She Says: Our Marriage Takes a Back Seat to Hanging Out With the Guys
Our marriage needs to be a priority, but I feel like it takes a back seat to his free time with the guys — drinks after work on Friday, sports on Saturday. I feel as if I get the leftovers on Sunday.
He says: I want to keep my friends as well as my wife
This is what I’ve always done on weekends, and I don’t know why it should change just because we’re married. This doesn’t mean our marriage isn’t a priority — I’m home every weeknight.
It’s great that you each want to prioritize your marriage. For starters, understand what it actually is that you’re prioritizing.
At the moment you two said “I do,” you created something that wasn’t there a second earlier. Before it was just the two of you, as single persons, each taking care of “me” and, we trust, also “you.” But when you married, you didn’t just receive the sacrament of marriage, you became that “one flesh” union. (Mt 19:5) In other words, you created and promised to take care of a new, living, third being: “us.”
“Us” is something bigger than merely “me” plus “you.” Taking care of “us” means you’re each no longer ensuring that both “my needs” and “your needs” are met, but also, and more importantly, “our needs.” Your quarrel about spending time together versus your friends can illustrate this distinction.
First, know that prioritizing your marriage, and thus your “our needs,” is not a simple matter of spending as much time together as possible. For sure, time counts, but think more in terms of optimizing your time with one another rather than maximizing it. For example, husband, ask yourself: does spending an hour (or 10) away from your wife with your guy friends make you, on the whole, more or less emotionally available to her and your marriage? And think about this: How about bringing her along with you? Would that cramp your style? Be honest: is there still a “single man” lingering in you? If so, he’s not helping you nurture “us.”
There is another side to consider. In some cultures, men will spend much of their work and leisure time with other men, as will women with women, and this doesn’t necessarily make them any worse – or better – husbands, wives, fathers and mothers. There are no absolute, universal norms for optimal couple time. Every marriage is unique.
But there is this universal truth: When you get married, you create and become a part of something new and different. To prioritize it you will each have to make changes. But the good news is that if you will each put “us” before “me” you will, in the process and in the long run, meet needs you didn’t even know you had.
Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento.