We live in a culture that wants to put warning labels on everything.
WARNING: Sugary beverages, although tasty and satisfying, may lead to obesity and diabetes if used with reckless abandon.
WARNING: The things that Curious George does on his show may be okay for a monkey, but probably not for you.
WARNING: Someone within a 14-mile radius of this location has a minor mango allergy, so please immediately report anyone you see who may appear to be enjoying said fruit.
And yet, despite it slipping away before our very eyes, there are no warning labels attached to the plethora of seemingly innocuous things that can actually land a marriage in hot water.
These types of things have always existed in one way or another, and they all point us to one very important reminder:
It is not okay to only give your spouse "leftover time."
Leftover Time is that five to ten minutes as you lay in bed and drift off to sleep, that quick moment before you head out the door, that five minute chat you can squeeze in right before a meeting.
While it is nice and loving to check in with your spouse at all of those moments, if that ends up being the extent of the time you dedicate to focusing on each other and your marriage, things are going to get real bad, real fast.
The problem is, the struggle to avoid this trap is real!
When you have to wake up early to slam breakfast and race out the door to get a head start on the morning commute, when you have to struggle after work with the dinner/bath/bedtime routine and it ends up taking longer than you ever could have imagined, when there are dishes to do, toys to put away, clothes to fold, and emails to respond to, and (perhaps the most insidious) when you have shows waiting to be watched on Netflix, the temptation to leave only the leftover time for your spouse can often seem overwhelming.
After all, getting to work on time, taking good care of the kids, cleaning up the house, and relaxing with some entertainment before bed are all good things!
The problem seeps into our lives when these good things are allowed to take precedence over THE thing that should be your focus: your spouse.
Spending quality time with your spouse is the key to staying close, feeling loved, giving love, and supporting each other. We can never let our job, our children, our desire to relax, or any of our other responsibilities overshadow THE responsibility:
Getting our spouse to heaven by loving them the way that God loves all of us.
It can be a great struggle to maintain our focus on what is really important, especially when that next episode of Parks and Recreation is just waiting to be watched. And yet, when we fail to intentionally put quality time with our spouse on the top of our list of priorities each and every day, we can start to feel that creeping coldness that comes with growing apart, even just a little.
So, I think it's worth it to take a moment, do a little reality check, and think of some ideas on how to avoid this trap.
1. Kiss your spouse right when you come home from work
2. Talk directly to your wife at the dinner table, even though the kids are sitting right there screaming for your attention
3. Share a cup of tea (or, more preferably, a margarita) after the kids go to bed to help foster just hanging out and talking with each other (like the good ol' days)
These are obviously just simple ideas for starters, but if any plan for my happiness involves kissing, dinner, and margaritas, I'm in.
And I hope you are too.
Copyright 2015 Tommy Tighe.
Image copyright 2015 Tommy Tighe. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Tommy is a Catholic husband, father of four boys, and the author of The Catholic Hipster Handbook (available now!).