Tips for a Time-Starved Marriage


When couples are traveling through life at a break-neck speed, they can sometimes lose touch with each other.

In the midst of careers, church activities, children’s activities, and all the things we fill our lives with, keeping a close emotional connection with your spouse can take a back seat to other matters that seem more pressing at the time.

Les and Leslie Parrott have been there. Yes, the endearing couple may be bestselling authors and marriage counselors, but they admit that they too have fallen prey to the trap of busyness.

They are in good company. After writing numerous books on marriage and talking to many married couples, the Parrotts found that time (or the lack of it) is the number one issue in a lot of marriages. What they couldn’t find was a book that addressed this topic for couples, so they decided to write one.

Their book, Your Time-Starved Marriage, helps couples identify how they each relate to time and learn how to maximize their time together.

Many couples approach the problem of busyness thinking that it is just a season of life that they are passing through. This thought pattern isn’t helpful, the Parrotts said, because time will always be limited regardless of the stage of life they are in.

Having been married for 22 years, the Parrotts have a 3-year-old and an 8-year-old. They said they find that their busyness revolves around family activities and work. But newlyweds without children also report that the problem of busyness is just as common for them.

Because of this, couples should resist the mentality that they will wait to achieve their goals “when they retire” or “after the kids are grown.”

“Somebody said that some people spend their entire lives indefinitely preparing to live,” Les said, “and that is a trap that is easy to get caught into.”

Instead, couples should focus on capturing the time they have and making every moment of it count. The first step in this process is to identify their unique time styles.

What is Your Time Style?

Everyone relates to time differently. Knowing your time style, as well as your spouse’s, helps you relate to each other better.

“It comes down to how you answer two questions, Les said. “Do you live more in the here and now or the there and then, meaning are you more present oriented or more future oriented? And then the second question is, are you subjective or objective?”

The answers to those questions place people in one of the following four categories, or time styles.

The Dreamer is future oriented and relates to time subjectively. Dreamers are excited about the future and have a vision for what it will be.

The Planner is future oriented and relates to time objectively. Planners enjoy forming a plan and sticking to a schedule.

Get more — Free! e-book — Les & Leslie Parrott's, The Good Fight

The Accommodator is present oriented and relates to time subjectively. Accommodators enjoy going with the flow and they try to accommodate time by making room in their schedule for whatever they value right now.   The Processor is present oriented and relates to time objectively. Processors structure their time and usually have a rhythm to their schedules. They move through their day steadily and are very disciplined and punctual.

Spouses rarely have the same time style.

“Les is more future oriented; I’m more present oriented,” Leslie said. “So if we have a date night, he might want to spend it on an activity that is all about what’s going to happen a year from now, and I’m thinking, ‘Hey, let’s just go do something fun for now.’ So even when you capture time together you might not be in sync.”

Along with their new book, the Parrotts offer accompanying men’s and women’s workbooks, as well as an online Time Style Assessment test, to help readers identify their time style and then recognize how it impacts the marital relationship. Each time style has strengths and weaknesses that contribute to the dynamics in the marriage.

Can You Find the Time?

While there are many time bandits that contribute to a couple not having time to spend together, there are also several areas where couples can find time they didn’t realize they had. These “gold mines of time” as the authors describe them, offer opportunities for the couple to check in with each other and reconnect.

One such gold mine is found at meal time. In the age of fast food and drive-thru dinners, families rarely take the time to truly enjoy a meal together. It’s doesn’t have to be homemade, but a family spending time around the dinner table can produce rich conversation and emotionally reunite the couple as well as the rest of the family.

Time can also be found in the mundane activities of life if couples think creatively. Running errands can not only provide an opportunity for meaningful conversation, but they can also become miniature dates.

“We ran an errand in the last year to the DMV to get a renewed driver’s license,” Les said. “We parked the car and went in and did what we needed to do. Then we thought while we were there that there is a building across the street that has this observatory downtown in Seattle where we live. We just took 25 minutes and we went up in this old fashioned elevator and just kind of made a little mini date, because the kids were taken care of and we had parking. It wasn’t anything we planned, but we knew we could take advantage of this.”

Make Every Minute Count

There are two important minutes of a marriage to which couples should pay special attention. The first one is how they greet each other at the end of the day.

“So many times we reconnect by saying, ?Did you pick up the dry cleaning? Did you get the mail? What’s for dinner?'” Les said. “It’s kind of a shopping list approach to it. That one minute of how you connect at the end of the day, taking time for some tender touch and so forth, really can go a long way.”

“The other important minute is just before you fall asleep,” he said.

And regardless of how much time a couple may feel that they have lost through the years, they should not feel regret. It is never too late to start reconnecting at the points where they have been missing out.

“Guilt and shame do little if nothing to propel you to a productive future,” Les said, “so quit dwelling on the past and regrets of, ?I wish we would have done this.’ Use the time that you have right now.”


Copyright © 2006 2006. Used with permission.

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Michael Sweet