"How did I miss two calls?" Susan wondered as she risked a quick glance at her cell phone during the emergency sales meeting. The school nurse had promised to call if her child got worse. Staring at the "voicemail waiting" message, Susan strategized how to gracefully exit this meeting.
The first message was from her husband, Bob, reminding her about tonight's theatre tickets. After more than three months of excuses, they were finally going on a date – alone. Susan and Bob barely had down time together anymore, and, when they did, the coordination of activities between kids, house, church and work dominated the conversation. Susan often feared that their season of intimacy as a couple had passed, though she never spoke this aloud to Bob. They both felt the strain. But Susan dared hope that tonight's date would be a turning point. At least, that had been her prayer.
The second message was the dreaded call from the school nurse. "Calvin's temperature is 101 degrees. Please call the school as soon as possible to let us know how soon you can pick him up."
Susan's own anxiety temperature rose, too, as she worried about Calvin's health, the consequences of leaving the sales meeting, how she was going address other critical work responsibilities and whether the elusive date was ever going to happen.
Bob and Susan are struggling with marital stressors that are common to dual-income homes. Like many couples in their situation, they converse less than an hour a day. Disturbingly, most of this conversation entails negotiating the activities of the next day. Nearly every aspect of their interaction is exacerbated by the physical and mental fatigue that accompanies their harried lifestyle.
Contemporary marriages lack quality and quantity time for several reasons: an endless pursuit of things, requiring money and therefore more work; busyness, disguising relationship rifts; and couples' lives running on parallel tracks. Three questions will help you discern how well time is managed in your marriage:
Susan's prayer for a "miracle" date is understandable. However, it is unlikely that a single date will reverse what has been lost. The good news, however, is that restored intimacy is within their reach as they make time the CORE of their marriage. CORE, an acrostic for a four-step intimacy-building process, resists external stressors by building the trust, respect and mutuality that characterize a healthy marriage.
While their relationship is presently strained, Bob and Susan can acquire the tools to rebuild their intimacy. As they regularly make time the CORE of their marriage, Susan will find comfort in Bob's willingness to listen to her frustrations as a working mom, her anxiety about her job performance, and her feelings of emotional isolation. As Bob and Susan will learn, protecting their marriage from external stressors is really all about time.