I’m sure many people can relate to me when I say that balancing everything in life is hard. From giving your best at work, raising and caring for children, strengthening your spiritual life, taking care of your physical and mental health, and making time for extended family and friends, it’s seems there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Then adding on top of that nurturing your marriage, it’s overwhelming to figure out how to prioritize all these important areas. So what do the two phrases, “all in” and “go big or go home”, often heard when playing a game of cards, have to do with life being busy and nurturing your marriage?
Let’s consider what I mean by “all in”. Simply, it’s giving everything you have to whatever or whomever is in front of you in the moment. Whether that’s helping your kids with their homework, tackling a project for work, spending time in prayer, or grabbing a coffee with a friend, your focus and energy are “all in”. When you’re with your spouse, the same is true. Putting the phones away and mentally detaching from whatever to-do list is running through your head, you’re showing up with and for one another. Sue Johnson, founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy, uses the acronym ARE to describe this point. As spouses, we need to be available, responsive, and engaged in order to foster a sense of safety and connection. Being “all in” in the moment with your spouse conveys they matter, they’re cared for, and they’re not alone. Multitasking can be great, but it doesn’t come without it’s costs. It can be the enemy of availability, responsiveness, and engagement, leading to disconnection and negative interactions between husband and wife.
Sometimes spouses miss the mark in their attempt to make up for their inconsistent ARE responses. They take a “go big or go home” approach to demonstrate to their partner that they love them. This might look like planning an over-the-top trip for an anniversary or birthday celebration, or holding off on planning a date night until the perfect romantic idea can be put into motion. Oftentimes what happens in these scenarios is a series of missed opportunities for connection leading up to the “big event” or a long time waiting for that big idea to come together. “Go big or go home” usually doesn’t work in relationships. What’s better than the “big” is the ARE - the consistent responses, albeit much more “small scale”, that increase and maintain connection and a feeling of being loved. It doesn’t have to be “Vegas or bust” - a simple hug every morning and setting 5 minutes aside for one another every evening can have a much bigger impact. When these small but consistent interactions are coupled with an “all in” mentality, marriages can soar.