My husband and I frequently get text messages, phone calls, face-to-face questions asking for a commitment to this event or that get-together. When can we meet? Can you attend this? Would you like to join us for that? Can your kids go to this?
So often there is a press to make the decision right now. With calendars on our smart phones, families constantly going ten gazillion different directions, and a society inclined to fill every second with something, it is counter-cultural to respond by saying that we cannot commit to something without stepping back and discussing it as a family – or, at the very least, as a couple.
May I suggest that it is okay, and even advisable, to be counter-cultural when it comes to your commitments (among other things!)? Whether we are committing time, finances, energy, or other resources, being together in commitments is a critical foundation for marriage. Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot to be unified when making commitments. It simply takes intentional consideration.
We all know that children crave boundaries, whether they admit it or not. They might push them or even defy them, but there is comfort in knowing those boundaries are there. They know what to expect and when to expect it when the boundaries are set and affirmed through both positive and negative discipline.
Commitments are no different. When a couple sets boundaries, they provide a security for their marriage and their whole family. Is a daily or weekly family dinner important? Set boundaries around it and establish clear guidelines regarding a handful of interruptions that can automatically override the established family meal. This doesn’t mean that everything else is automatically trumped by family dinner, but it does mean that anything outside the agreed-upon interruptions must be discussed before a decision is made.
The same would go for date night, a family sabbath, or other regularly established routines. By setting and then protecting your boundaries, the whole family automatically knows what outside commitments must automatically be turned down.
Are you an extrovert married to an introvert? Or a night owl married to an early bird? If you and your spouse differ in your social personalities, balance is a huge deal. Just as you need a recharge on one end of the spectrum, your spouse needs it on the other. Even if you have similar personality inclinations, commit to being mindful of each other’s needs. Be willing to sacrifice for one another, but also be open about your needs. If one of you is constantly being fueled while the other is being drained, your relationship will not be healthy.
Of course, it’s important to also be mindful of the rest of the family, realizing that it’s not just Mom and Dad’s personalities and needs at stake. Consider in advance when it’s okay to divide and conquer and when the whole family needs to stay together. When can the decision be automatically made by one member of the family and when does a discussion need to be had?
There will still be times – many times, I’m sure! – when opportunities or obligations arise that do not fit neatly into the plan, even when boundaries are set and personalities are taken into consideration. We all know how important it is to communicate openly and well with one another. But sometimes we have to make decisions before we have a chance to discuss or communicate.
The best way to handle decisions like these is by being prepared beforehand.
- Have a weekly calendar date. Discuss the upcoming week in detail, but also discuss any adjustments that have been made for the current month and the upcoming month. This will reduce the chances of double-booking or overloading the schedule.
- Communicate potential commitments. Do you know that your parents are looking to plan something, but don’t have a date yet? Maybe some friends want to find a time to get together or a group you are involved in will need extra meeting times to complete a project. Go ahead and put those things on your spouse’s radar.
- Set a “maxed out” guideline. Like with your boundaries, communicating this in advance, you know when you must say no to avoid overcommitting.
- Determine in advance how often you will go separate ways. You don’t have to do everything together, nor do you want to divide and conquer all the time. Decide in advance what thr balance looks like for your marriage and for your family as a whole.
Once a decision is made, be quick to inform him of your choice. Establish a foundation of trust that gives him confidence in your decision-making process. And offer him the same trust.