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Six marriage essentials when you have no time

Image credit: costasz / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: costasz / 123RF Stock Photo


Married life is chaotic sometimes. Some weeks it may feel like you give maximum effort for your marriage and only receive exhaustion in return. Busyness is a way of life for many couples and those who routinely lack time together find it especially challenging to connect well. You may feel like you have “communication problems” when actually your schedule is the problem. 

When you feel disconnected check your schedule first. Unfortunately, it’s common for couples to only have a few hours together each week.

Most often, work schedules limit time together in marriage. For example, one partner works a day shift and the other works a swing or graveyard shift. Other work schedules include out of town travel where at least one partner is out of town for several days at a time.

Other times schedule problems have nothing to do with work but other obligations like taking care of kids, church meetings, time with friends, or sports practices. Most commitments are good things for good reasons but they can lead to marriage difficulties due to lack of time together.

Sometimes when couples come into my office for counseling it’s the only time they have had together in a week.

When your schedule is maxed and your connection is stressed, follow these six marriage essentials to make some wonderful in your marriage.

  1. Clarify what time you have. Only having a vague idea of how your schedules align is disastrous. Take a few minutes to go over the details of your schedule together; highlight the time you will have together this week.
  2. Identify the duration. Having a week with a lot of extra commitments or a week when one partner is traveling for work, is much different than long-term schedule difficulties. Understanding the current relationship time crunch is only temporary could make all the difference.
  3. Plan ahead. When you don’t have much time together, eliminate distractions by getting things done ahead of time. Connecting with your spouse is more likely if the dishes are already done.
  4. Be intentional. It’s especially important when you have limited time together to make the most of the time you have. When time is short, quality matters. Intentionally do things that promote connection. For example: go for a run together or simply snuggle, hold hands and kiss.
  5. Don’t skip sex. Consistent sex is a major source of intimate connection for married couples. It can be difficult to find adequate emotional and physical energy for sex when life is super stressful, commit to it anyway.
  6. Adjust as necessary. Reevaluating what is working and what is not working is critical to the success of your relationship. Occasionally weigh the pros and cons of your current schedule. Sure, work and other commitments are important, but if they are killing your relationship, it’s probably time to adjust.

When you have greatly limited time, each interaction intensifies. That intensity can burn relationships quickly. When the relational value of each minute is constricted, misinterpretation is commonplace because there is less time to clarify what you meant. Hurts take longer to address and heal when you have no time together. Smoldering hurt in marriage is destructive; raging arguments result when there is no time to tend to emotional miss-connections.

Some partners in marriage have different expectations of how much time is optimal for good connection. When you feel totally different, remember you are compatible enough.

Ultimately, you have to spend some time together to build a relationship. When your time is extra limited, your marriage can still thrive. It will take extra effort but many couples have used time constraints to gain increased focus on what really matters, each other.

What would you add? What has worked for your marriage when you had no time?



More than Decoration

A bird and a fish live in a bowl on my desk. I guess it’s decoration to anyone curious enough to notice.

I made the bowl myself in college. When I first enrolled at Northwest Nazarene University I had no idea what my major should be. I knew I enjoyed art classes in high school so I tried my hand at pottery. The blue ceramic bowl on my desk didn’t impress anyone, but I still have it. When I see it I think of my college days and my time with the pottery wheel. Today, as every day now, the bowl holds a bird and a fish.


A number of years ago I took two separate trips to South America. The first trip was to Venezuela. My wife and I went with a group from our church to serve the people of Venezuela with a work project. Nazarene missionaries John and Shirley Fischer directed our efforts in clearing the grass, making cement, and laying bricks in the tropical humidity. While working I tried to talk to the local people but my intentions were better than my Spanish. Venezuela is best known as a land flowing with oil and dictatorship. Now I know more, I know the Venezuelan people I encountered and my experience of their culture. When I see the Balsa wood bird in my bowl, I remember my time in Venezuela and the people I met in the tropical mountains.

The second trip to South America was different than the first. Four years after our trip to Venezuela we went to Ecuador. College friends Dan and Kristina Benedick were medical missionaries in Shell, Ecuador. We decided to visit them- with our 18 month old son. Foreign travel is usually an adventure, traveling to another country with a toddler is nothing but an adventure. Torrential Ecuadorian rain, road demolishing mud slides, puking kid, canoeing the Amazon, and eating ants followed during those wild days in Ecuador. While chewing on sugarcane I purchased the small balsa wood fish that reminds me of our adventures and the people of Ecuador.


