5 Things Healthy Couples Do When Life Gets Busy

BY MARK AND SUSAN MERRILL RELATIONSHIPS March 17, 2017

In the hustle and bustle of today’s world, we tend to wear busyness as a badge of honor. Not many days go by without someone we know saying how busy they are—and often they say it with a hint of pride—“I’m crazy busy!” Somehow, we have come to equate busyness with value. We celebrate our overbooked lives by naming the million things we accomplish on a daily basis. But all too often that busyness results in disconnection—disconnection in our relationship with God, our spouse and our children.

God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” With this one statement, God highlighted man’s need for relationship.

We have learned over the course of our 28 years of marriage and from our 25 years of leading Family First that disconnection is a huge challenge couples face. Whether you are dating, married or hope to be, here are five ways you can battle busyness and embrace connection.

Connect with God Together.

Jesus clarified that one of the most important things we can do is love our neighbor as ourselves. Our closest neighbor is our spouse. God also tells us that He is love (1 John 4:16), that love comes from Him (1 John 4:7) and that we can only love others because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We cannot keep the second commandment without obeying the first. Therefore, true connection with our spouse, our closest neighbor, is contingent upon our love for God.

Of course, you must have a personal relationship with God, but there are also countless ways to connect with God with your spouse. What better way to love God than to seek Him alongside the one you love? Pray together. Most days, we pray together in the morning or before we go to bed. Share God’s Word with each other. We share Scripture with one another regularly. Attend church together. Fellowship with like-minded believers together. We are plugged into a church small group and are starting a monthly supper club with couples from our church.

Cultivate Trust.

Trust is key to any successfully connected relationship. Your spouse needs to know that you are the real deal, that you are who you say you are. They also need to know that you’ll always be honest and will do what you say you’ll do. Trust needs to be evident in every aspect of your life. Trust removes any uncertainty in your relationship and fosters intimacy.

As trust increases in a relationship, it also drives out the fear of being hurt. Each person feels more comfortable in the face of vulnerability. Couples connected by trust can share their desires, hopes, dreams, failures and fears freely with one another; this will allow you and your spouse to have the courage to both pursue your passions and champion your spouse in theirs. The more you trust your spouse and invite them to trust you, the more you want to give yourself fully to them.

Create White Space in Your Calendar.

In the early days of our marriage, we both poured ourselves into so many activities. We were busy with the kids, busy with friends and mentorship, busy with church and busy with work—all good things. But in the midst all of these good activities, we began to neglect our closest neighbor—each other.

It was at this point that we realized the negative effects of too much of a good thing. We took the time to ask which things God would have us do and not do.

The first key to creating white space on your calendar is to write out a “stop doing” list together. These are the things, even good things, that you should say “no” to. In making the list, determine what is most important to you and your family and then filter every opportunity through the lens of your gifts, purpose, passions and motives. If an activity does not serve one of these categories, maybe it’s time to stop doing it.

Second, with the things that you will keep doing, be sure to put them on your calendar, including your kids’ activities. Don’t overbook or double book. Instead, establish “white space” on your calendar between what you’ve scheduled. That’s when you don’t have anything scheduled at all. White space slows the pace, allows for more spontaneity and helps you to connect with your spouse and kids. White space is important for your personal and work schedule.

Prioritize Face-to-Face Interaction.

In today’s highly digital world, entertainment is literally at the tips of our fingers at all times. How many times have you seen couples sitting at a table together, more engaged with their phones than with each other? Now for an even harder question—how many times has that been you? If you’re not present, it doesn’t matter that you’re spending time together; you might as well be on two different planets. Remember, one of the most important presents you can give your spouse is to be present. Try to plan activities that allow you to experience the world together, rather than simply being entertained together.

Whether you’ve been together for 30 days or 30 years, your relationship will benefit from less screen time and more face time. Schedule regular coffee or lunch dates. Go on a walk. Have a picnic. Try a new activity together. There’s something so refreshing in knowing that God has created the world and that we can develop deep, meaningful relationships by simply enjoying His creation together. That’s not to say you can never just watch TV or a movie together, but don’t let entertainment serve as the foundation for your relationship.

Live in a “We” World.

Marriage is the ultimate team sport and it only works well when husbands and wives remember that they’re on the same team, in it together for life.

God gives us an example of positive connection and living in sync when he commands us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15) If your spouse is in a hard season, come alongside them. View every success and every failure as an opportunity to connect on a deeper level. Share the heavy things of life and also throw confetti together when you have victories.

MARK AND SUSAN MERRILL

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