A lot of left over food is being consumed now that Thanksgiving Day, here in the United States, is over. We’re among the many who are in this position. Left over food can be great the next day. But the left overs I’m going to write about in this blog concern left over time and energy we have to give our spouse at the end of our day. And that can often lead to problems.
Left Over Time
What my husband Steve and I see, and have experienced is that too often we give our marriage partners whatever’s “left over” in our time and energy. If we have any energy, or extra time left to give them our focused attention we will.
But is that what they need from us? Yes, we have demands on our time. And yes, they see we have those demands. But how is our spouse and family feeling about getting the “left over’s” we’re able to give?
It’s true that most of us need to work outside of the home. And some of us work inside of our home. But it’s like what Pastor Andy Stanley says,
“There is nothing honoring to God about the workaholic who neglects his or her family. But the man or woman who refuses to provide for his family brings no honor to Him either.
“Clearly we don’t have the luxury of choosing one or the other since both are a permanent part of our lives. Both demand more attention than we have to give. Both originated with our Creator. There’s not enough time to get it all done.” (From book, Choosing to Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide?)
Concerning Giving Left Over Time
And there isn’t. But I’ve learned something along the way in our marriage, which has helped both Steve and me. I hope it will help you. When it’s at ALL possible, we need to save a good part of ourselves and give it to our spouse and family. There are good “left over’s” and there are ones that are all worn out. They aren’t of much use to anyone.
Save a bit of the best of you for your family. Look for a way to do this, bring it home, and then give it to them.
It’s so easy to fall into the false impression that when it comes to our time and efforts, our family “will understand.” We think to ourselves, “they know I love them.” We can rationalize, “If there’s anyone who should understand how little time and energy I have left to give, it should be them.”
And yes, that may make perfect sense to us. That is how we rationalize this issue in our minds. And in a perfect world that could be true. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Our spouse’s aren’t perfect either. They have wants and needs that require us to put them first sometimes. They need us to put them on the radar screen of that, which requires our specialized attention.
Seasons of Busyness
It’s true that sometimes, there are “seasons” of busyness. We all have them. I’m not talking about that type of situation. That is supposed to be a temporary thing. And yes, as long as you and your spouse come to an understanding in that season, it’s ok.
What I’m talking about is allowing your life to interfere with having quality time with your spouse and family to the extent that they realistically feel cheated. And unless you’re too out of touch with reality, deep inside, you know what’s realistic.
Being a perpetual “Martha” —where you are too busy all the time, is problematic. (If that’s a problem for you, please see “Confessions of a Woman on a Whirl” to help deal with that syndrome.)
That’s me. I confess. I’ve been there and have done that too many times. But thank God, I’m learning different. I’ve been learning to say no when I should. I now know that when I say yes to one thing, I’m saying no to another. And often, it is my husband and my family that I’m having to say no to. So I am learning to find ways to cut corners in other ways so my husband doesn’t get the short end of things. It takes intentionality and it also takes awareness of what TRULY needs to be done above what I THINK truly needs to be done. I’ve found those are two different realities.
Workaholic Tends to Give Family the Leftovers
Being a spouse who is a workaholic or spends more time and effort at work than you should, can be problematic. (If that’s a problem for you, please see: When a Job Steals Time Away from the Marriage and Family. It’s a great article, selected from a VERY helpful book. I encourage you to read it.)
If you’re giving your spouse and family left over’s, which are hard for them to put up with, you need to do some serious praying. Talk to God about it. Ask Him to give you wisdom on how to work through this situation. (A good article to read and prayerfully consider before it’s too late is, “Why Some Spouses Give Up.”)
And then talk to your spouse about this matter. Sincerely apologize for not giving him or her the priority that they have needed. Ask for his or her to help you to figure out how to give more of your time. This is too important of a situation to allow it to continue in an off-balanced way. Whatever time you have left over, after you put the truly necessary time you MUST spend into it, needs to be intentional.
Your Marriage is Your First Mission
Remember, your first mission field is to your family —particularly your spouse. You promised your spouse before God and other witnesses to “love, honor, and cherish until death do you part.” Be pro-active. Be intentional in giving your spouse your best.
Don’t give left over time, which is recognizably no good for whoever is on the receiving end! Ask God how to give your best, as He leads. I have done this numerous times and it is amazing how faithful God is in showing me how to cut back on unnecessary expenditures of time. After praying, God will nudge me here and there to step back from things I thought I HAD to do. When I really looked at it, I didn’t really need to do them. It was my own inner nudging. If I was single, then maybe I could do them. But when I married, I needed to put my spouse before my workaholic nudging.
Pray and pay attention to what God shows you. Be open to His leading and He will direct you to give your spouse more than just left over time and energy. God will show you how to save some of your best. God is great that way! He wants your marriage to thrive, not just survive. So go with God.
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this blog.
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