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It's hard to argue that society doesn't impact marriages. A busy and sometimes expensive lifestyle can spell doom for a couple's intimacy.
Lori Lowe of Marriage Gems shares sound wisdom on nurturing our marriages, despite society's standards that rail against margin. Lori's post is part of my ongoing guest blog series on things that destroy sex in marriage.
I recently read about a family's decision to leave an expensive city lifestyle and move to a rural, laid back community to reduce stress and have more time together.
It was a reminder that our lives are full of choices, and that our lifestyle is not a permanent decision.
I'm convinced the societal standards for most Americans are putting an immense strain on families and marriages; so much so, that many couples are too exhausted for physical and emotional intimacy.
For couples just getting by financially, the pressures are even greater to make ends meet, putting the marriage on the back burner.
The pressure to live in a large home filled with expensive furniture, to wear fashionable clothes, to send children to the best schools with private lessons, to take nice vacations, and to drive new cars contributes to a perceived need to work longer hours and attain promotions.
Many couples believe they can't live on one salary, even when one of the salaries is quite high.
These desires are promoted by the culture (through advertising, movies, Facebook, etc.) and lead to either debt or the need to earn more.
Families with children have to face additional societal pressures to join artistic, educational, and athletic teams and activities.
A generation ago, a baseball team would practice perhaps one day a week in addition to a weekend game. Today's sports teams often require daily practices and most of the weekend. Many kids I know practice before and after school every day, plus weekends.
Ballet, piano, swim, choir, band, soccer—the options are endless and costly, and the pressure to join starts very early. Family time suffers, and budgets are strained. Parents often divide on weekends to cover all the activities, making weekends as much work as the weekday.
Frankly, it's difficult to be in the mood when you haven't had time to connect during the week or the weekend. You're both tired and trying to catch up on household chores. There may even be resentment when one or both spouses feel they are doing more (of the childcare, of the chores, or earning the money).
If only one spouse is working, he or she may feel compelled to focus on work to fulfill the family's needs and wants. A lack of connection can develop if not enough time is spent with one's spouse and family, hurting the relationship and getting in the way of a good sex life.
Millennials are starting to pave the way with prioritizing work/life balance above climbing the corporate ladder. Building balance into our lives allows us to nurture our relationships.
There's nothing wrong with living in a nice home, driving a nice car, and taking your kids to soccer practice.
Are you willing to live in a smaller house to have more time together?
Could you drop out of some activities and have more free time together?
Is it possible to live on one salary or for one partner to go part-time?
How can you carve out time for daily/weekly connection?
When my family found ourselves spread too thin and separating for sporting activities on the weekend, we dropped my son out of the travel soccer team. Instead, we found ourselves enjoying relaxing Saturdays as a family, and able to go to church at our regular time on Sunday.
We adjusted our lives so that I could work part-time. The extra time allows me to have much of the shopping, laundry and chores done during the workday. Evenings and weekends aren't overwhelmed with these tasks.
I don’t think we have won the battle against all of society’s expectations.
One struggle we often have is the high volume of homework, studying, and projects our kids complete each night, sometimes requiring our support. The pressure to help our kids succeed is high and time consuming. This stress can also bleed into the marriage relationship and keep us from having time to relax as a couple.
Now that our children are teens/tweens, we sometimes have to force ourselves to leave them to do their work, and take time for ourselves as a couple. We go out to dinner and allow them the practice of cooking and cleaning up after themselves.
We plan for long-term goals, including trips and college, but we try not to succumb to many of the pressures that would take too much time from our marriage and family. We are blessed to have our children at home, and we also look forward to different phases of our lives.
To be successful and have a happy marriage once our children are gone, we need to make time and space for one another now. We make frequent changes to try to achieve better balance, and at least question the activities in which we are involved. Balance is a moving target.
Lori Lowe writes research-based marriage tips at MarriageGems.com. Her book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is available on Amazon.com and in all e-book formats. Lori has been married to her high school sweetheart for 20 years this fall. They live in Indianapolis with their two children.
Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.