If you talk to any young couple wrapping up premarital counseling, the odds are pretty good that they talked about finances and expectations surrounding time during one or two sessions. The reasoning is simple. Prior to entering into a shared life, we are used to making decisions based on our own preferences and whims. As a single person, it is my fault if the credit card bill is too high, the yard hasn’t been mowed, or there is no food in the fridge. Every action is based on an ever-changing list of priorities and singular motivations. 

Then, you get married and everything (or nearly everything) hinges on that other person…and that’s before a child ever enters the picture! So, it was no surprise that money and time issues were mentioned when we asked our Leadership Roundtable participants, many of whom are married, what challenges they are facing in their marriages today. Our Roundtable program is holistic in the sense that we want to help our participants reach their goals…and goals for work and home life are intrinsically linked. You cannot be unhappy at home or at work without the other one being affected. 

But, there was one additional element the Roundtable folks added: appreciation or credit for tasks done for the family. As it turns out, this issue turns out to be a huge source of drama for the married household. Picture this: a husband spends hours trimming the branches of a tree deep in the back of a yard thinking of the avoidance of possible hazards and the look of a tidy lawn. His wife returns from running errands and he is standing proudly, dirty and covered in leaves. She looks at him quizzically, quickly scanning the surroundings for a clue. He is thinking, how could she not notice the work I did? But it takes an emphatic explanation with pointing and peppered bits of frustration for her to recognize the achievement. Even still, she might be frustrated because of the to-do list he neglected in favor of this task that was seemingly inconsequential in her eyes. 

Friends, this exact scenario may not have played out in your home, but chances are it resonates. Time is increasingly limited as responsibilities grow and what you do with that time is often scrutinized when the to-do list is long. So, you frequently need to reset your expectations with one another and remember relationships are a game of give and take. We each carry different weights and responsibilities. Sometimes we both are going to do the same thing and get to the end goal in a completely different fashion. There is not a right way to do something but there is a different way. The husband in our story thought he was helping the household in a different way than his wife did. 

This scenario is actually a communication problem more than it is a time management problem. To mitigate the conflict that will undoubtedly arise surrounding this issue, consider three communication tactics:

  1. Communicate with your spouse when you are proud of an accomplishment. Don’t wait for them to notice. As weird as it may sound, drama arises from unmet needs and if you need your spouse to recognize your effort, you have to ask for it.
  2. Have regular conversations about your expectations about time. It is a good idea to do it prior to each weekend. Ask your spouse: “What do you hope to do this weekend–what do you hope to accomplish and what do you want to do for fun?” Clear expectations make for joyful days. 
  3. Remember you are on the same team and working toward the same goal. Sometimes, when we are frustrated, we forget and allow ourselves to be filled with anger. 

We hope you will take these tactics to heart and try them out. Let us know how they work and if you want to take it a step further, our Communication Builder program is a fantastic way to learn how to better communicate with your spouse. It includes an assessment tool and a 30 minute coaching session to talk through how to implement the results.