I have an opportunity to attend a Bible class; should I go?
My husband has an opportunity to teach as adjunct faculty at a local college; should he commit?
I have a job opportunity; should I accept it?
Important questions! But the most important – and elusive – question is this: How do these decisions affect connection in our marriage?
Economics includes a fascinating principle: opportunity cost. It’s the idea that everything comes at the cost of something else. It has huge applications for financial decisions – a dollar spent here cannot be spent there – but it also applies to how we spend our time.
If I shop, I don’t do laundry.
If I go to the YMCA, I don’t rake leaves.
We live in finiteness. We have limited resources. We spend them one place and they are no longer available to spend in another place. When we spend our time one way, that time is no longer available to spend another way.
Time pressure follows ignoring opportunity cost
Marriages are stressed by time pressure. Fatigue compounds that stress. We need to connect, but we are tired and busy, overloaded and behind. Our hearts cry out for connection but we struggle for time to connect at more than a superficial level.
Time pressure logically follows ignoring opportunity cost. Each invitation to commit must be carefully considered in light of what it will “cost.”
Some invitations are wonderful! Bible classes, college teaching, or a great job may be exactly what God is offering. If He leads, we accept! But the question remains: What will those opportunities replace?
If I attend the Bible class, what will I not do? How will it impact my spouse? How will it impact our connection? What effects should I consider?
Attending the Bible class will require three hours per week of my time. What would I have done with those three hours? That is the opportunity cost of time.
If I would have mowed the grass, does that mean my spouse now needs to mow the grass? If he does, then what does that replace for him? Would he have been paying bills? If he has to pay bills later, maybe that comes out of time when we would have taken a walk together to talk and connect deeply at the heart. In this sequence, my choosing to add a wonderful activity to our joint schedule may ultimately impact my connection with my husband.
This is difficult to grasp and even more difficult to implement.
If we don’t consider the opportunity cost, we are prone to overload. Our times of connection suffer. Sometimes the opportunity cost for one more commitment is simply margin in our lives. We need that wiggle room to be spontaneous or to respond to an emergency or to plan something fun to do together.
My husband and I live in beautiful northern lower Michigan where kayaking is popular. But we know several couples who own kayaks and do well to get out on the water even once during the summer. My guess is that when they added their own “one more thing” to their joint schedule, they didn’t look at the sequence of opportunity costs that would result in missing this refreshing activity together.
My husband is a pastor. We have also owned a Christian bookstore in a mall. We confess we are intimately acquainted with being overloaded! We have both been prone to commit without seriously considering what that commitment will replace. It is hard.
Those examples at the beginning were real for us. Over the past few months, my husband agreed to teach three college classes as adjunct faculty in addition to his full-time work as a pastor. It was a great opportunity for direct ministry. Two of the classes were a Bible overview; most of his students knew little about the Bible or were misinformed. The third class was “Marriage, Family and Sexuality” for family life education majors. The potential for impacting lives was tremendous. He loves to teach and is skilled.
We went into these months with our eyes open. I knew that this addition to our joint schedule would impact my time as I picked up some of his responsibilities. Ultimately that meant less writing time for me for three months. It was worth it to both of us. It was a decision made fully cognizant of the opportunity cost.
On the other hand, I decided against the Bible class. I could not identify what it could replace. I knew that if I was passive and did it anyway, it would still replace something. Without identifying what I could let go, I knew the opportunity cost sequence would eventually mean less time for my husband and I to spend together. However, some new initiatives at our church give me an opportunity to participate in a Bible class with a Moody graduate as teacher. The opportunity cost of that new class is time I would normally spend waiting and reading – a good trade-off.
I also decided against the job. The first opportunity cost would have been writing time. Writing is a priority for me right now, writing at Wholehearted Marriage Online. It’s the fulfillment of a long-time dream. The second opportunity cost would have been time to get home responsibilities done during the day which would lead to doing them in the evening and less evening time with my husband. As appealing as the job was, the opportunity cost was too great.
Count the cost for your joint schedule
The Bible tells us to count the cost. I would be taking that verse out of context to say it was speaking of opportunity cost, but the principle remains and is sound.
We protect our marriages by choosing wisely how we spend our time. We choose wisely by considering the opportunity cost, the specific things that will be replaced if we add one more thing to our joint schedule.
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Sharon Mavis pursues her writing dream at http://