5 Ways Busyness Is Destroying Your Marriage | Bryan Stoudt
couple on phones on park bench busyness is destroying your marriage

5 Ways Busyness Is Destroying Your Marriage

Let me start by asking you a tough question. How connected do you feel to your spouse?

It may take you a few minutes to answer, but be honest. Really honest. Because your response could be the start of a much-needed awakening, or a serious missed opportunity. 

Truth is, for most of us busyness is hurting our marriage

How Busyness Snuck Up On Me & My Marriage

It was certainly hurting mine.

I had no idea how tired I was. Until I stopped.

Twenty years in, I'm finally taking a sabbatical that my ministry was kind enough to grant. (If you're thinking, 'I wish  could take a sabbatical, but whatever,' stay with me.) 

One night, as my wife and I met with our care team (people who encourage and hold us accountable during the sabbatical), they asked me a simple, poignant question:

'How are you doing?'

I knew they meant it. 

As I started to respond, all of a sudden I started crying quietly. (Since I cry about 1.27 times per year, this was highly unusual.) 

I didn't really know why, and Sharon (my wife) just held me. 

After I regained my composure, I just started talking. (Rambling, really.) Pretty soon, I figured out I was just so tired from going-going-going - for years - that I had no emotional reserves left. Now that I didn't have to keep it together, I couldn't.

Busyness had slowly crept up on me. And, even though our marriage was still good, we definitely felt it there, too. 

There's Hope For Your Busy Life And Marriage

But this post isn't about me. It's about you, and what God is up to in your life and marriage. 

I know I'm not the only one who's exhausted. Some of you are already there, or have at least boarded the plane.

And like me, you may not even know it - even if you feel fine today. And even if your marriage is in a great space, it takes serious, persistent effort to keep it that way.

The good news is that, no matter where you are, there's hope. For you, and your marriage. You don't have to just keep swimming, and maintain a crazy-busy calendar.

(Not-so-side note: even if you're not married yet, this applies to you. Now is the time to start stepping back and setting good patterns.)

I'm not saying you can just wave a magic wand over your entire life and feel like you're on an endless vacation. 

Maybe you're just starting a business. Or, in an intense grad program. Perhaps you've got younger kids, or are dealing with unexpected health problems.

But we all have some choices. Agency - response-ability - that God has given us. He wants us to partner with him instead of just drifting through our days.

You can step back, pray and think with intention, and live life on purpose. A life that's full, but sane, and built around God's plans instead of whatever comes across your plate.

2 Steps Toward A More Intentional, Connected Marriage

This post is the first in a two-part series designed to help you do exactly that. 

Here's our roadmap:

  1. Five enormous costs of not slowing down on your relationship. (With a quick assessment to help you figure out the costs for your relationship in particular.)
  2. A practical, flexible approach that will help you slow down and pursue intimacy in your relationship

By the end, you'll know where your relationship is vulnerable, and how to start addressing it so you can get unstuck and move toward a healthy relationship that honors God and brings you joy.

5 Ways Busyness Is Destroying Your Marriage

Before we talk about how you can slow down and be more intentional in your marriage, let's start with the bad news.

After all, if we don't recognize what our busyness is costing us, we'll never find the motivation to do the hard work of change. And paring down our schedules.

Let's take a look at five (often sneaky) ways our busyness is hurting us and our marriages. 

1. We neglect the people around us.

In a helpful post, Dr. John Day shares about an important study Princeton University researchers conducted on the effects of busyness on our compassion for others. They divided seminary students into two groups, and assigned both to give an impromptu speech on the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The first ('busy') group was told they were already late for their speech at the other end of campus, while the second ('unhurried') group was told to take their time. But - here's where it gets interesting - unbeknownst to the students, the researchers placed a 'dying' victim en route to their speech. Just 10% of the 'busy' group stopped to help the 'dying' victim, while over six times as many from the 'unhurried' group lent a hand. While busyness is one of many factors, clearly it tempts us to grow cold toward the people around us. When we take on too much, we rush around and start to neglect our spouse in favor of the next urgent commitment. Slowly, our relationship becomes the victim.

2. Our marriage lacks intimacy. 

Remember when you first started dating? The times you had fun no matter what you were doing, and conversation flowed like milk and honey? (In college, my wife and I talked for six hours straight more than once! If there were Fitbit devices for words...) Real connection requires time, but reminds us why we fell in love in the first place. Whether it's a deep conversation, or just watching a movie together, connection leads to joy and creates the trust and reassurance that helps us weather the annoyances and storms of daily life. Hurry and living without margin does the opposite.

