Many married couples struggle with not having enough time for each other. They struggle with demands and distractions that pull them apart.
According to recent research at the University of Minnesota, the average couple may spend between four to five hours together each day, not counting time spent sleeping or on personal grooming. But there are couples who spend much less time together. Their marriage is pushed to the margins of their life as they react to the demands of work, parenting, and other commitments.
How Much Happier are Married Couples Together?
It’s not surprising that the same research concluded that individuals are almost twice as happy when they’re together with their spouse compared to when they are not. The researchers reviewed data from 47,000 couples and published their findings in the Journal of Marriage and Family.
Various factors impact the amount of time spouses spend together, including whether or not both are employed as wage earners, whether they have children and the ages of their children. On top of work and parents, many couples have commitments outside the home such as caring for elderly parents, supporting community organizations, or serving their faith community.
Many spouses don’t take action to prioritize their marriage until their relationship encounters a crisis. The crisis may come as a complaint, an extra-marital affair, a life-threatening health problem, or the threat of divorce. Waiting for a crisis to prioritize your marriage is a high-risk strategy. It’s like waiting until there’s storm to patch the holes in your roof.
How to Get Your Marriage Out of the Margins
If you and your spouse have allowed your marriage to be pushed into the margins of your lives, take action now.
1) Set aside time to talk.
Take fifteen minutes each to tell each other what your dreams are for your marriage. Don’t complain about the way your marriage is now, offer excuses, criticize each other or get defensive. Put your energy into describing how you would like your relationship to look, such as things you would say to each other and do together in a more satisfying marriage. Listen carefully. Take notes about what you hear each other describe, then read them to each other, making corrections until you’re each satisfied that you’ve been understood.
2) Develop a plan to make your marriage priority.
Using the notes you took about each other’s dreams for your relationship, discuss and agree on a plan of action. Choose up to three or four things you each can begin doing soon. If you get stuck on these first two steps and find yourselves unable to work together, the first step might be for both of you to visit with a marriage counselor who can help you work through your differences.
3) Put the plan on your calendar.
Whether it’s a weekly date night, walking together in the evening, or your first visit to a counselor, after you agree on a plan of action, put your action plans on your personal calendars. Adding activities to your calendar intended to improve your relationship will help you keep your marriage in focus and help you keep your marriage from getting pushed back into the margins.
4) Tell others about your plans.
Telling your children, friends, family or coworkers what you plan to do to prioritize your marriage will add another level of accountability that can help you succeed. We’re more likely to do the things we plan to do when we share our plans with others.
Get Your #Marriage Out of the Margins -- Here's How!
A version of this post also appeared on LifeZette.com.