“We go through food phases,” I reminisced with my husband, Ted. “Remember when we were first married and ate teriyaki chicken, rice and broccoli all the time?”
But I didn’t stop there. I added, “And we’d eat at 9 p.m. every night?”
“That was so dumb,” Ted replied — not to what we ate, but when we ate it. He didn’t elaborate, but I was confident I knew what he was thinking. Back then, we ate late because of his schedule.
The company he worked for was pretty relaxed, allowing him to set the start and end times for his workdays. As long as he put in enough hours, his boss was OK if he arrived around 10 a.m. and left about 8 or 9 p.m. So that’s what Ted did.
But while he enjoyed the flexibility and freedom, there was one casualty from it — my expectations. I grew up eating dinner around 5:30 p.m. and continued that when I moved away to attend grad school. When Ted and I married, I assumed — note the word assumed here — that we would do the same. I was sadly mistaken.
3 practical steps to marry your schedules
Eating dinner at an agreed-upon time wasn’t the only schedule challenge we struggled with as newlyweds. It turns out that marrying our schedules was a big issue for us in many areas.
In addition to our dinnertimes, we had to navigate synching our bedtimes. I was an early-to-sleep girl while Ted was a late-to-bed guy. There was also the challenge of finding a middle ground between my early-to-arrive-places nature and Ted’s always-running-late one. Even the time it took us at the grocery store was drastically different. I quickly and methodically shopped only the aisles I needed to save time, while Ted tended to meander and make more of an “experience” out of it.
Maybe you’re in a serious relationship headed toward marriage, you’re getting married soon, or you’re a newlywed. If so, let me encourage you not to wait until dinner is literally getting cold on the table to discuss and devise a plan to marry your schedules in a way you’re both comfortable.
Here’s where many might argue that living together before marriage is the perfect remedy to determine if you’re compatible schedule-wise. But we’re not called to live by what the “many” in our culture say. We’re called to live within God’s good boundaries, and when we study His Word, we see His plan is marriage first, living together second.
So where do you start when combining your schedules? Here are a few things Ted and I have learned over the last 20 years of marriage.
1. Share schedule preferences.
This fall, one of our daughters starts her first year of college. Yep, we’re that old.
As our daughter completed her housing application a few months ago, she answered questions about living with a roommate. You’re probably familiar with the type of questions she was asked, but if not, here are a few examples:
- When do you tend to go to sleep: before 11 p.m., between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., or after 2 a.m.?
- How often do you typically study: a few days, most days, or every day of the week?
- How do you typically spend your free time: alone, with one or two close friends, or socializing with many people?
You notice a common thread, right? Each question is used to determine a student’s schedule so they can be matched up with someone compatible. After all, if one of those students is you and you’re an early riser, you don’t want to room with someone who stays up until 2 a.m. playing the latest Zelda game.
I wish schedule compatibility were this easy and methodical in marriage, but it’s most often not. In many cases, God matches us with someone very different from ourselves. There’s a reason “opposites attract” is a cliché. As Ben Rector sings, “It turns out they’re mostly right. There’s a reason they’re a thing.” It certainly was true for Ted and me.
The fact that opposites attract is even more reason to intentionally talk about your schedules. And maybe you already have. Perhaps you’ve been together long enough that you’re well acquainted with the answers to these questions. But if you aren’t and haven’t talked about schedule preferences yet, now’s the time to start.
While the goal is that you’ll never feel like married “roommates,” googling “college roommate questionnaire” and asking each other the questions on it can get the conversation rolling. Then, add additional questions about what kind of schedule your family had growing up or if you’re an “always 10 minutes early” person or an “always running late” one.
2. Discuss individual expectations.
It’s not enough to talk about what your schedule preferences are. You also need to discuss your expectations. It’s one thing to say, “I like to stay up late.” It’s another to say, “I want us to stay up late together.”
Ted didn’t know my dinner expectations — until I told him. We both knew we wanted to eat dinner together, but what Ted didn’t realize was that I’d assumed (there’s that word again) that we’d eat supper before the sun set.
The person you marry can’t read your mind. “I’ve yet to meet a married couple who didn’t struggle with unspoken expectations at some point. We all do it. Every single last one of us. We expect our spouse to know just what we need, and it places an unrealistic burden on him or her and can breed resentment,” author Cindy Beall writes. “By learning to talk about expectations in your relationship, you can begin to establish a more satisfying marriage.”
As you discuss expectations, go back to your preferences. What expectation have you attached to a preference? Share those and talk through whether each expectation is reasonable. You may expect your spouse to stay up late with you, but it may not be realistic if they have to be at work early.
Beall says, “Keep in mind that what may be realistic for someone else may not be realistic for your spouse. Let’s say your father never called a repairman and fixed everything himself. Is it realistic to place that expectation on your husband, even though he may not have the knowledge, let alone the time, to complete such tasks?”
3. Create a flexible plan.
Ted and I have learned that an issue never gets genuinely resolved if we don’t create and commit to a plan to help fix it. Instead, the same problems continue to surface repeatedly without any real solution.
As far as our schedule went that first year of marriage, we ended up meeting in the middle. We talked through my preference and expectation to have Ted home earlier in the evening. He determined to be more purposeful in choosing his work hours. Then, we slowly and patiently worked toward eating somewhere between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
When it comes to creating a plan, flexibility matters. Your schedule in Year One of marriage will be very different in Year Five or Year 20. And having kids also changes your schedule — drastically. Twenty years later, Ted doesn’t have the same job he had back when we got married. Over the years, he’s had a variety of work schedules. For some jobs, he has had to be in the office by 8 a.m. Now he works from home and sets his own schedule. But because of the nature of his job, he’s on call 24/7.
Creating a mutually satisfying plan for your schedule is not one-and-done. Be prepared to go into this conversation with the understanding that schedules — like everything else in life — are subject to change.
The man who came to dinner on time
Now that Ted works from home, he’s no longer late for dinner. But he does still make grocery shopping an “experience.” When he’s been gone for a long time, I sometimes jokingly text him: Did you get lost at the store? 😉
It’s taken us decades to slowly marry our schedules, but all the work has been worth it. My hope is that it won’t take you nearly as long as it did us.
Copyright 2023 Ashleigh Slater. All rights reserved.