3. We become grouchy and negative. 

When we overstuff our lives and disrespect our need for white space, we become disgruntled and glass-half-empty. Our times with God slip or become token, and we forget that he is our 'ever present help in times of trouble' (Psalm 46:1). We start to feel like we're on our own, and hope trying harder will - somehow - serve as an adequate tourniquet. But, because we're not God, that only produces more exhaustion and irritability. 

4. We stop being thankful. 

The bible has a ton to say about being thankful. It's the only natural response to all that God has done - and is doing - to rescue us. But when we overextend ourselves, we tend to feel that life is out of control, we can't handle it, and the sky is going to fall. It can feel like there's nothing to truly give thanks for. This is draining not only for us, but for our spouse, too. 

5. We put important issues in our relationship aside. 

Most of us don't love conflict, but healthy conflict is essential for our marriages to be the tools of sanctification God intends them to be. But when we're overly busy, it's hard to find the time or energy to deal with unpleasant topics. Things like ongoing patterns of sin that are producing resentment in us or our spouse. It's easier to follow our routines, even though we know a bad harvest is coming at some point.

As the Parable of the Good Samaritan reminds us, it's not enough to merely see others' needs. God calls us to actively meet the needs we notice.

Click to Tweet

Self-Assessment: How Is Busyness Hurting Your Marriage?

Let's pause for a moment. How is busyness hurting your marriage?

Use this simple checklist and do a quick self-assessment.  Where do you see...

  • neglect - Where might you be neglecting the needs of your spouse? As the Parable of the Good Samaritan reminds us, it's not enough to merely see (observe) their needs. God calls us to actively meet the needs we notice.
  • disconnect - To what extent is busyness contributing to a sense of distance between you and your husband or wife? Between you and the Lord? 
  • a negative, complaining spirit - What patterns of complaining or discontentment can you identify in your life? (This is a big one for me.) 
  • ingratitude - What blessings have you received from your spouse, but failed to acknowledge? Where have you missed God's blessings?
  • a failure to address critical issues - Where are you neglecting to deal with important issues or patterns in your relationship? Take a moment and push yourself to name them specifically.

Don't worry about being exhaustive, and don't let this get overwhelming. The idea is to prayerfully ask God to show you how busyness has let these (or other) issues quietly creep into your life. And, to actually care. Because the importance of intimacy in marriage cannot be overstated.

You may also want to take a moment and jot down whatever God shows you so you can return to it later. 

Congratulations

Nice job. You did it. If you slowed down long enough to do the self-assessment, you started practicing the kind of intentional, slower work that will make a huge difference for you and your relationship.

Your reward: you have at least an initial, basic sense for how your busyness is impacting your marriage. 

Next time, I'll share a simple, flexible approach you can take to start addressing the challenges you've identified, and pursue intimacy in your relationship. Without telling you to stop doing half of what you're doing, or, pretending that it's easy. [Update: you can read the second post right here.]

Excited to be on this journey with you!

Your Turn

It's easier to grow when we share with each other. What's one big way busyness is impacting your relationship?

Let us know by dropping a comment below.

(I'll go first. God has been showing me that my (felt) need to do more and be efficient has created a huge sense of hurry in my life. I become so focused on executing my next priority that I don't slow down and connect with my wife as much as I should. This has prevented us from developing some of the deep intimacy that we both ultimately want.)


Help me help others by sharing!
  • Perfectionism drives my busyness. As a servant of the Lord held to real, perceived, and honestly at times imagined perfectionist standards and ministry goals, I need to be regularly reminded by the Father, the Word, the Spirit, and partners in ministry that my identity is in Christ alone as a child of God. A recent Sabbatical drove home the point that if I do not rest in the Good Shepherd, it is very hard to extend the caring / healing touch of Christ to one’s “sheep” (in the home, ministry, and larger community).

    Seeking to prove oneself through busyness (as the seminary illustration brings home) is one way in which relationships and ministry can turn disturbingly “corporate,” missing what is in plain sight.

    In response to deep conviction, I dug into and chose not to miss out on my children’s journey through Jr. High, High School, and College. This came at a cost, but the decision expressed a deep love to my wife and children. This is a witness of the Gospel in the home and to others. Each day throughout the day, I recommit to Lord’s call. Over the course of the past several years I have grown closer to the Lord, my wife, my children, and those whom I serve in ministry. To God be the glory!

    • Bryan Stoudt says:

      Hey Tom, thanks for taking the time to share a really thoughtful, honest comment. I agree that perfectionism is such a common driver of our busyness, and that resting in the Good Shepherd is so key to offer Christ to the people around us.

      It’s really encouraging to hear that, not only in theory, but based on your own experience, it’s possible to be less driven and reap the rewards of that on all the important levels of our lives.

  • >