Navigating a Life Changing Event

Recently, and fairly suddenly, Alan and I chose to embrace some changes in our life that are having a big impact on us. Alan was laid off his job late last year and was pursuing another job. If that wasn’t enough our church’s leadership team fell apart and urgently needed help to fill in the blanks. Never ever did we contemplate Alan volunteering for the board of directors of a large church, but that’s what he did after we prayed, sought counsel, and agreed together that the Lord was leading him there.

Photo by Andy Stafiniak

Photo by Andy Stafiniak

Within a week he was attending several meetings a week. Evenings, mornings, long meetings, emergency meetings. Lots of phone calls, email and text communications. It was a very different schedule, sort of like when we prepared for our daughter’s wedding. Those last few months were non-stop and we never felt caught up.

We have always been extremely protective of our time alone for dates and intimacy and it took a few weeks to notice that this new schedule was taking a toll. We also felt the effect on our exercise goals that fell to a lower priority. We were tending to eat fast food on the fly. The long hours, less exercise, and poor food choices meant less energy for intimate time and getting everyday chores done.

Though this has been a big change for us, I know that some couples live in this state of busyness constantly and it doesn’t ease up for them. So temporary or constant, how can we navigate these times and keep our marriages fresh and passionate?

There are the obvious things:

  • Is there anything you can let go of?
  • Decide together if you should add something new.
  • Intentionally shut the phones off for time to connect.
  • Stop things that just waste time- TV, web surfing, gaming.

And schedule intimate time if you have to but be open to unconventional or spontaneous times. When a meeting cancels, don’t waste the opportunity! On the other hand, let go and be content if your time together gets postponed once in a while.

Most important are your attitudes. It’s easy to blame and resent your spouse when they change the plans. But that attitude will only hurt you both if you hold on to it. Don’t ever doubt your spouse’s commitment and love. Making assumptions about their intentions never helps. When your feelings get hurt or your hopes dashed, talk about how you feel

Photo by John Nyberg

Photo by John Nyberg

and work together to get the time you need.

And finally, don’t forget to plan for and go on that get-away time where you can relax and enjoy each other without any interruptions!

Take Time to Understand Each Other

Have you ever totally misinterpreted something your spouse said?  I sure have!   It is so easy to do and so destructive.  We think we know what our spouse is thinking at the moment so we assume the worst.  Here’s an example…

He asks, “What kind of spices did you use on this steak?”   She declares, “You don’t like it do you?  You always want the same old thing.  We can’t ever try anything different!  Dinners just get more boring all the time.”     He exclaims, “Well you got me pegged!  I was going to say I liked it, but I guess I don’t according to you!”

See how she wrongly assumed what he was thinking, and then blamed him for boring dinners?  Most of us could recover from this with a simple apology and move on to what those spices actually were.  But what if a wrong assumption was made during a discussion in which both spouses were passionate about their positions?  In that kind of situation there is more possibility for deep hurts.  Consider this scenario…

After much debate about which relatives to visit this summer she states, “I just can’t go to Florida this summer!”   He blurts out, “You know, I always wondered if you even liked my family. Sounds like you don’t and you’re ready to just write them off.  You know, I could do without your family too.  Maybe I should just go alone!”

 Some things to consider:

  • Are all the facts out on the table?  Instead of making an assumption, ask what else there is to consider, what else is on your spouse’s mind, what else he or she is feeling. You may be totally surprised what is behind a comment or question.
  • Do you let past issues build up?  Sometimes we make wrong assumptions when resentment leads us in the wrong direction.
  • Think back on times you have made assumptions about your spouse. Is there anything about these situations that made you feel inadequate?  Did a lack of confidence cause you to assume your spouse was criticizing you?
  • If you are getting emotional during a simple factual discussion, perhaps there is an issue that truly needs resolution.  In the first example, maybe she feels that she can’t cook with as much creativity as she’d like and that frustrates her.  She needs to express this so they can find a solution together.
  • Making wrong assumptions often leads to unwarranted blame that is very hurtful to your spouse who will wonder how you could think such a thing of him.  Walls go up between you.
  • Unspoken assumptions fester in your own heart and get blown up over time into bigger mountains.  You may think they are secret but they affect your attitudes and actions toward your spouse.

Letting assumptions remain will never bring a couple closer together.  But it happens so quickly.  I just did it to Alan today after I’d written this blog!  It totally surprised me how fast I fell into it. So think about it ahead of time…what will you do the next time?  Will you be defensive and let it escalate further or will you stop and take time to understand each other?