The Busy-ness of Work & Marriage
"There is nothing more admirable than two people who see eye-to-eye keeping house as man and wife, confounding their enemies, and delighting their friends."
- Homer, 9th century BC
Striking a balance between how much time you spend with your partner versus your work can be a difficult task. It can also be difficult to decide who will work, where you will live, how you will live, and how you will share household responsibilities. These modules will give you some ideas and insights into how to manage the sometimes competing pressures of work and family life.
Balancing Work & Marriage
"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?"
- George Eliot
Discussion: Busy-ness and Relationship Stress
Sometimes newlywed couples may feel like they are on the fast track to career success and marital disintegration. Many couples today are working and doing more than they have ever imagined they would. In approximately 70% of all U.S. marriages, both partners work outside the home. This may add up to more income, but may also ads up to more stress, fatigue, and tension in relationships. Over the past twenty years, both partners working outside the home has become the norm. This busy-ness often gives way to bitterness and arguing unless partners constantly work at balancing their relationship with their work lives.
Therapists, John and Mary Sotile, say the good news is that many overworked couples seem to cope with the stress very well. The bad news is that the strategies they use for coping with the stress may not do much to strengthen their marriages. That's because coping with stress is often more about survival than about promoting healthy relationships. When we experience stress we also have a tendency to focus more on ourselves than on other people, our partner included. Being preoccupied with oneself does not contribute to a healthy marriage. If the (marriage) relationship is not made a priority, it will begin to suffer.
Discussion: Maintaining Harmony, Balance, and Passion in a Busy Marriage
There are no perfect marriages and no stress-free jobs, but there are ways to maintain harmony, balance, and passion in your marriage, even if both partners are working full-time outside the home. Here are some ideas that partners in strong marriages use to keep love alive despite their busy schedules.
- Prioritize . C.S. Lewis said, "The home is the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose, and that is to support the ultimate career." One way to do this is to list the five most important things in your life and live your life and make choices that reflect their importance. The examples above show how Nathan and Cammie made each other a priority despite their busy schedules while Andy and Jan began growing apart. If your partner is not a priority, the quality of your relationship will quickly decline.
- Perfection Isn't Reality . Even if you expect perfection from yourself, don't expect it from your partner. That is just not realistic and you are sure to be let down. When both partners are busy with work, your house may not be as neat as you would like it to be.
- Constantly Communicate . The busier you are, the greater your need to communicate with your partner. It can be easy for things to go unsaid and upcoming appointments and events not to be discussed. This will create conflict and tension in your marriage. Stay in touch with your partner so they know how important they are to you.
- Be Trustworthy . Be someone that is dependable and honest. Do everything you can to keep the commitments you have made. If you have made plans with your partner but you frequently break them to take care of work "emergencies" it quickly becomes clear who or what is most important.
- Be Forgiving . Since perfection isn't a reality in marriage, we must learn to be forgiving. We all like to be forgiven when we have made a mistake. Remember that the next time you are upset with your partner.
- Squash Anger . Anger usually is not a beneficial emotion in a marriage because it is expressed as criticism or insults. Anger is usually a mask for some other emotion. It may be fear, frustration, jealousy or a number of other things. Let your partner know what you are really feeling without masking it as anger. That way your partner's defenses will not be raised and you will have a better chance of working through the issue.
- Declare Love . Frequently and openly express your love for your partner directly to them and in public settings.
- "I love You" Codes . Develop subtle or indirect ways of letting your partner know you love them. For example, my wife and I will squeeze each other's hand three times representing the words "I-Love-You." We have also sent the same message to each other by winking, honking the car horn, or turning the porch light on and off three times.
- Frequently Connect With Your Partner . Use brief phone calls or e-mails to connect with your partner throughout the day. Let them know you care about them or were just thinking about them.
- Do Your Partner's Favorite Thing . Let your partner know you care by doing one of their favorite things for them. It doesn't have to be big. For example, bring home their favorite candy bar, drink, or ice cream.
- Self-Care . Keep yourself and your marriage physically and emotionally strong by eating well, resting sufficiently, exercising, and playing together.
