The African proverb says, “If you want to travel fast, go alone; if you want to travel far, go together”. A growing majority of single and married people are choosing the former. Are you too busy for a relationship?
I think one of the most common statements I hear when people discuss the topic of relationships, or anything really, is how busy they are. Any time I’m in an elevator somewhere, the small talk conversation is always obsessive about the level of busy-ness. “So so busy, I don’t even know how we’ll get it done”. “Busy, but good busy”. “It’s good to have lots to do”. And while I believe in living a full life, I think it’s interesting how our preoccupation with busy replaces our pursuit of other things in life.
When it comes to someone’s love life, not just their work environment, the obsession with being busy is almost the go-to line. Many people when asked about why they don’t have a man or a woman yet respond with, “Hey, I’m just too busy for a relationship”. “I’m too busy loving myself to love someone else”. “I have too much on and don’t have to meet or court anyone”.
I’ve seen and known and continue to hear of people who break off or undervalue their current relationships because of how busy their calendar has become. Wives and husbands sit at home waiting for their partner during what is supposedly free time but have to deal with such a full calendar where their spouse has no longer made room for them. Perhaps that’s how their whole relationship has been from the start.
Can you be too busy for a relationship? I think you can. It always makes wonder, is this really the right path to take?
What are you so busy doing?
I guess this is the real question I ask anyone who says they’re really busy, including myself. When I see a busy schedule I think, man, where has all my time gone? And it’s definitely worthwhile finding out.
When you say you’re busy, what do you really mean? Do you mean you literally had something on every second of every day? Do you mean that you’re out of energy from the things you have already done that week and don’t have enough energy for anything else? Do you mean that you want to keep your plans free in case something comes up?
Busy can mean so many things, but I guess we just want to make sure when we are busy, that it’s doing the right things.
You could be busy planning a big meeting. You could be busy completing an assignment or preparing for a big presentation. You could be busy checking your investment portfolio or managing your properties.
You could also be busy loving your wife or husband. You could also be physically and emotionally blocked out to anything and anyone else in order to spend time with your girlfriend or boyfriend. You could be busy putting yourself out there, meeting people, dating or courting or “catching up” with this guy you’re not really sure about, or this girl that you’ve wanted to get to know better.
A BBC article on the topic highlighted that a lot of people are less busy than they actually are. It’s usually more a feeling of pressure from being always potentially available, or always being able to jump online and finish off a few more tasks in the agenda. They also put it down to attaining one’s identity from a full time commitment over what you’re actually doing in that time. In other words, it’s an issue of priority.
I heard this illustrated really well in a relationship seminar once. The speaker said, “Who wants to come hang out with me after this?”. A few people put up their hands, but most hands remained down as everyone thought about what they wanted to do after the seminar. He then asked, “What if I gave you $500 to hang out with me after this?”. Everyone’s hand promptly went up. He asked us, “What changed? It’s the same time together. But your priority and sense of value about the time changed.”.
Really brilliant and sobering illustration, I thought.
What would it take for you to prioritize time with your wife? What would it take for your husband to get those few hours he’s been asking for? What would it take for you to make space for love to grow and develop in your life? Would they need to give you $500? Would you need to get a full Bitcoin wallet for it to be worth your while? Would you need to get acclaim and Likes and Loves and comments from the world in order for it to be worthwhile to you?
If you love this person, if you want to love a person, they have to be a priority. Granted you need to live your own life and make room for own goals, careers, hobbies and interests. But if you’re serious about having this person in your life and ensuring they know that they know that they have a special place in your heart, your calendar and your activity needs to reflect that.
Can you really not do both at the same time?
It’s always funny to me listening to a 19 year old saying “man I’m just too busy for a girlfriend or boyfriend right now, I’m at uni 16 hours a week, I’m working 20 hours a week, and I just have no time for it”. Then what happens? They reach 24, and they’re twice as busy, and still don’t have room or time. Then they turn 30, and they’re like man I’d love a relationship I just don’t have capacity for it with my career and yoga and Saturday morning climbing team and Thursday squash and Monday drinks and Sunday afternoon Netflix sesh and meal prep and bed time by 7:30pm.
