Loving a Spouse with Too Many Commitments

There are many reasons people get too busy and over-committed.  But this article is not about the reasons why but about how to handle being married to someone who is driving you crazy by not being around enough–too preoccupied even when home.

Let’s be really honest and admit… you’ve likely been really ineffective by harping, nagging, and dismissing the reasons your spouse over-commits.  Emotional hurt often leaks out this way.  The best way to change course with your spouse is do the opposite: to admit that you’ve been negative and want to change that.  This will certainly gets your spouse’s attention!

Admitting that you really do not want to keep harping is a huge first step. Wait for their response. They may not believe you, so you may have to say it again, even more softly–and mean it when you say it!

Then you have to try to understand how your spouse feels when you nag.  This is tough–because you’ve been focusing on your own hurt.  But before you can be heard, you’ve got to give your spouse time to talk about the effect of the daggers you’ve lobbed their way and how miserable that experience has been.

Since you’ve asked for this feedback, you can’t be defensive here.   Let them know that you get that it’s been hard to feel criticized for not being available when they already feel overloaded.

The psychology of over-committing is that many people are not self-aware about whey they put some much stress and pressure on themselves.  In truth, they usually do want to spend more quality time with their spouse and family, but they feel boxed in and defensive.  If approached in an open,understanding way, with an admission of fault on your own part, they almost always can say “YES, I really do want to spend more time with you.”

If you don’t get the “yes” the first time, don’t worry. You may need to “rinse and repeat” a few times before your spouse believes you.

When you get that “Yes, I want to spend more time with you,”  gently walk into what that means to them and what is the least stressful way to begin to have a time on their busy calendar. Be sure to say you really want them to feel excited and not drained by whatever you do, and be prepared for slight disappointment if you wanted dinner and a live theater date, and all they have in their weary bones is a nice meal out. Things will improve as they experience positive time with you away from other commitments.

Don’t use this time to defend yourself if the conversation doesn’t go well.  You are already “on record” as unhappy with feeling neglected, so  you don’t have to bring that up as the reason you’ve be negative in the past.  Just say you’re sorry and want to be more positive in the future.  Again, that always softens the other person.

A lot may come out of these conversations.  You may learn that they don’t feel they can have down time before the house is clean, and that always become an exhausting barrier.   Or that there is one more homework assignment with the child,  or a sick friend to finish that quilt for, or a work project that could take every available hour in the day, which means that committing to a time with you feels like missing a deadline.  Just listen and be sympathetic.

For now, your only goal is to try to understand in, new ways, exactly what goes on in their head and to APOLOGIZE for being a nag and causing them more stress.  Here’s the payoff:  this will almost always elicit an apology of the other person for their side of the problem.

You’ve lacked leverage for change in the past–complaining hasn’t gotten you anywhere.  Sticking with understanding and an apology can hit the reset button and improve your chances of moving things in a better direction.

If you want to dive deeper but your spouse just can’t make the time or effort right now, you’re in luck. A very experiential, self-help oriented marriage counseling for one program can make you a happier person while also improving your marriage. Check it out now.