Do you or your spouse find yourselves overly committed to doing things outside of your home (especially during the holidays)? Do you have a hard time saying, “No” to others who ask you to do things for them which, you really don’t have the time? In other words, are you saying, “yes” more times than you should, adding more and more commitments onto your schedule? If so, you aren’t the only ones! It’s a common struggle.
As Drs Les and Leslie Parrott say, “So much of our marriage can be consumed with just ‘doing life.’ And it’s true!
A while back, a woman asked us what to do because her spouse was over-committed (especially at their church). He apparently couldn’t say, “no” to anyone else except her. (At least that’s what she perceived.) She was lonely for her husband’s companionship and didn’t know what to do. Unfortunately, this is a universal problem.
So, in light of this, the following is an edited version of what I (Cindy) wrote to her. We hope it will help those of you who are also struggling with this dilemma. But please note that if you’re a husband dealing with a wife who has taken on too many commitments, please read on and just change the pronouns to apply the advice given. Both wives AND husbands deal too often with this problem. Here’s what I wrote:
Too Many Commitments?
We want you to know that we understand what you’re going through because this is a problem we’ve faced ourselves. Actually, I was primarily the one who had the harder time saying, “no” to others than did my husband Steve (although, he often had the same problem). The REAL problem was we had too many good choices open up to us to do; and we didn’t always make the wisest choice. This is what your spouse is facing.
Your husband is probably a wonderful person (which is why you fell in love with him in the first place). But he doesn’t fully comprehend the problems he’s causing in his marriage by saying, “yes” to others as often as he is. That was my problem. It’s also a dilemma others are facing in the same situation. The needs are great and many of us enjoy helping others. Additionally, we see that we’re capable of doing a good job. But it’s important to note that when we say, “yes” to meet someone else’s need we’re sometimes saying, “no” to meeting our family’s needs. It’s important to know that just because we CAN do something, it doesn’t mean we SHOULD do it.
From the Bible we can see (in Luke 10) that Jesus commended Mary over her sister Martha because she chose the “best.” They also faced the dilemma of having too many good choices presented to them. They could either feed and tend to those who were there, or spend time sitting at the feet of Jesus. At that moment in time, sitting at Jesus’ feet, was the best choice. Often, in today’s world, we’re also faced with making good and “best” choices.
Think about how many choices Jesus Christ had to make. He had throngs of people yanking at Him from every side to help them. And yet even HE took time to back away. He did this to spend time with His disciples, friends, and His family —especially His Father. If Jesus could do that, then we need to take notice. We must practice that same kind of restraint in how we use our time, as well.
A healthy marriage takes an on-going intentionality in spending time together. We did so before marrying and that shouldn’t stop after the wedding. There is scripture that says, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?” You can also look at this same principle in another way. What would it profit a man if he helps the whole world but loses his family because of it? Spouses and children need more from us than just our “leftover” time.
Even though your husband is a great guy, he needs to see the bigger picture here. He needs to get a backbone as Christ will give him if he asks for it, to say, “No. I wish I could —but I need to spend time with my family. I hope you understand. But my family needs me to be with them.”
Commitments to Marriage
Steve and I are no different. We have MORE than enough vying for our time. We have a HUGE marriage ministry God has given us (plus other “needs” vying for our attention). But we realize that we have to make our marriage a priority or we’d be hypocrites if we allowed our own marriage to be sick while tending to everyone else’s marriages. That priority goes for EVERYONE —including you. It’s not just for those in marriage ministry.
We’re told in the Bible that we are lights set on a hill for everyone to see (including our spouse and children). For that reason alone, our relationship as a husband and wife should openly display God’s love. It should be a beacon of hope to a world that desperately needs it (and to our spouse who needs it). Consequently, as others watch how we genuinely love each other, it just may cause them to want to know our “secret.” They may just then say, “Then I want to know your God better!”
The Busy Trap of Too Many Commitments
It has taken Steve and me many years of frustration to “see” this. And still, we fall into the busy “trap” at times and go too far over-board. Consequently, we then have to back up and walk in the right direction again. It’s not that we believe we’re to be joined at the hip. We both give each other grace and space to “spend” some of our energies beyond our home and beyond ourselves at times. It actually enriches our marriage. But we try to be prayerful and careful in pacing ourselves.
However, we dare not neglect helping to meet each other’s needs, which we believe to be a God-given mission!
Something that might help is an article we have posted in the “Married Men” topic of our web site. It’s titled, A Challenge for Men: What Will Be Your Legacy? I urge you to respectfully approach your husband with it. Don’t shove it in front of his face sneering, “You need to read this!” But rather approach him lovingly and respectfully at a peaceful time. Let him know that you miss him and need more of him than he’s giving you. If you feel he’s open to it, ask him to please read the article and pray about it.
Then at some point, talk together about your schedules. Hopefully, he’ll respond to your approach. Hopefully he will see that even though you perceive that he’s a wonderful man, you, as his wife, need more of his attention than you’re receiving.
(For the wife, the article, What Every Wife Should Know About Her Husband is posted in the “For Married Women” topic. It could give you the needed insight.)
Additionally, Concerning Too Many Commitments
Also, there’s a great little book that you might want to read. It’s written by Pastor Andy Stanley and is titled, When Work and Family Collide. It’s about men who are overcommitted. (Some of them are pastors and Christian workers who mean well but still “cheat” their families out of their time.) But this same principle can be applied to wives.
Plus, we have a few short articles on our web site from this book that will give you a preview of some of the things he says in it. The articles are titled: When a Job Steals Time from the Marriage and Family (posted in the “Assorted Marriage Problems” topic). There’s also the article, Why Some Spouses Give up (in the “Save My Marriage” topic).
Also, Pertaining to Commitments:
We have one more resource we’d like to share with you. Please watch the video clip below with Drs Les and Leslie Parrot. In this clip, they are leading a small group discussion on the subject of “Your Time Starved Marriage.” You can find much of this material in their book titled, Your Time-Starved Marriage: How to Stay Connected at the Speed of Life. Please watch and listen to the insights given below that may help you:
And then here’s a suggestion from the Parrott’s:
“Competing priorities will always be a challenge, for every married couple. Life, work, and parenthood—all these issues deserve our attention. However, if other aspects of life become more important to you than nurturing your marriage, you’re bound to drift apart. It’s not unusual for some couples to feel like they’ve transformed into roommates, rather than lovers…but it is very avoidable.
“Here’s how to fix it: Reevaluate your priorities together and create a plan for getting your marriage back on track. Work together to realign your lives and eliminate activities or obligations that are pulling you apart. Making time for each other and putting your marriage first will help to heal the drift.” (From their article, “6 Issues That Can Sabotage Any Marriage”)
We hope this helps you in your marriage. Again, we all are challenged by busyness in different ways. But what we say, “yes” to and “no” to, when given a choice, can make a HUGE difference in the health of our relationships. If you have too much going on, ask God to show you what you can cut back on and/or change. You may be surprised at what He shows you.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
If you are not a subscriber to the Marriage Insights (emailed out weekly)
and you would like to receive them directly, click onto the following:
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Marriage Insights