“Leave work at work” is an easy thing to say when we ask ourselves how to balance work and marriage. But more and more, it becomes second nature to bring work home.
Many of us have jobs that don’t allow us to work 9-5 and then just leave everything at the office. If we don’t work remotely, we have our email attached to our phones. We have to grade papers when we get home. We travel on the weekends.
Work was something God ordained from before the fall into sin. Adam was commanded to name the animals and care for the garden before Eve had even been created. It’s no coincidence that Adam was not completely fulfilled in his work. I always wonder if the reason that God didn’t create Adam and Eve together was because He wanted to show Adam how much more valuable He intended our relationships to be than our jobs.
And still, it seems that ever since the fall, we find it easier and easier to prioritize our work first–even when we have already said our vows to another. I know it’s easy for Austin and me to do, so I am positive that we are not the only ones.
1. Set intentional margin.
As a writer, I have a couple of serious pet peeves. Compound sentences without commas and notebook paper with writing all up in the margin. Not that we use notebook paper much anymore (now that our world has been overtaken by computers), but ride with me. Margins are created to keep our writing legible. When words fill every bit of the page, it is harder to understand. Our attention is drawn everywhere but the center where the words are supposed to lie.
The same goes for our marriages. When we fill every minute of our twenty-four hours with something–working, answering emails, putting in those after hours to get ahead–we neglect the center point of our lives here on earth.
So start by creating some margin. Create space to get back to the basics. Make Thursdays your date night. Turn off your email every Saturday without question. Set an alarm on your phone that determines when you will leave the office.
And if your schedule changes week to week, choose what that margin might be every Sunday night or Monday morning. Just pick some time to spend with one another, distraction-free.
Take advantage of the time you have.
There are certain weeks of the year that Austin’s job gets crazier than others. As a teacher and a coach, it is not abnormal for him to be at work 11 hours every weekday and gone on the weekends. The good news is that he also gets summers off and regular vacations throughout the year. So you better bet that we take advantage of those days.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. It often looks like watching our shows in Marathon style and going to get ice cream after dinner. The important thing is that the time is set aside as ours. Then when the busy seasons come, we can hunker down, and look forward to the next pocket of time we have to just focus on one another.
Turn the technology off.
Perhaps one of the reasons it has become so hard to leave work at work is because technology allows it to come home with us in ways we never imagined.
I can be the first one to say this because I work from home. My office is located in the back of our little 1000 square foot home (or sometimes on our living room couch). The computer I use to post facebook pictures is the same computer that I turn in editing assignments and write on this blog. My email is connected to my cell phone, and I get notified of all the important things I need to know.
I am beyond grateful for the technology that allows me to work from home. It gives me much more time to love and serve my husband, and I get to spend all day cuddling with my dog. Even so, without creating some boundaries, I find myself editing after dinner when I am supposed to be talking to Austin about his day. Nine times out of ten, the email can wait until the morning. The project will get done tomorrow if I just focus all my energy on it when my husband is at work.
I am teaching myself to close my computer. Turn off the notifications on my email. Choose to leave my phone in the other room when it is time for my man.
Let your spouse be the first person to get your attention each day.
I hate getting halfway through the day and thinking, man, I haven’t seen Austin today at all. Maybe I’ve “seen him,” passing like ships in the morning. Or turning over in bed for a goodbye kiss before the sun has completely peeked out yet. But I haven’t spent any time with him yet.
Create a schedule that gets you up at the same time (if at all possible). Sit down together for breakfast. Go on your morning run together.
When I start my day with my husband–even if it’s just ten or fifteen minutes–it somehow feels like I spent a huge chunk of my time with him. I carry him into my work, and I remember who I am closing the computer for in the afternoon.
Get in your Word together.
This may seem a little out of place.
There is something about studying the Word of God with someone that intensifies your intimacy. There’s a reason that so many who are close to God prioritize spending time with Him as the first thing of our days. It centers us on Him, His will, and His glory.
So why shouldn’t that be the first thing we prioritize in our marriages? When we say vows, we aren’t just committing to live together in the same house and not cheat on each other. We are committing to deep, spiritual and emotional intimacy. Our faiths should not only be individual but intertwined. We should know one another’s convictions and frustrations, joys and hopes.
When our first priority is to be one with each other and in the Word, everything else will become music in the background, guiding us as we dance through life but not our partner.
Work is good. It is what God ordained Adam to do in the garden of Eden and it will continue to be part of each of our stories until He says otherwise. He blesses us with the fruits of our labors, but those blessings will fade away if we forget our first and foremost ministry, our marriages.
Adam was not fulfilled in His work alone. He was given for a partner to do life with. Let us prioritize our relationships first so that we can enjoy our work all the more.