When I meet someone from out of the area and explain that I live and work in northeast Wisconsin, their reaction is almost always the same. First come questions about the Green Bay Packers and then come comments about the weather. Their comments almost always reflect an exaggerated false image of people in our area huddled indoors, battling snow and cold year-round. What they are usually surprised to hear is that, instead of slowing down in the winter months, my life tends to become even busier.
Whether it’s running to events at the school or parish, sports tournaments, family gatherings, etc., some days there is no rest for the weary. I find myself using the term “busy” a lot. On one such “busy” day recently, the hecticness caught up to me and I had to prioritize what I was spending my time on. This made me stop and really pray about the word “busy” and how use of time can affect a marriage and family.
We know from Genesis 1 and Psalm 104 that time was part of God’s creation and, as such, we are to be good stewards of it. There are natural separations to our day, such as morning and evening, and times we are asleep and awake, but what we fill our day with is up to us. For many people, busyness can creep upon us, and it isn’t until we’ve had several days of constant activity that we see how it is affecting us.
In an article titled, “5 Ways Busyness Is Destroying Your Marriage,” Christian blogger Bryan Stoudt outlines some very interesting effects that too much activity can have on relationships. For instance, the author mentions that busy people are often prone to neglect those around them. He outlined an interesting study in which two groups of students were asked to go to an important event across campus. One group was told they were late and had to hurry and the other group was told to take their time.
Unbeknownst to the two groups, a person pretending to be sick was put in their path. Only 10% of the busy group stopped to help the person, whereas 60% of the unhurried group stopped. The author draws the connection of this study to our relationships and states that sometimes our spouses can easily become the victims of neglect to our schedules.
There is only so much time in a day and sometimes busyness can’t be avoided. But just as all good things should have balance and order, so too should time. The author points out that busyness can have side effects that leak out and hurt ourselves and those around us.
Lack of thankfulness is one telltale sign, he writes. When we are doing too much, we can feel that things are out of control, and we feel overwhelmed. It is hard to be thankful when we are too exhausted. Another sign is grouchiness and negativity. Again, we are drained and have little left to give, including joy. A fourth side effect is lack of intimacy. The author states that real connections take time, and when there is so little time to go around, deep conversations and sweet moments together tend to go by the wayside.
The fifth and biggest effect busyness can have on your marriage and relationships is putting important issues aside. Addressing issues requires that we put the other person first and dedicate time to working things out. If that time is not available, these issues tend to build and bigger problems arise.
There are all sorts of good and wonderful things that can fill our time during a day and the remedy to busyness isn’t always as simple as slowing down. Sometimes it’s easier to take small moments during the day to stop and give time to those around you. Some simple ideas to achieve this are:
- Turn off your technology for a few moments. It creates space to be less distracted.
- Go outside. Fresh air can sometimes be a fast way to change your mindset.
- Be thankful. Shifting from an overwhelmed mindset to a positive one can help us be more joyful.
- Declutter. Things and maintenance of things can easily fill our time. Taking some of that stuff away can be very fruitful.
- Set boundaries and learn to say “no.” This can be very hard to do for many, but it is a surefire way to slow down.
Continual busyness will certainly have an adverse effect on your relationships, but intentionality and prioritizing of time can do a lot to reverse these side effects.
On these snowy days of winter, instead of running off to the next thing on your to-do list, sit back with your spouse, enjoy some hot cocoa and savor your time together. Scripture calls us to reflect on our time wisely in Ephesians 5:15-17: “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Tremblay is the marriage and life ministries director for the Diocese of Green Bay.