Marriages are under attack! It’s hard enough keeping a relationship healthy and strong without the many pressures that face us in this society. Let’s take a look at FIVE top issues that impact marriages today and some ideas on how to defend your relationship.
- Busyness. When someone asks you how you are doing, does the answer tend to be: ‘busy!’? If so, this first issue is one you definitely need to guard against. Busyness is often touted as some kind of virtue as though it automatically means we are doing something productive. Due to the many stressors we face from one day to the next we have to draw a line in the sand regarding how we are going to spend our time. When are you going to call it a day — whether it is to come home from work or stop the ‘busy work’ around the house and come join your partner for some downtime. If you have huge ‘to do’ list, cut it back to what is essential and/or realistic. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is stop, recharge yourself and be present in your marriage.
- Lack of Discipline. This issue, on the heels of busyness may seem like an oxymoron, however, being busy does not mean that one is disciplined! In light of the many distractions we have around us — cellphones, tablets, TV’s, video games, books, shopping — we can miss out on living our lives fully and effectively. Let’s face it, good, healthy relationships take time, energy and investment. It takes discipline to do the things we know are helpful to a vibrant relationship. Many of these things are not work at all but they require us to be mindful. In a world full of distractions this requires discipline. Discipline to put our phones down and actually listen to what our spouse is telling us. Discipline to follow through on our commitments, even when we don’t feel like it. Lack of discipline can effect one’s ability to trust their partner (‘you said you were going to school today and you didn’t go…’). It can also impact a couples ability to reach their goals, such as buying a home, going on a trip or starting a family.
- Financial Pressures. The cost of living is a challenge that impacts everyone. Credit card debt, unemployment, unexpected bills, living expenses, etc. can all add financial pressures to a couple. We can’t often prevent these bills but we are responsible for how we deal with the pressures that arise from them. Some surefire ways to start an argument are to blame the other person or to spend large amounts of money without consulting the other. Remember that you are a team! Work together to manage the money pressures. Make good choices financially and learn how to budget wisely. There are many good budgeting courses/books available through community and government agencies, churches, internet-based programs and other resources.
- Lack of Communication/Miscommunication. The biggest struggle facing couples regarding communication is the lack of it, which often leads to miscommunication. If we lack good communication, we will often jump to conclusions, assume, speculate or even make stuff up! This can lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding. More couples end up fighting over what they think the other person meant or what was said without proper context or purely with bad timing (bringing up a big issue at bedtime is never a good idea). Make time to talk a priority. Face to face. Over a coffee without distraction. Practice active listening — don’t work on your rebuttal while the other is speaking. Listen as though you have to summarize at the end. Listen to hear and then try to understand.
- Balance of Work and Family. Take two people, throw in work/home/school/stress, add in 1-10+ children and see if you can keep it all balanced! This is a definite challenge — trying to keep a moderate balance between work (often both spouses) and family. This is not just leisure time together but getting all the business of running a family done — shopping, cleaning, transporting children, sports/hobbies, church, laundry, etc. There’s a lot of work involved in this scenario! Being mindful of the need for balance is a starting point. Talking about where the boundaries and limits are/need to be is a next step. Setting priorities regarding time is another step. With a bit of effort, good communication, and teamwork, balance can be achieved.
These challenges don’t have to harm our most intimate relationships. Fight the right thing — these five horsemen are the enemies, not your spouse! Defend your marriage. It is a worthwhile investment that you can build and enjoy for decades to come. Don’t let these pressures destroy the love you have with your husband or wife. Slay the horsemen!!