Things never go as planned. I have an idea of where I’d like my days to go, but the only predictable thing about life is that it’s unpredictable. The vast majority of my life feels like I’m just along for the ride and the driver could care less where I think we should go.
Why is life so hard to plan perfectly? Because things happen which we cannot control. Most of us know this, so we unconsciously build in margin for error.
What exactly is margin?
Margin is the extra room you need to allow for unpredictable outcomes. It’s a reserve of sorts, storing whatever it is might need more of. A few examples of margin:
- Leaving early for an appointment (in case there’s traffic)
- Grabbing a dozen eggs at the store though you think you probably have enough
- Setting your alarm early so you can snooze a few times if needed
- Leaving room between your car and the car in front of you on the freeway
- Putting money into a savings account in case of an emergency
- Businesses use margin to create profit and allow for operating expenses
You get the point. Margin is necessary because you can’t know or control every outcome, despite how hard some of us try. Margin is intuitive in some regards (like the freeway example above), but other times we must consciously build in margin for our own good. Marriage is at the top of that list…
3 Types of Margin You Need in Your Marriage
Marriage is a good place to build in margin on purpose since it doesn’t always come automatically. We must leave room in marriage for our humanity – our unpredictability. Leaving margin allows us to really deal with life together and have the patience with each other to do it in a healthy way. Here are some common areas where we all need margin and some tips on how to make extra room:
1: Financial/Money Margin
This one’s first because to me, it’s the most obvious. Financial arguments are one of the greatest stressors on modern marriages.
Consumer debt is rampant. More people are in debt than in any other era. Marketers pay big money to put their products in front of you and creditors are standing by to loan you whatever money you need to purchase them (how many credit card offers have you received in the mail this week alone?).
We live in a consumer culture. It’s easy to max out our finances unless you make a conscious effort to hold back. If you do, you may not have the latest gadgets and iWhatevers but you will begin to see financial margin.
To be candid, I don’t know enough about financial planning to give further advice. But I do care about marriages; and financial stewardship is a big marriage problem for most. This could be a whole blog post in itself, but I will say this: if you feel financially maxed out, you need more margin.
How can you create more financial margin? Downgrade however you can. Sell stuff you don’t need to pay off debts. Consider a smaller home and less expensive cars. All of these methods are drastic… but that’s what’s needed for lasting change. Creating margin in your finances will help keep your larger priorities in place, which I’ll discuss below.
2: Energy Margin
As a father of two girls I’m learning the importance of energy margin. After I’ve been working all day, I want some down time. This is especially true when I’ve had a very tiring day. Furthermore, since I’m self-employed, I feel like Selena and the girls can be distracting from work when I need to get things done.
A few weeks ago I had an epiphany. I thought “My family is life’s finest distraction… or on the contrary, all of life is a distraction from my family.” Selena and our girls are THE most important people in my life (other than Jesus of course!), everyone else comes somewhere after them. Period.
We must save energy for our families; they should always get our best. One area of conviction for us is TV watching. We have Netflix, and it’s just horrible… you can literally spend hours doing nothing meaningful and not even realize it. This meant we would be mental zombies at night and sometimes in the mornings if we’re up later than is healthy.
Creating energy margin is about doing things that add energy to your life/family. Get out and do fun things together! Get up early to catch a sunrise or go fishing together. You may be physically tired at the end of the day, but your energy margin at home will explode.
3: Time Margin
Busy busy busy. Everyone is busy. Doing what? Career, activities, getting ahead, meeting goals, accomplishing things, ministry/church, etc. God didn’t create us for a life of leisure just like he didn’t create us to be busy every second of every day. We must make time for our marriage!
Time is the great equalizer: everyone has the same amount of time. The difference lies in how you spend your time. If you’re getting home too late or spending too much time away from your spouse/family, you’re too busy. You need more time margin. You know what this means for you given your specific needs…
The easiest way to make more time for your marriage is to learn one simple word: no. Learn how to say no to things that aren’t meaningful in order to say yes to things that matter: family, your spouse, and most importantly, God.
In All Things, Balance
This is not an exhaustive guide to properly prioritizing your life, but rather just some thoughts to get you started toward creating more margin. We are far from perfect in what I’ve discussed above. In fact, everything I’ve written is being directed right back at myself as I type; and I feel convicted.
The main thing is to use wisdom in your choices. Matthew 6:21 reads, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” At its core, this verse is about wisdom in where you invest your treasure, time, and talent. Ultimately it’s a call to invest in God’s kingdom, and investing in your marriage, I would argue, certainly falls into that category.