A priority is something that is superior in rank, position or privilege. Does that describe your marriage? Would your spouse say that s/he is a priority to you?
I asked myself these same questions last week and my sad answer was No. I have not made my husband a priority as of late. I have let other people, tasks and activities take precedence over him.
It’s not intentional but things come up. Life gets busy, our illness flares and the kids need attention. All of a sudden, we’re running in six different directions at once – usually away from the person we’re supposed to care the most about – our spouse.
Here are the top three reasons I believe we don’t make our spouse a priority:
We believe the lie that we can do it all.
This reason is laughable for those of us living with chronic illness. Haven’t our bodies told us time and time again that this is a lie? We can’t do it all so why do we keep trying?
Every Sunday night, I sit down to write my to-do list for the week ahead. Yes, I am one of those compulsive list makers. It makes me feel more in control and organized.
Time management and organizational experts will tell you to limit what you want to accomplish in a day to 5-7 tasks or activities. Less than five is probably not motivating enough and more than seven is not realistic. I would argue that 2-4 tasks/activities a day are adequate for those struggling with illness and fatigue.
When I looked at my to-do list last Monday morning, I counted 16 items. 16 items…seriously? That’s just nuts!
We only have so much energy to expend on any given day. If you are giving it all to other people, commitments or activities, you will have none left over for your spouse.
Make sure to reserve time and energy every day to invest in your marriage. It is a long term investment you won’t be sorry you made.
We give in to people-pleasing.
OK…I’ll admit it. I’m a recovering people-pleaser extraordinaire. I have come a long way but I still hate saying No to people. I worry that I’ll hurt their feelings or they’ll think badly of me.
My husband and I have been going through a complete purging of our house the last several months. It feels good to get rid of things we no longer use or need. I purposively saved my office for last because I knew it would be a beast to de-clutter and organize.
I procrastinated and procrastinated until my husband cornered me one day and asked for a completion date. I confidently told him April 30. I was sure I could sort through all my paper piles by then. Not surprisingly, other requests and invitations poured in to distract me – volunteer work at my daughter’s school, planning meeting for a women’s retreat, lunch out with friends, etc.
As you might suspect, April 30 rolled around and my office was far from done. By early May, my husband expressed disappointment that my office still looked as if a bomb had gone off in it. I realized that in my quest not to disappoint others, I had disappointed my husband. I subconsciously chose their needs over his.
Will others be disappointed when we say No? Yes, but occasionally disappointing others is better than consistently disappointing our spouse. Part of making our spouse a priority is sending the message that his needs matter and take precedence over every day tasks, activities, and requests.
We look to others to validate us.
When we’re disappointed with our spouse, we often look to others to validate us.
Maybe your spouse is not as empathetic as you would like him to be when you’re sick. Perhaps he is not able to express his feelings clearly. Maybe he doesn’t know how to encourage you. These are all justifications people use to seek validation elsewhere.
We can get discouraged and resentful when our spouse doesn’t meet our emotional needs. Before we know it, we start making other people and things a priority. We reason that if our friends, volunteer work, shopping, career, or kids meet our emotional needs then it’s a win-win.
Except that it’s not. When you consistently chose validation from other people or things, you slowly lose the desire to invest in your marriage. The mindset becomes “why meet your needs if you’re not meeting mine?” Why make time for you versus my friends if you’re not giving me what I need?
And so the drift begins until you find yourself not even thinking about how your schedule or decisions affect your spouse.
What if instead of waiting for your spouse to validate you, you take the first step and validate him? Find one thing every day you can appreciate, admire or respect about your spouse and then tell him.
You may just be surprised at the validation you receive in return.
Make it a point every day to prioritize your spouse and your marriage. You won’t be sorry.
In what specific ways do you (or will you) make your spouse a priority?
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