I wonder why we view love and work as mutually exclusive. This is not an attitude that exists even 30 years ago. Everyone knew you could date in uni and do great in your studies. It was completely normal for people to actually be better because they had someone with them supporting through those earlier adult years preparing them for life. There was also no real conflict once you started working, especially as the average marriage age was about 8-9 years younger than it is now (in Australia anyway).
Nowadays we’re like “wow look at me I have an assignment I need to take home how can I possibly have anyone in my life while I’m doing my assignment?”. When did we suddenly feel trapped or held back if someone else was around while we were trying to get ahead in life?
Forbes published a controversial article citing a number of studies on this whole idea of career vs. love, and actually found that people get paid more, are more relaxed, feel more supported in high stress positions, and have higher levels of satisfaction when they are in a loving relationship compared to their single counterparts. This isn’t to diminish the value of single people, but it does demolish this weird idea that we got from someone somewhere (I’m still not entirely sure who or where or who thought it was right) that having someone else in your life is just going to slow you down and hold you back from being who you want to be. The research simply doesn’t back this claim up.
I think something else that really smashes people as they get older if they’ve bought into this lie is when they realize that the dating pool has thoroughly diminished while they had their head down bum up working so hard and pushing love out of their life for so long. Moreover, the longer you leave it, the longer it’ll take to get there.
If you haven’t started dating yet, how many people do you think you’ll need to date before you find someone you want to commit to? They say the average person has three to five “great loves” in their life. So let’s say you end up wanting to get married to number 4. If you started “looking and being available” at 20, and it took you 3-4 years to work through those first 3, you’re now 24 and about to start dating Mr Man Of Your Dreams, or Lady Lovely. How long will you date? Maybe a year? Maybe 2? Now you’re 26. Engaged? Engaged for how long? 6 months? A year? Wedding at 27?
Okay, so when will you arrive at that destination if you start making time for love at 25? At 30? At 35?
No, I’m not trying to prophesy over you that you’re going to have a stretched out dating process. But I am just pointing out that these things usually take more time than we acknowledge, and if you’re too busy for it now, just be aware that you may be pushing the time out to an age that you didn’t really want to be when your relational goals started being achieved.
Would that be a bad thing or a good thing? Maybe it’s not bad at all. That’d be up to you. I’m just submitting the thought for your consideration. Unless you’re going from “just met” to “happily ever after” in the span of 3 days, and you’re perfectly okay with getting married or finding love at 46 (you might be), you should factor in that there’s going to be a big time investment getting that area of your life worked out. If you start later, you’ll also probably finish later.
Be open to date nights during the week. Be open to breakfast before uni, chill out sessions around study time, late dinner out after working late. Your partner isn’t going to leave you because you had to have dinner later than 6pm, or you had some other goals in life. Generations of people for millenia have been able to do both, and have even been better for it. No reason for our generation to be any different.
Are you going to be less busy at any point?
“I feel like I haven’t seen you this week”.
“What are you talking about?”, I said. “We’re together right now and I’ve seen you 3 or 4 nights this week?”.
“Yes, but we’re on our way out to an event.”, The Lady said. “A few days ago, there were a lot of people around. That other night there was someone along with us. It hasn’t just been us”.
We had this conversation a month or two ago where The Lady and I were both in a particularly busy and emotionally draining week. Each of us had a number of commitments and social events on, as well as some extra external pressures on our emotions, and this particular week we were feeling it. Well, perhaps less so me, but I think I realized in that moment that if she felt this way, then it was my responsibility to do something about it. Usually a week like that every now and again is okay for us – we usually have at least one or two times a week where it’s only us most weeks so it usually balances out – but this week in particular the needs were greater. So that night, where one of my commitments was a bit less busy, I participated for a shorter amount of time than usual there, and arranged to leave a bit earlier so I could come back and we could spend some alone time together. It was simple and didn’t take too long, but the few hours that night were what we needed to get on the same page and for both of us to feel valued and seen.
