The #4 most referenced reason Marriage Gets Messy: Misaligned Priorities.
We like to tie our priorities up with a nice neat little bow: Faith. Family. Friends. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but life has a whole lot more details to manage. It’s lived in the day to day details. Where does work or vocation fit in that scenario? Are health and education unimportant to us? Whose needs fall where in the hierarchy of “Family?”
This neat little package also assumes these are separate and distinct entities. When in reality, we do not execute our priorities in a vacuum. Every choice we make to support one area of our lives impacts all the rest.
Linear looking priorities lend themselves to being items we check off our daily “To-Do” lists.
Spend time reading God’s Word. Check.
Kiss the hubby. Check
Make breakfast and pack lunches. Check.
Get my sweat on at the Y. Check.
Have lunch with K. Check.
But, would you ever tell a friend in real crisis you couldn’t help her because you had to read your Bible first?
The Problem with Our Priorities
Most Christians say God is their first priority in life, but how often do their lives reflect that reality? I’ve done some studies that suggested I tally the number of hours (or in some cases dollars) I spend on my daily tasks and compare that to how much time I “spend with God.” Talk about the walk of shame. I am never going to spend as much time with God as I do sleeping. So, does that make sleep my #1 priority? Or, if I say my children are a priority and I devote my life to raising them right, what happens when they move away from home? Do they become less a priority?
The problem with our priorities is they are too linear, too broad, too segmented, and too static.
As we go round and round in this life, our responsibilities collide with our priorities. Sometimes the working spouse misses dinner to complete a project for the job that keeps food on the table. Children’s needs take away from the health of our bodies. A friend’s crisis might supersede date night. Eating healthy and joining a gym bump into financial goals. Caring for elderly parents takes a chunk out of the time we have for our own children or husbands. Homework, sports, dishes, and laundry cut into the sleep we need for optimal health (yeah, I like my sleep). Sometimes tasks from a lower priority take precedence.
Hope for Marriages with Misaligned Priorities
It is hard enough to live our priorities as individuals, but when we add another person to the mix with hierarchies, expectations, and interpretations of their own, it can feel downright impossible. And that doesn’t even get into how our priorities change over time – when kids come along, or with the loss of a job or retirement, illness or death of loved ones, or an out of state move.
There are only so many hours in the day, friends. So what can we do?
First, God is not a priority. Even saying He’s our first priority limits Him to a place on the list full of important things we do. Sure, you might check prayer, church attendance, and Bible Study off your “To-Do” list, but His involvement in our lives can’t stop there. His presence must permeate everything we do. We have to ask ourselves how each task on our “To-Do” list glorifies Him. He must take center stage in our lives, because He alone provides what’s necessary to live lives that honor Him.
Misaligned priorities create friction in marriage, but communication keeps things running right. Yet so often we don’t really talk about our priorities until something goes awry. When tempers flare the likelihood of having a productive discussion goes down in flames. So, I’ve created some printable worksheets to help you start a conversation about priorities with your spouse.
Download and print them off. Then grab him, some pens and highlighters, and get to work making your marriage the masterpiece God designed it to be.
God is in the center. Common priorities are in the colored boxes with one you can customize. To the left of the priority titles is a line for you to rank order each one. In the boxes, list the tasks you do under each priority. On the lines connecting the priorities to God, write the things you do for or need from Him (think fruit of the Spirit) to live that priority for His glory.
6 Steps to Minimize the Messes Misaligned Priorities Make in Marriage
Pray for God to join you in this exercise, that His wisdom would guide you in making decisions about your priorities both individually and as a couple. As you complete the next steps, consider how you can glorify God through your tasks. As you go through the worksheet write those in on the lines that connect the priority box to God.
Identify all the tasks, obligations, responsibilities you have in each area. List them out and estimate how much time each task takes. Not as a means to shame yourself, but in a realistic way that helps you see where you’re spending your time and if certain things need to be removed to make room for higher priority obligations.
Evaluate the places where you think a task listed under a lesser category might take precedence over things in a higher priority. Think hard. You certainly cannot plan for every eventuality, but evaluating some sticking points will give you the skills to properly communicate with your spouse. Highlight those tasks.
Compare lists with your spouse. Swap worksheets and, using a different color ink, have your spouse assign priorities to your tasks. Do the same on his. Notice where you assign higher or lower priority to main areas or smaller tasks. See where he thinks his sticking points might be.
Assess the friction points. Now is a good time to use those “I” statements again, but don’t bring up past problems (my kids say that’s bullying). Simply discuss the areas where you don’t seem to see eye to eye and how you might mitigate those messes in the future. The idea is to find a way to work around the friction misaligned priorities might make in your marriage by understanding the way your spouse lives his priorities. You may even discover tasks you’ve been prioritizing to please him aren’t all that important to him. This step facilitates conversation outside of crisis which is key to resolution.
Respect your husband’s judgement. Oh friends, I can’t tell you how I’ve prayed for another way to talk about this step. If we want peace in our marriages, we have to learn to submit to the authority God gave our husband’s. Express your thoughts, opinions, desires and concerns, but then yield to him for how to prioritize your time. And above all, pray for the humility of heart to accept your husband’s guidance, and for God to give him wisdom and discernment to lead your family for God’s glory.
Objective: Understanding How Our Spouses Live Their Priorities
The objective of the exercise is developing a shared understanding of what’s most important to us as a couple when we have to choose between two (or more) good things. The idea is to discover how our spouses will decide and how they’d like us to choose when we run out of time to accomplish everything on our “To-Do” Lists.
To overcome the messes misaligned priories make in marriage, pray, identify tasks, evaluate friction, compare notes, assess, and respect your husband.
Don’t miss the other posts in this series:
3. Yoked Unequally
2. Communication Breakdown
and the #1 reason marriage gets messy is because God Isn’t Invited
Linking Up With
For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne Eller, Thought Provoking Thursday, Susan B. Mead, Faith Filled Friday, Grace and Truth, Faith and Fellowship Friday, Grace and Truth Friday, Good Morning Monday, Soul Survival, Monday Musings, Rah Rah Link Up, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Wednesday, Women With Intention Wednesday, Sitting Among Friends, Testimony Tuesday, Planting Roots, and Fresh Market Friday.