Q: I feel as if I'm the lowest priority on my spouse’s "to do" list. What can I do to change this?
A: Do you relate to this story?
"I've come to realize that Satan doesn't have to make us sin, all he's got to do is keep us busy. When our lives are so busy that we're going from early morning to late at night, there is so much noise and so many activities that we are not able to discern or hear the voice of God. We drift apart from our spouse, and yet we try to say that we're doing it all for her or for our families. But when we are gone all the time, what good is it? That's why we've got to reprioritize some things in our lives. We all sense it down deep. But it's a constant struggle."
We often hear from people who feel as if they just aren't a priority in their spouse’s life. Often it's the wife who feels that way, battling for priority against her husband's job, board memberships, organizations, church activities, and so forth. However, more and more we find men feeling that their wife just doesn't have time for them either. Clearly this is a problem that needs to be dealt with in today's marriages. When we hear these kind of stories, we recognize that the spouse’s busyness often goes much deeper.
So, think about your spouse for a moment. List all the activities he or she is involved in and how much time their activities take. Then ask yourself if you think your spouse is trying to fulfill a need to feel significant in the workplace, significant in those organizations, significant in the community. If it's not significance, maybe its performance. Does he or she feel the need to achieve?
Ask those questions, because excessive busyness can be a sign of a deeper problem. Your spouse may have grown up in a family where, in order to be significant and accepted, he or she had to perform well. Whether it was sports or grades or something else, your spouse may have felt from early in life that he or she needed to always be doing something, and doing it with everything he or she had. Only then would there be love and acceptance.
When we researched our book The Five Love Needs of Men and Women, we talk to people all around the country. We ask the questions, "What do you need from your spouse in order to feel loved? What do you need in order to have a great marriage?"
The number one thing we learned – from men and women alike – was that they desired unconditional love and acceptance above all else. Some people never received unconditional love and acceptance as they grew up. So they entered marriage with that emptiness.
The next question is tougher: Does your spouse experience unconditional love from you? Does he or she receive love no matter what?
Begin there. Begin by lavishing your love on your spouse – regardless of his or her overcommitments – even through all the board meetings and other activities. As you build trust, you can begin to discuss your desire for more time with your spouse. Be honest. Be sincere. Be loving.
This post is an excerpt from our book, The Great Marriage Q&A Book.