Balancing Act

Nurturing our relationships when we're 'too busy'


For the last six months, I’ve been busier than usual with work. In January and February, I was promoting my new book Marry Smart and some new findings in mate-preferences research just in time for Valentine’s Day. All the while, I was teaching more than 200 students in two classes at the University of Iowa, grading papers, writing lectures and trying to get started on the book manuscript that’s due on July 1.

So I’ll admit it: I’ve been tired and grumpy and not a whole lot of fun for my husband, Peter, to be around. All of the best of me goes into my workday, and Peter gets the exhausted scraps. As we discussed our second wedding anniversary, which is coming up in a few weeks, Peter said he simply wanted a picture of me smiling and looking happy. That was my wake-up call.

The need to keep in touch

A few years back, I wrote a column titled “Too busy for God?” where I confessed that my prayers, meditations and conversations with God were falling by the wayside as I was go-go-going in my career. I spoke with several other young adults who felt the same way.

In that piece, I quoted Fr. Richard Sparks, of the Paulists, who reminded us that faith is a relationship, and relationships are about love and two-way communication: “It’s hard to keep and to deepen a relationship if conversation is sporadic or even non-existent. In one’s faith-hope-love relationship with God, we need to keep in touch regularly — quiet time, prayer time, praise or song time, quality time. If our relationship with God matters, we need to find the time or make the time even when busy to say ‘howdy,’ ‘thanks,’ ‘thinking of you.’ God is doing it in our direction all the time.”

Well, the same thing goes for your relationships with those you love here on earth. Reread Fr. Sparks’ advice through the lens of your marriage, or your relationship with your parents. It’s hard to keep up a healthy bond if you’re not investing time, love and effort into it. Of course there are going to be times when you’re too busy for long, candlelight dinners or lazy mornings of snuggling, but there are many other little ways to show you care.

Of course there are going to be times when you’re too busy for long, candlelight dinners or lazy mornings of snuggling, but there are many other little ways to show you care.

Smiling is a good start. Finding that extra ounce of energy to really listen when you ask how his day was. Telling her that you’re proud of what she’s doing. And saying thank you — a lot — when those you love step up to help you in a busy time of need.

Counting my blessings

“It’s my time to shine,” Peter said, after I came home to find a clean house and folded laundry. And I was so grateful.

So this week, I started writing little notes in Peter’s lunch. That I loved him. That I appreciated all his help around the house. And that I promised to try to be a bit less grumpy and a more loving spouse, even when I’m busy.

I’m very blessed to have a loving husband (and a great extended family — my mother-in-law offered to bring over some dinners that we could freeze and reheat, to allow me to work a bit later and not have to cook each night.) And it’s important to take time to appreciate those relationships even — and especially — when the merry-go-round of life speeds up.

Sound familiar? Struggling with work-life balance yourself? Share some tips for prioritizing your relationships when you’re busy at work or school by posting in the comments section below or email me at