You and your partner are a team. Or your potential partner. If one of you is feeling it, if there’s no room for you to make special, dedicated one on one time for someone in your life, you need to do something about it.
I could have done nothing about it, but I would have been sowing seeds of frustration and neglect into our relationship – something that no man or woman should ever allow to be planted or start growing in a loving relationship.
I think too many times we can have a steamroller attitude towards people. My plans my agenda my dreams. Come on woman, keep up. Come on Mister Man, stop being such a little girl and being so needy. Come on Future Spouse, be willing to be Priority Item Number 13 out of 27 items this month.
We don’t think it’s acceptable when someone lowers our priority and overlooks us. I wonder why we think it’s acceptable at times to have the same attitude towards our partner or future partner.
If you know me, you love I love the TV show The Office. There’s a really true to life moment where in the marriage of two of the characters, the strain on their togetherness is too great, largely driven by the huge time commitments the husband was making away from the family. His boss is talking to him one day about a new initiative, and the husband declines. The boss says to him, “Well, I gotta tell you, Jim, a lot of guys in my circle? They wouldn’t even change their golf schedule to shore up their marriage let alone their professional goals.”
If you love them, if you want to love them, if you want to love them, priorities. We need to be less busy to make room when required. The significant other in our lives needs our presence and not just our presents.
What about my goals?
Valid concern. I think all of us have things that we would really love to see accomplished in our lives. As someone who is quite driven myself, I definitely relate to the concern that adding an extra person to your life may alter your ability to achieve your goals.
But I think that the right way to look at it is to think about the power of partnership. When building a building, imagine if one brick thought that it was the be all and end all of the building’s construction. With just this one brick, you don’t need anything else. Imagine how stupid we would consider that brick.
And yet we have the same attitude when we think of ourselves as all that is needed to achieve greatness in life. Your part is important, but imagine how much more important and powerful it would be when coupled with someone else’s part. Or a community of people with parts. Now you’re talking serious power and reach and influence.
Look at you and your accomplishments, Mr One Brick. Look at the mighty empire you’re building on your one lonely brick. Look how much support your one brick in isolation of others can bring. Look at your hectic, obsessive busyness and how you feel like you’re too busy for a relationship, for your friends, for people, because you’re so busy building your empire of one.
Imagine if you realized the power of two.
I think we need to get over the notion that it’s all about us. That’s really what it comes down to, I think. Just me myself and I. Got nobody that I can depend on. Don’t want anyone else slowing me down.
Unfortunately that’s an attitude that needs to be consciously addressed at some point, because living that way and approaching life with that level of self obsession, you’re always going to be too busy. You’ll never have… more accurately, you’ll never make the time required to foster loving and lasting relationship with someone.
If you’re okay with that, then continue as you have. But I would submit to you if love is an important thing in your heart, if you know inside yourself that marriage is on the cards and something you don’t see yourself finishing life without, if you have a lot of love to give, then don’t be afraid to make room to give it.
And if you’re in a relationship, man, even moreso. Too many neglecting wives and husbands in our world today. Too many partners who have seen their own priorities as so much more important than their loved ones. Your husband is coming across as “too needy” in your own mind, your wife is withering away under your care, and you’re just full steam ahead doing whatever the heck you want to be doing. Be the kind of husband or the kind of wife who builds the life of their spouse and fully embraces the power of together.
The one word summary of what we’re talking about here is a simple one to hear but a difficult one to arrive at: balance. All things in their rightful place. A life that is “too busy” is usually just out of balance. For whatever reason. You’ve gotten into autopilot, you’ve been too obsessed with your own things, you have been hurt and you’re unwilling to make time or place for someone else. Whatever it is.
To live a life of love, you need balance. You need to know your priorities. You need to be willing to make adjustments when your lives change.
If you’re too busy now, consider reflecting on when you won’t be so busy any more. I think you’ll find within yourself that you currently have no plans to change that, unless you decide to change that today.
What do you think? Can you be too busy for a relationship? What would you do (or what have you done) in that boat?