What do you do if have a spouse who is a good person, but spends so much time with everyone and everything else, that you feel neglected? How can you, as a spouse, demand more time from this “good-hearted person” when he or she really doesn’t have much more time to give? For the next few weeks we’d like to focus on this topic in our Marriage Messages.
When you’re married to someone who is kind, and generous in so many ways it’s difficult to think about complaining —and yet YOU also have needs. For one thing, you’re lonely for your spouse’s companionship. You wish you weren’t, but the truth is that you are. One of the reasons you married him or her in the first place is to spend more time together, so it’s only natural that you’d feel that way. And yet you don’t want to pull your spouse away from the wonderful things he/she is doing to help others. You feel guilty in asking your spouse for more time. That’s especially true when it comes to things he/she does for the cause of Christ (ministry).
That is a dilemma that has been battled in homes for centuries and truly, there’s no easy answer. It’s certainly one we, personally, battle with in our home because of the demands of the ministry of Marriage Missions and other great causes, in which we’re involved. So we don’t have a sure-fire answer, but we’ve learned a few things along the way that might help you in some way with this dilemma.
The first thing to consider is the priorities you agreed to when you married each other. When you read 1 Corinthians 7 you will see where the Apostle Paul warns those who marry that they’ll “face many troubles in this life” just because they’re married. He warns them that their time will now be divided —more than if they were single. In 1 Corinthians 7:33-35 it says,
“But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world —how can he please his wife —and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world —how can she please her husband?“
As Paul says, “I want to spare you this.”
It’s not that remaining single is the only way in which we can be involved in ministry, but we need to realize that once we marry, we are to consider our partner in all we do. We don’t have as much “undivided” time available. We’re now a “cord of three strands” with the Lord included. Our time and attention is stretched thinner than it was before. That is a reality.
If our partner’s needs are being neglected in some way and he or she isn’t in full agreement to make the sacrifice, then we need to re-evaluate how we’re spending our time. It’s important to ask the Lord to show us how to do this so our marriages truly reflect the love of God in every way. After all, our marriages are to be a reflection of Christ’s love for the church! Does Christ neglect the church? Didn’t He put aside His own time to show His love for her by dying to self and giving His life and time for her good and betterment? This is a living example we are to follow.
Steve and I (Cindy) lead very busy lives. We can’t spend as much time together as we would like because of it. But we work to make sure that the other doesn’t just get the “left-overs” of our time, energies, and resources. We find ways to reserve enough of our time, strength, and resources to give the best of ourselves to each other —all other scheduling possibilities are secondary.
We’ve learned that just because we CAN do something, it doesn’t mean we SHOULD do it. God has not called us to do EVERYTHING. Even Jesus didn’t heal everyone in the world. He also found time to do other things. We need to learn what He has called us to do and what He hasn’t —when to work, when to rest, and when to play. When we marry, this is especially true.
When you marry you take on the responsibility to change your mind-set so you consider God AND your spouse in every way you conduct your life. The problem comes when we marry and we don’t change the way we think about how we conduct our days. We bring “single-mindedness” into the wedding, and leave with the same mind-set even though we’ve vowed to become united.
Many of us have even gone trough the tradition of the wedding ceremony of lighting the Unity candle with our individual candles, blowing out our single candles as a symbol of “becoming one” because we are now married. And yet we leave the church after the ceremony and some how forget to change some very important things —one of them is: how we spend our time.
At first, we may go through the motions of changing our schedules to include each other. But eventually life settles in and everyday living “crowds” us away from each other. We settle back into the mind-set of conducting our lives as two single people out to conquer whatever comes our way. We see all that needs to be done and think our spouse will “naturally” understand why we’ve allowed him or her to be crowded out of our schedule.
But often this isn’t the case. Our spouse has needs for companionship. And even if he or she is understanding at first, is it a sustainable way to live out our married lives together? When we neglect our spouse’s need for companionship, isn’t it leaving the door open for temptation to take root when there’s someone else who is willing to pay more attention to the lonely spouse’s needs? Also, is this how God would really want is to live our lives together —as two married people living in a “single-minded” manner for years at a stretch or a lifetime?
It’s like what Dr. Steve Stephens said (in his book, Marriage…Experiencing the Best),
“It’s a sad state of affairs when we take better care of our cars and houses than we do our marriages. We change the oil, fill the tank, check the tires, and periodically tune up our cars. We change light bulbs, wash windows, paint walls, unplug toilets, and re-roof our houses, but what do we do to maintain our marriage? The truth is —more damage is done than repairs are made. Just how important is your marriage? Is it more important to you than your car or your home? Are you willing to put the time and energy and whatever else it takes to prove to your partner how valuable the relationship truly is to you?”
In all of this, please think about something Jason Krafsky wrote (in his pre-marriage workbook, “Before I Do“):
“Marriage is a living advertisement for God. When a couple engages in the act of marriage, they display God. How couples handle life’s ups and downs presents a side of God’s nature to the world. How a couple communicates, argues, and resolves conflict gives people a greater sense of who God is. By uniting both parts of humanity, marriage helps people grasp God better, see God more clearly, know God more deeply, and live for God more intently. Every married couple is an advertisement for God. Ultimately, it is up to each married couple to decide how persuasive their public notice for God will be.”
But of course, you need to spend time together to be able to be a “living advertisement” —at least one that draws others TO God.
Please prayerfully consider what we’ve just written (plus we have a bit more on our web site when you look at the additional prompts at the end of this message). In the next Marriage Message we’ll revisit this subject a little bit further addressing how to get the important things done in our lives that need our attention and still reserve time for each other. The information may not be exhaustive, but hopefully we’ll share at least some insights that may help you in this mission.
Cindy and Steve Wright