My mornings are like pure clockwork: I wake up at exactly 6AM, grab some coffee, have 45 minutes of devotions, shower for 10 minutes, take the dogs for a 15 minute walk, play with Adelaide for 30 minutes, chat with Selena about her day for 10 minutes, leave for work at 7:50AM and start working at 8AM sharp. Every day is like that, without exception, and I love it!
Things never go as planned. I can’t tell you what my typical mornings look like except they don’t look like that. Actually, the vast majority of 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 perfectly plan? Because humans aren’t predictable and life isn’t predictable; things happen which we cannot control. Most of us know this, so we unconsciously build in margin for error.
What 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 (you’ll use them anyway)
- Setting your alarm early so you can snooze a few times if needed
- On the freeway, you don’t touch the car’s bumper in front of you as you drive, you leave plenty of space
- You have 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.
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 Margin
This one is 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 greatest doo-dads and iWhatevers but you will begin to see financial margin.
To be candid, I don’t care 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.
Downgrade however you can. Sell stuff you don’t need to pay off debts. Consider a smaller home and less expensive cars. Creating margin in your finances will help keep your larger priorities in place, which I’ll discuss below. Otherwise, we will spin our wheels trying to “get ahead” and deplete our energy and time in the process.
2: Energy Margin
As a new dad 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 Adelaide can be distracting from work when I need to get things done.
A few weeks ago I had an epiphany. I thought “Adelaide is life’s finest distraction… or on the contrary, all of life is a distraction from Adelaide.” Selena and Adelaide 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.
Question: What are some ways you and your spouse “create margin” in your lives for each other?
Encouraging Marriage Quotes and Images
Sharing openly with friends is a great way to encourage others and reinforce to yourself what you believe. Just click an image and select where to share it – the quote will be pre-populated. There are many more images to browse & share available here.
Top photo credit: Jeff Marsh