Question: I admit I'm a workaholic. This coming year, I want to be more involved with my wife and kids and less distracted by business concerns, but I fear I've lost the ability to jump off the treadmill and leave the rat race behind. Any suggestions?
Jim: Clearly identifying our priorities helps us gain a sense of focus, so I'd suggest that you first reflect on what (read: who) matters most to you. Short of making some major changes to your lifestyle—which may perhaps be worth considering in the long run—the key is to learn what it takes for you to shift gears, slow down and mentally change locations.
You can probably find some personal rituals to perform in order to shake off your work-based identity and leave your "office self" behind. (For instance: Set boundaries for yourself regarding after-hours work email, etc.) The goal is that when you're at home, you're fully present in the moment with your spouse and children.
When you arrive at your house each evening, I'd encourage you to first sit down with your wife and talk quietly for a few minutes before engaging with the kids or the TV. You might even go to your bedroom and change clothes, both literally and figuratively. By mentally assuming the attitude and demeanor of a loving husband and caring father, just as you would put on a comfortable old shirt, you can make yourself at home—100 percent. Concentrate on the moment and let business worries take care of themselves.
For more insights, I'd recommend the classic book "Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives" by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. If Focus on the Family can help you through the process, please call us at 1-800-A-FAMILY.
Question: My wife and I have been married 30 years, but we're growing further apart every day. All that's holding us together is our children, grandchildren and involvement in church—otherwise, we hardly communicate. What can we do to get our relationship back to what it was years ago?
JIM: Remember that love is a decision. Healthy relationships are those where both man and woman decide to love, even if neither of them necessarily feels like it at the moment. Rediscovering the bonds that originally brought you together is a process—but by taking small steps, and seizing everyday moments, you can get there.
• Start by committing to fight the negative beliefs that have built up over time. Then write a list of the things you cherish about your spouse, both when you first met and now. Read that list every day, and add to it as you can.
• Find at least one opportunity each day to compliment your wife, express gratitude and/or give her affirmation. Work toward a goal of spending 20 minutes daily just talking together—not complaining, fighting or administrating your marriage, but simply connecting.
• Become a student of your spouse. When you express genuine curiosity about what interests her, you'll discover new ways that you can nourish her—and you'll probably find that she reciprocates.
• Start dating again, preferably weekly. Invite her out, dress up, go to new places and just have fun together. Reminisce about what drew you together in the first place, and then dream together. Work on developing shared interests. My wife, Erin, and I wrote the book "Take the Date Night Challenge" to help couples get started in this pursuit.
Your marriage is worth the effort. Decide every day to make it your priority.