Are You Serving Your Spouse Emotional Leftovers? - Crosswalk Couples Devotional - June 19

Are You Serving Your Spouse Emotional Leftovers?
By Jen Ferguson

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.Proverbs 11:25

Sometimes, having leftovers is perfect. It means less-than-normal dinner prep, one less day to have to plan out a full meal. It means more time spent doing other things that need doing (or relaxing!). And sometimes, if the leftovers are especially good, it means another dose of a sumptuous meal. But too many days of leftovers in a row and one begins to grow tired of them, right? 

What if we applied the idea of leftovers to our marriage? Are we serving our emotional leftovers from the day to our spouse? Or do they walk in the door to something warm, fresh, and inviting?

The other day, Craig had a disappointing day at work. When he texted me that he was on his way home, I called him so he could process. His response? Can we talk about this when I get home?

I wanted to reply, No! I want to talk about it now so that I can be done talking for the day. My own day had been full of helping others, navigating the complex emotions of teenagers, and the general grind of the day.

All I had left to give Craig were my emotional leftovers.

Hear me out — we're all going to have bad days. Days where we're going to give more than we receive. We're going to be physically tired or sick or overwhelmed with life. This isn't about carefully measuring out your daily capacity so you have the same exact amount for your spouse each day.

But our emotional availability is something of which we can be mindful. There are busy seasons often in our lives where our spouse may get the shaft now and again, but this cannot become a habit. We have to figure out how to practice intention with our spouse, even when life is chaotic and full. Marriages will not thrive (and sometimes not even survive) on menu full of emotional leftovers forever. 

In her book, Free to Lean: Making Peace with Your Lopsided LifeJocelyn Green gives some fabulous ideas on how to keep emotional leftovers off the menu. Here are some of my favorite that I've taken from the book (with permission):

  1. If something newsworthy or exciting happens during the day, think twice about telling the story several times to your friends or coworkers before you see your spouse again. With each retelling, you may lose a degree of enthusiasm—and you want to give more than an abbreviated, watered-down account to your spouse.
  2. Look for one thing every day that can make your spouse laugh and share it in the evening.
  3. If you have any control over your schedule, try not to do the most stressful tasks at the end of the day, right before you see your spouse again. That stress will easily spill over into your time together.
  4. Be careful about using Facebook or Twitter to instantly poll friends about a decision you need to make. Instead, take a moment to ask yourself if this is something to talk about with your spouse.
  5. Recognize when your spouse needs a night for her/himself. Virtually always, if you give your spouse the freedom to do whatever s/he wants one night (whether that's watch a movie with friends, read a book, or simply go to bed early), s/he will be able to replenish the emotional reserves tank and want to spend time with you again soon.
  6. Ask how you can pray for one another. 
  7. If you are perpetually serving emotional leftovers, be courageous enough, for the health of your marriage, to ask yourself if a lifestyle change is in order. Take a hard look at the stress factors and decide which ones you can decrease or eliminate.

Jen Ferguson is a wife, author, and speaker who is passionate about helping couples thrive in their marriages. She and her husband, Craig, have shared their own hard story in their book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography and are also creators of the Marriage Matters Prayer Cards. They continue to help couples along in their journeys to freedom and intimacy at The {K}not Project. Jen is also a mama to two girls and three high-maintenance dogs, which is probably why she runs. A lot. Even in the Texas heat.

Related Resource: 4 Truths About Marriage Every Couple Needs to Remember

No matter how long you’ve been married, reminding yourself of fundamental marriage truths is helpful. In this episode of the Team Us Podcast, Ted and Ashleigh share four truths about marriage every couple needs to remember. If you like what you hear, head over to Apple or Spotify and subscribe to the show so you never miss an episode!

Originally published Wednesday, 19 June 2024.