life.”
“Needed time” for you and your spouse looks like…
Quality time with God – I learned a quote from a preacher years ago. “You can’t draw out of a dry well.” As a preacher, it’s hard for me to pour into someone’s life if nothing has been poured into me. My relationship is only healthy in my marriage because it is the outpouring of my relationship with Jesus. I learn to love from Christ. I learn to forgive through Him. I know how to serve from reading about how He served humanity. It is very hard to direct you to do anything healthy in your marriage without starting with the one who transformed my life and my marriage: Jesus Christ.
Quality time together – What does quality time look to your spouse? Have you asked him/her? Do you already know the answer? Do you refuse to ask/inquire because it’s not your view of what quality time looks like? You two need time together that feeds each other’s need so that your relationship can grow while meeting each other’s needs. He may want to work on a project with you. She may want to be intimate. Quit fighting about who is getting he better end of the deal. Learn to serve each other and listen to a scripture I quote a lot to couples. Philippians 2:4 says “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Anne and I didn’t start off that way. We’ve had to learn to not be selfish with our time together. We have know what the other likes. And we have learned that pleasure doesn’t some from receiving but giving.
Time apart – You probably didn’t see this one coming. I encourage couples to make sure that there is appropriate time apart. Some of your needs are going to be met by people other than your spouse. What I mean by that is this: Sometimes husbands need to be with the guys…sometimes wives need to go out with the ladies. But this is done in balance. If your time with others dwarfs your time with your spouse, you have life out of balance. Anne and I have both look at the other and said, “you need to go have time with your friends!” There are times she needs another woman to talk to. I need to bat with other guys. It’s a definite need that’s there and your spouse will really appreciate it when you see the need in their life. It speaks of your ability to see their needs. But you will never have guilt free time apart if you are not giving QUALITY time with your spouse (notice I used QUALITY again).
**I do want to caution your time apart. Every couple I take through premarital counseling gets a warning about spending too much time with unmarried friends. I have a lot of unmarried friends. But I have to be careful, not necessarily about the amount of time, but the activities we do. Some couples have, or are, living out fantasies of singleness apart from their spouses. Be cautious of where you go and what you do as to not add temptation or suspicion in your marriage.
Time alone – Sometimes you need to be alone. Even Jesus went off to a solitary place (Mark 1:35). If the only time you are alone is in the bathroom, then you need personal break. If your wife has been around kids all day…for Pete’s sake, come home, get the kids, and give her time alone. (Side note: it’s not babysitting your kids…it’s called being a parent.) Every one of us needs a break from humans to unwind and be refreshed. Anne and I both run on our own to clear our minds. I use it as time to pray and decompress. Look for ways to give your spouse the “alone” time they need. Of all of the things I’ve done for Anne that she adores, giving her time alone is at the top of her list…especially in the summer when the kids are out of school.
Keep watch over the time in your marriage. Don’t abuse your spouse by starving them for the “needed time” in their life.
Thanks for letting me ramble…