A fish and a bird live in a bowl on my desk but mostly it holds experiences.


It’s on my desk not because the items have value but because the experiences they represent matter.


The adventures represented on my desk and many other meaningful experiences have shaped me to the core.

Your experiences have done the same for you and your marriage.


Adventures are a great way to build connection in marriage.


Be curious enough today to notice how your experiences have shaped you, then invest in learning about your spouse’s experiences. They are more than decoration.   


What objects do you have that hold memories or meaningful experiences?

Compatible Enough

Image credit: bowie15 / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: bowie15 / 123RF Stock Photo

Compatibility is helpful for successful relationships.
Compatibility is basically the extent to which your past experiences and resulting perspectives align with your spouse’s. The more your experiences are similar the easier it is to understand your spouse.

If your experiences with religion are similar, it will be easier to agree on what matters about God, which religious activities to participate in and which to avoid. The more your experiences with sex, money, children, education, and family are similar, the easier it is to agree on what matters, which activities to participate in and which to avoid.

The problem with compatibility is, there is no way to determine how much compatibility is needed for a marriage to thrive. There is no magic formula or compatibility quotient that will guarantee a great marriage. There is, however, a minimum requirement.

I have developed the only compatibility test you will ever need for your marriage.

Complete this compatibility test by answering yes or no to the following questions:

  1. Do you want to be married to them?
  2. Do they want to be married to you?

If you answered no to either question, tough luck, it’s not going to work.
If you answered yes to both of these questions, you are compatible enough.

If you feel incompatible with your spouse, it likely comes from repeated conflict and feeling overwhelmed with the effort it takes to maintain connection in your relationship.

The reality is, when your experiences are dramatically different, it takes more work to build a well-connected marriage.

If you only speak English and your spouse only speaks Mandarin, a relationship can work it will just take more effort and adjustment. If you always think the temperature is hot and your wife always thinks it’s cold, you have to learn to make reasonable adjustments.

To overcome differences you must commit to learning. Study hard and you can learn to understand your spouse’s perspective better. For a wonderful marriage it helps to have a deep understanding of why your spouse reacts the way they do. To transform conflict into connection intentionally and tactfully ask your spouse what experiences have contributed to their perspective. Be ready to listen, it could be a long story.

It may feel risky to seek more connection but it’s much better than settling for the minimum level of compatibility.

What has helped you address differences with your spouse?

What Matters

The Four Steps to Make some Wonderful in your Marriage.

A great marriage simply takes two people willing to put in the work to discover what matters and pursuing it in love. Don’t worry about being compatible. If there are areas where your experience has been different than your spouse it doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed, it means you have more work to do.

Wherever you find yourself today, these four steps will allow passion to thrive in your marriage.

  1. Discover what matters
  2. Agree on what matters
  3. Renegotiate what matters
  4. Live what matters
Image credit: krasimiranevenova / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: krasimiranevenova / 123RF Stock Photo

1. Discover what matters

All relationships are built on discovering what matters. In marriage it’s especially critical to discover what matters in order to build intimate connection. Life experiences help formulate what’s important. Some experiences such as trauma drastically influence how people view life; other experiences are more subtle in how they determine our reactions.

For the best discoveries:

  • Take the time to discover what matters to you. You have to search your own motivations before you can effectively learn about your spouse. Take time to think about your own experiences. Growing up I saw my dad willingly work long hours to support our family. Due to his positive influence, professional diligence and loyalty matter deeply to me.
  • Commit to a lifetime of discovering what matters to your spouse. The more you know about their experiences and how they have reacted to them, the better you can understand what really matters to them and why.

2. Agree on what matters

Once you take the time to understand what matters to your spouse and why, you must come to agreement on what’s important for you as a couple. Now that you are married a cohesive vision is critical. Agreeing on what matters will clarify what is expected in the relationship. For example my wife and I have agreed that connection with extended family matters. From that agreement we have clarified how we prioritize travel to visit family. In a way marriage requires a behavioral contract. When you agree to react a certain way and keep your word over time, it builds strong trust.
Conflict can be dramatically reduced in marriage when you:

  • Agree on what matters about God.
  • Agree on what matters about extended family including in-laws. 
  • Agree on what matters about children and parenting them.

