Q. My wife and I both love our jobs. But now that we're married, it seems our relationship has taken a back seat to our busy schedules. How can we do everything and still have quality time with each other?
A. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you can't. After an exhausting day at work, you and your wife come home to negotiate dinner, dirty dishes, bills, garbage, outside maintenance, grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning. And then there's your social life, your spiritual life, and, oh yes, your love life.
So what can you do to rescue quick-fading hours? Believe it or not, one of the biggest reasons dual-worker couples have difficulty finding time to spend on their marriage is that the husband doesn't shoulder his fair share of household tasks. Evaluate who's doing what when you're home. Make a list of household chores, how long they take to do, and who does them. If you discover an imbalance in household assignments, make some changes and redistribute the housework more evenly. After all, a few hours working together leaves more time for fun together.
Another common theft of couple-time is when you extend your workday. Do you bring work home, either concretely or psychologically? The dawn of computers, fax machines, and cell phones has made it possible to work anywhere, anytime. So check it out. Is your spouse resentful of the time you spend at your computer? Are you "married to your job" instead of to your partner? If so, set limits. Determine when you'll work at home if you need to and schedule it with your partner's time in mind.
If you make it a habit to do your share of household chores and "check in" with each other after each workday to get a read on each other's day and current emotional tone, you'll do a tremendous thing for your marriage.
I Dread the Holidays
Q. Every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas our parents expect us to spend time with them. My husband and I end up in a debate over whose home we should visit. It sucks the joy right out of our holidays. What can we do?
A. Most couples, especially newlyweds, expect the holidays to be an opportunity for bringing them closer together. Unfortunately, the "happiest time of the year" often turns out to be one of the toughest. But there are practical things you can do to make this situation easier on everyone:
Admit the potential for problems. Be open with each other about the possibility of hitting turbulence. If you try to ignore it, your problem will only become bigger. So think through how things might go and how each family and your spouse might respond. Then share your different perspectives with each other.