I have a bit of a reputation in our family for running out of gas. I read an article once that said gas pumps have more germs than a toilet seat. I don’t know how many germs that is, but it’s enough for me not to want to touch either one too often. So maybe it’s that. Or maybe it’s the time it takes to slowdown, stop, and fill up. Whatever it is, I don’t enjoy stopping for gas – which is why I run out of gas so often.
Some experts say you can drive your car at least 40 miles after your gas light comes on. In my “research,” I would say that is fairly accurate – some cars more, and others, less. Normal people pull over long before the light comes on and refuel. Not me.
Let’s be honest, parenting is a gas-guzzler. Moving from married to married with kids requires a lot more energy. One of the biggest reasons we often run on empty is because of self-neglect. Good parents are selfless parents. When kids come along, it is easy to get into a pattern of self-sacrifice and self-neglect that can ultimately lead to spouse-neglect. We often neglect, or set aside what we want and need for the sake of our children.
We can say goodbye to hobbies or interests we once enjoyed.
We sacrifice sleep.
Eat last, and quickly. Sitting down is optional!
We go and we give and then we do it all over again! Receiving feels like a luxury. For all of these reasons and more we can feel low on fuel quickly. It comes with the territory. Every couple knows what it feels like to run on empty. Self-neglect, if sustained, will eventually stop us in our tracks though. You can only drive on fumes for so long!
The danger of self-sacrifice and self-neglect can seem innocent or harmless at first. After all, aren’t we supposed to be good parents? But if we stay in that place for too long we begin to lose energy, life, zeal, and passion for everything else. We become so fatigued and low on fuel that everything becomes a challenge. Just the thought of a normal and simple task, like loading the dishwasher (again) feels like climbing a mountain! Tiny things, like innocent comments, set us off. When self-neglect runs its course and everything feels like a challenge, we almost always run out of energy for our marriage.
When we hit this critically low spot of self-neglect, we have nothing left to give our spouse. Our energies have been so depleted giving to others that there is little left for our spouse. We don’t have the energy to surprise our spouse anymore. We don’t pursue one another romantically like we used to. Relational intimacy is too much effort after a long day of work and parenting. We stop listening. Talking gets harder. The energy for one another is gone. Loving our spouse with kids in the house becomes an enormous task because we just don’t have much left inside of us.
Self-neglect, if sustained, eventually leads to sacrifice. The sacrifice is usually our spouse.
Sometimes it’s not always the big stuff that needs to be protected. In marriage and family, it can be hundreds of little things too – small, simple, and easy ways to refuel each other and have each other’s back.
Doing the dishes.
Taking the kids to the park.
Folding the laundry (and putting it away)!
Letting something insignificant go.
Giving our spouse a day away.
Taking out the garbage.
Offering an encouraging word.
Allowing our spouse an evening out with friends (for dinner, coffee, shopping, a movie, sports game, hobby with the guys/girls, etc.)
Giving the kids a bath.
Shoveling the driveway.
Mowing the grass.
All of these simple acts, done in grace toward one another, help fight fatigue with more fuel. They recharge and renew us when the responsibility of marriage and family becomes too much.
So what now? Well I encourage you to take an honest look (and I know it can be so hard)…but take an honest look at your marriage and your family. Where do you need to give grace to your spouse and what are some of the small (and big) ways that you can help one another, working together to carry the load? Take some time to talk it over with your spouse and put a plan in action. It will be so worth it.