Do you know what the two easiest tasks in the world are?
The first is creating work for others. The second is saying yes to work others create for you.
Of course, this leads to a breakdown as commitments vastly outpace our ability to meet them. It’s crucial we learn to say no.
And as I think back in my life, the person that most often creates work for me is my wife. By far, I’m the person in my wife’s life that creates the most work for her. I’d imagine your marriage may be the same.
We need to learn how to lovingly and respectfully navigate this situation – guarding our time and learning to protect our spouse’s schedule from our own demands.
Casually Creating Work
The good news is that this is easier than you might think.
To understand why, put yourself in the place of the other person. Most of the time, they haven’t really thought through the implications of heaping more work onto your already loaded schedule.
I know I’ve asked my wife to do things before on a lark: “Hey honey, we should have so and so over for dinner.” (Translation: You call them, plan the whole thing, and make the meal.) I’m not trying to overload my wife – I just honestly wasn’t thinking about how much work that would create or about her current hurried schedule.
My wife has done the same to me. “Loren, we should do some work on our deck.” (Translation: You plan everything, get the materials, and do all the work.) Again, just a casual and impulsive statement made without thinking of what it would really mean to make that happen.
Further compounding this is the fact that we are often unaware of specifically what is on our spouse’s plate. It’s not really that hard to add this other task to their list… right?
We Are Our Own Enemy
Even though we know it will be tough, we want to say yes to our spouse. We want to be a great husband or wife. We want to be the hero. We want to be the competent domestic manager.
So we say yes – yes to something that really is not the best use of our time. We end up committing to more than we can do, and we drop the ball. Instead of doing a few things well, we do a lot of things poorly.
In reality, our spouse isn’t the bully. The harsh taskmaster is our own desire to please and to feel competent.
Once we see the problem, the solution is for us to understand this reality and then to communicate it.
We have to first internalize the fact that we can only do so much. We have to think through our priorities and determine what tasks should or shouldn’t make the cut.
When we really grasp this, we can move past the wishful hoping that we could get it all done after all. Once we get this – really get it on our own – then it’s easy to lovingly and respectfully communicate.
“I’d love to do this. It would be really nice to have a deck that’s pleasant and not splintery all over. But I am slammed right now. I need to work all throughout the day, work on my Sunday School Lesson on Monday night, on Tuesday…”
The more detail you can give, the better. Then you can work through the issue together.
This isn’t husband vs. wife. It’s the two working together to figure out how best to allocate family resources. Think of it just like a meeting to discuss the budget, only with time instead of money.
The Other Side of the Coin
The other part is obvious at this point: Think twice about work you “assign” to your spouse!
And if something is really important to you, communicate the priority to your spouse. Maybe they have no idea how much a task would mean to you.
For instance, my wife, for some reason I still don’t understand, thinks it’s really important to have a clean garage. I put this off for years because it was so far down on my priority list. Once I understood that it was so important to her, I realized it was a powerful way to show her I love her.
This sharing of priorities not only avoids over-committed schedules but it helps make sure that what’s important really does make the cut.
How do you see these principles functioning in your marriage?
Photo Credit: Ishai Parasol (Creative Commons)
Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. However, this doesn’t affect what I write about, what I choose to say, or what I recommend. Learn more here.