Competing for Your Time
I once heard of a guy who brought his mother on his honeymoon and did not see it as a problem since she had her own room!!! Needless to say, that marriage had a rocky start and I am not sure that he and his wife are still together. I am also not sure what he thought about Genesis 2:24 where it says “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (ESV). Here the Bible is telling the man to leave the closest relationship he may have experienced at that time and start a new closer relationship with his wife to form this new thing, a family. This relationship was not to be casual but so strong and deliberate, to hold fast or stick to his wife like glue and one that even angels cannot entertain amongst themselves. A bond so strong that one facet describes the man and woman becoming one flesh.
It would be easy to find a problem with someone taking his mother on his honeymoon but overlook other areas where we violate holding fast or sticking to our spouses. Have you ever put something together using glue and the direction said to make sure the two surfaces to be glued were clean and dry? I have and when I followed the directions, typically the bond was strong. But when I did not follow directions, the bond was not as strong and sometimes came apart. Why? Because the glue was on the two surfaces and the other things or stuff that was not meant to be there. The other stuff that was not supposed to be there kept the two surfaces from sticking together completely. The other things, though small, are enough to create gaps or wedges and prevent a tight seal.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of things and people that can get in the way of couples forming a strong bond in marriage. I’ve listed six of them: Careers, Kids, Relatives, Friends, Hobbies/Sports and Ministry. When any of these six or others prevent the firm bond from forming, they are like affairs. Affairs don’t always have to have a third party sexual meaning to work against a marriage. Let me explain.
Careers can be a third wheel in a marriage especially if the marriage is under financial strain (child support and/or alimony or over extended) and the income of the career is too promising resist. The reality of the financial need and lure of added income can be so tempting that it is easy to ignore how the time spent in the career can take away from the marriage. Now grant it, time is required for any job or career but an excessive amount of time in a career takes away from the time needed to grow together. Another trap of an excessive amount of time spent in a career or preparing for a career is the time spent around others of the opposite sex. In my over 30 years in corporate America, I have seen a number of office romance ruin marriages. A person can become so engrossed in their career and not see the time taken away from their marriage.
Every parent must invest time in their children because the time invested is a part of our responsibilities as parents in the child rearing process. This process can last almost two decades with just one child!! Now imagine if during the time of child rearing that you neglected investing in your marriage or that it was at a minimal. Anything neglected for almost two decades will show. In fact it may not last for two decades. In a blended family, it is not unusual for a child to have a closer bond with a biological parent than a step parent. And it is understandable for that biological parent to spend some extra time with that child to help him or her to navigate the loss of the other parent through death or divorce. But that time spent cannot be to the long term detriment of the marriage. Because in the long run the best thing for that child is to be in a family with a strong marriage. Another aspect of how time spent with kids can be a detriment to the marriage is when one or both parents’ second job is shuttling kids from one activity to another. I don’t have time to go into this right now other than to say there needs to be a balance of the time spent shuttling your kids and investing in your marriage. Investing in your marriage is not just an event but a daily lifetime process. So sitting on the sidelines cheering your kid on is a good thing but it does not constitute a date night.
Mom and dad may mean well but 99% of the time you will probably be spending or should be spending less time with them after you say ‘I do’. This is because you have another home with another person that is now your main priority. I meant mom and dad because they represent the closest relatives for many before they got married. Even the Bible acknowledges the close parent / child relationship in Genesis 2:24 and for some it may be other relatives or even friends (talk about friends later). But also in the same verse the point is made that the man (woman) is to essentially leave that relationship with mom and dad for a new relationship with their spouse. It is not saying to abandon them but to leave that relationship as it is and forge a new relationship now with your spouse. It means the new relationship with your spouse has a higher priority than your relationship with mom and dad or whichever relative you were close to. The time spent will most likely need to change not just physically but also possibly, electronically because time does not become shorter just because it is over the phone.
Friends are important and good but they can’t take the place of your spouse. In fact, your spouse should be your best friend. And if they are not, it will not happen if you are spending too much time with your friends. How much is too much? It is definitely too much time if you are spending as much time with them as you did before you got married or if you are having as many nights out with the fellas or nights out with your girls as you have date nights with your spouse. Also, if the friends you were hanging out with before you got married are single you should look to start hanging out with those who are married like you, whether individually or as a couple. And less face time but more phone time can be just as damaging to your marriage.
Hobbies / Sports
It is good if we have activities that we enjoy and/or help us to relax. As a single, we could spend as much time as we wanted on our hobbies within reason because you did not need to share or spend time with someone else. Whether it was as a spectator or as a participant, you spent as much time as you wanted. However, some hobbies or sports can be time consuming and expensive and both can put stress on your marriage. So consider making some adjustments for the sake of your marriage. Some of you may have heard of the phase ‘football widow’. A ‘football widow’ is how some wives feel during that time of year when football season is in fully swing and the husband spends so much time watching football ( yes watching not even playing). For the wife, it is like she has lost her husband. A football season can last 4 – 6 months!!! That is a long time each year to neglect your marriage for a third party. I am not saying to pick another sport to watch but I am saying you probably need to make some adjustments, just like you want your favorite team to do when they are behind.
Just as there are ‘football widows’, there are ‘ministry widows’. This is a tough one for some ministers because they are doing ‘God’s work’. But I would say being a good husband is ‘God’s work’ also. Long before the creation of the church, God created marriage. For me, I like to say my marriage is my ministry. I like for people to see how much I love my wife, Myrna and would want to know the God I serve. Unfortunately, I have seen too many ‘ministry widows’ and heard too many pastors say they are married to their church. Which I always thought was strange since the church is the bride of Christ. Wouldn’t that mean the pastor would be trying to cut in on Christ? Unlike ‘football widows’ who just need to wait out the season, there is no season for a ‘ministry widow’, it is a constant, unrelenting position of second or third place. I am convinced if you don’t make your marriage your ministry then your ministry will become your mistress and sometimes in more ways than one.
Typically, you would not think of these people or things of causing affairs in your marriage but kept unchecked they can have the same devastating effect. It is important that we watch out for the impact of people or things on our marriages and make the needed adjustments for our marriage, for our family’s sake. Our spouse would appreciate it.