Once you agree about what matters it is much easier to determine together how to accomplish daily tasks. When you agree that it matters to have intelligent children, deciding to read to them easily flows from that decision.

When you agree on what matters you don’t have to worry about money. Agree what matters in your relationship and it will be much easier to negotiate how to handle your money.

Financial expert Dave Ramsey says “money flows to what you value.”

3. Renegotiate what matters

Here comes a tricky part, life has a way of changing. Your marriage has to change too. Previous agreements regarding what matters may no longer make sense. Successful relationships constantly adjust depending on the circumstances. When my wife and I became parents what mattered changed and we had to integrate new agreements on what mattered most as new parents. Negotiation is difficult work, renegotiating will take effort. The most successful relationships are intentionally adaptable.

  • When life changes you must renegotiate what’s important. 

4. Live what matters

Your marriage is most energized when you are living consistent with what matters to you. There is nothing as tragic as when couples lose sight of what matters and their connection crumbles. There will always be distractions that will attempt to divert you. When you have a larger mission in focus your connection and influence will grow strong. Wonderful marriages consist of regular people living out each day what matters most. Always continue discovering together what matters in life and pursue it with love.

  • Pursue your passion together; life is wonderful when focused on what matters.

Question: What matters most to you?  What matters most to your spouse?  How are you living it out together?

A Super Weekend for Your Marriage

invite her in. football
Image credit: dehooks / 123RF Stock Photo

It’s Super Bowl weekend. This year is especially exciting because my team is in. I’ve been a fan of the Seattle Seahawks ever since watching Steve Largent catch his 100th touchdown pass in 1989.

My wife gets it but she doesn’t get into it like I do.

In most marriages one partner is a bigger sports fan than the other. Most of the time us guys are more into sports than our wife. Relax, I know it’s a stereotype. I have heard of wives that like sports more than their husband, I just haven’t met many.

Guys, have you ever noticed your wife is not even watching the game? The Lombardi trophy is on the line and your wife is not even in a room with a TV? Weird, right?

The Super Bowl is the biggest and greatest sports event of the entire year, a national holiday full of football violence, finger food, and funny commercials. As great as the Super Bowl is, it can lead to issues with the ladies. Actually, it’s not football’s fault, it’s yours. Guys, we can get absorbed when watching football, especially the Super Bowl. Saying something damaging to your spouse when watching football is way too easy. If you don’t pay attention your carelessness will cause an injury in your marriage.

If you want to have the best Super Bowl experience I have two tips.

  • Invite her in. It’s ok, she’s not going to ruin anything. Act like you notice her and invite her to watch the Super Bowl with you. Just because she doesn’t have the entire roster memorized doesn’t mean she has no interest. Let her in on the fun, tell her what gets you pumped about the game. Even if she doesn’t get into the game as much as you, it’s likely she will love getting to share it with you. After all, she is into you. Share what you are excited about and she will get excited too. Sharing excitement makes for an exciting marriage.

Ladies: When you take some interest in the game, your husband will feel you are interested in him. When your husband feels interesting to you, he tends to respond more lovingly.

  • Let her not care. Don’t force her to care as much as you. It may not make sense to you. Get over it. When you notice she isn’t even watching the game or when she makes a comment like “I missed it, what did the umpire say?” Don’t shame her for not caring as much as you. She isn’t rejecting you.

Ladies: Express your preferences kindly. It’s easy for us guys to get our love of sports intertwined with our identity. When you criticize football, you could be criticizing his identity. Tell your husband you love him and you are going to do something else. Same rule applies, don’t shame him for loving a silly violent game.

These two tips are equally important to remember in all sports seasons. The Super Bowl is only one day of an entire year of sports. Husbands are also occasionally known to have interests other than sports. Hunting seasons can bring dramatic division in marriages. Boats, dogs, motorcycles, computers, running, whatever activities interest him can either damage or improve the connection in your marriage.

How will you make this weekend a super opportunity to connect with your spouse?