- Think "Partner First." Although self-care is important, partner-care cannot be ignored. Think about and do the things that will show your partner they are your #1 priority. Losing yourself in serving your partner will help you understand them and yourself better.
- Long Kisses . Give your partner a long kiss before either or both of you leave for work instead of a quick peck. This type of touch is powerful. It gets your blood flowing and energizes you for the day. It leaves you feeling connected and may even help you look forward to coming home in the evening so you can pick up where you left off.
- Be Protective of Time . Be protective of time with your partner. Quality time cannot replace quantity time. Schedule and cautiously preserve blocks of time with your partner. Do this by scheduling weekly or bi-monthly dates, a weekly family fun night, set meal times, no-work Sunday's, and work-free vacations.
- Simplify Your Life. Budget Money. Stay Out of Debt . These three items go together because your life will be simplified if you budget your money well and stay out of debt. Being in debt makes you a slave to your creditor. You then have to work more to pay your debts. Remaining debt-free gives you freedom and flexibility that you wouldn't otherwise have.
- Monday Morning Foreplay . Few people are thinking about sexual relations at 6 a.m. on Monday morning, but that is when foreplay begins. This doesn't necessarily mean that you will have sex on Monday morning. It does mean that the extent to which you are helpful to and supportive of your partner in their day-to-day routine (that probably begins early Monday morning) will contribute greatly to the quality and frequency of your sex life. If your partner is worn-out from work and they feel like you are not doing their share around the house, sleep becomes more important than sex.
- Don't Rush To Work . Don't sleep in until the last possible minute so that you narrowly avoid being late for work. Give yourself a little time-cushion in the morning. This will help you arrive at work on time and be more relaxed. Set your clothes out and get things ready the night before to help your morning run more smoothly.
- Do High-Energy Things Before You Go Home . If you have some flexibility over what you do and when you do certain things at work, do the things that energize you the most just before going home. This will help you be happier and more alert for the time you get to spend with your partner.
- Be Flexible with Work . If you can, be flexible with when and where you work. Many employers offer flex-time schedules and some employers even have provisions for employees to work from their homes. Many employees just don't take advantage of these offers. Plan your work schedule around family life if you are able and not the other way around.
- Take Off the Work Hat. Put on Your Marriage Hat . Try and have some separation between work and family life. Don't bring all your work stresses home and dump them on your partner. One way to do this is to use your trip home as a time to mentally leave work behind and begin focusing on family life. People who work in a uniform can do this through a change of clothing. Taking off the police, fireman, or nurse's uniform and changing into your own clothes can help you mentally leave work life and enter family life. You can also make a habit of asking your partner how their day was first thing when you walk in the door.
- Have Family Meetings . Businesses meet often to talk about profits, losses, and strategic planning. Families who are in the business of running smoothly and being emotionally profitable need to meet frequently as well to talk about what's going well and what things may need to change. 22. Divide and Conquer Housework. Whether one or both of you are working outside the home, you both have a responsibility for housework. Talk about who will generally do what and don't be afraid to trade-off chores occasionally. Make a household chore list and rotate through it so one person doesn't always get stuck with the same unpleasant job.
- Do "Home-work" Together . One way to stay connected when you are both working is to do your "home-work" together. Fix meals, clean house, and help with the kids together. This will give you the opportunity to talk and build your marriage relationship while doing the things that need to be done on a daily basis.
- Relax Before Bedtime . Do something relaxing just before bedtime that will help you sleep better and be better prepared for the upcoming day. Don't work on or worry about work projects just before going to bed.
- Have Fun . Have fun at work and at home. If you are able to laugh and have fun with the people you work with and your family you will enjoy being both places and any stressors won't seem as bad. 26. Enjoy the Ride. Don't buy into the "I'll be happy when some future event happens" mentality. Be happy now. Enjoy your partner and enjoy your work. Nurture your marriage in spite of the stressful demands that work may place on you.
- Work At It. Finding balance and harmony between work and family time is not easy. Continue to work at it and you will find it becomes easier. Use the suggestions provided here in addition to those you have thought of yourself to keep you priorities in check.