Setting Priorities as a Married Couple

Before getting married, it’s easy to say that our first priority in life is our partner. But years into marriage, it’s just as easy to let other responsibilities take the most of our time.

Do you know that it doesn’t take an affair to suck the life out of a marriage? Little things can add up. For example, you might spend most of your waking hours at a 40-hour-a-week job, then spend a couple more hours shuttling the children to their different school and after-school activities. Then, just when you’re about to sit down to a quiet family dinner, a friend calls up with an urgent need, and you end up counseling her for the next hour. By the time you roll into bed, you’re exhausted and looking into the face of a hopeful spouse—whom you will have to disappoint yet again.

It’s not wrong to want to fulfill your responsibilities. However, it’s important to learn how to set boundaries in order to keep our marriage vibrant and alive.

For Daniel and me, if we didn’t learn this principle, we would’ve both been swallowed alive by the myriad of responsibilities we’ve taken on. And, we truly believe we are fulfilling our life purpose when we do all these things! But we also know that it’s critical to keep our connection alive and kicking!

It’s not wrong to want to fulfill your responsibilities. However, it’s important to learn how to set boundaries in order to keep our marriage vibrant and alive.
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Top 5 Levels for Setting Priorities

In this post, we hope to share with you a principle that can help you set priorities in your daily life. We have adapted the principle of circles of intimacy into the following 5 levels to help you visualise how to arrange your time:

Level 1. Your Spouse

The innermost circle should be the most important person in your life, which we believe to be your spouse. Yes, your spouse takes precedence even over your parents or your children.

This means that, if you get a phone call from someone from a lower “level” while you are spending intentional time with your spouse, you have the liberty to let that call go to voice mail. It also means that when you are on date time, you can set expectations for your children to leave you be. Yes, it may seem impossible, but children need to know that Daddy is spending time with Mummy, and they can learn not to disturb them!

Level 2. Your Children

The next most-important persons you need to think about and take care of are your children. Many parents have the tendency to let their whole world revolve around their children, to the detriment of the marriage. This is why it’s crucial to know how to arrange the people in your life in levels of importance, and to act accordingly.

On the other extreme, it’s also important to remember that the ultimate goal of your life is not having children and taking care of them. When you take a look at the concentric circles, you will see that you still have other “circles” to take care of.

Level 3. Extended Family, Mentors, and Close Friends

After your spouse and your children, we have placed extended family and close friends. Of course, not all of us may have a good relationship with our extended family. However, in the Asian family, our parents and our spouse’s parents usually play a role in our children’s lives, and it’s just as important to recognise where they stand. Again, remember that our spouse comes first, and that also applies to how we rank their opinion.

We have counseled many couples who have unresolved conflict relating to in-laws, especially when the married couple lives with them. We believe that the principle of valuing our spouse first always holds, and that it helps us decide whose voice to listen to when it comes to important household decisions.

We also put mentors and close friends in this category because we believe that those whom we trust and who can speak into our lives are a crucial contributor to our growth as individuals.

Level 4. Work Relationships

After our immediate and extended family, our loyalty is then to our work relationships. This may refer to our boss, our colleagues, or our employees. We believe in valuing family relationships, but it’s also important to work excellently at whatever our chosen profession is, and to cultivate healthy connections related to our career.

Level 5. Other People

Lastly, we lump all other people in the final level, farthest from our heart. This imagery is meant to show you that these random friends and acquaintances generally do not have access to intimacy with us, and our responsibility towards them is likewise lower than to the other people closer to you.

Setting Boundaries Helps Preserve Marriage

Learning how to set priorities and form healthy boundaries for other people can go a long way in keeping your marriage healthy. In the first place, it lets you spend quality time with your spouse, and it also lets you prioritise each other above everyone else. Because of that, it trains you to pick and choose your battles and also prioritise what truly matters in the long run! 

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