My life has been crazy lately.

It’s been fantastic and exciting, but crazy.  I am anxious to share the stories, thoughts and emotions that Bethany and I have experienced over the past few months, and I’ll be able to start doing so in just a week or so.

In the meantime, I wanted to reach out to our community with a question.  It was a sense of overwhelm with my life, responsibilities and lack of any free time that served as a catalyst for the changes that we’re making in our marriage and family life.

The realization that accompanied the overwhelm led me to a very difficult question:

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What am I (are we) willing to Give Up?

In other words, what areas of your life are you willing to say “NO” to in order to focus on what fulfills you and fits with your ideals?  I know this is a difficult question, but I’m sure it’s something we’ve all been faced with in our high-speed, over-committed lifestyles.

In the comments below, please share one thing that you’ve given up or plan to give up to improve your life and marriage.

For a bit more background on this question and my own struggles, please check out my post over at Simple Marriage today called Saying No to Build the Lifestyle You Desire.

Also, in a very timely fashion, Leo at Zen Habits recently released his new book that deals with this issue in more depth.  You can actually grab it for FREE over at his site.  I hope to interview Leo soon for a post over at my couples fitness site.


About the author 


Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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  1. The thing that took most of my free time this year was our very large garden. Much of it, I had never tried to grow before. Next year’s garden will be smaller and more manageable.

    Health, local food, etc. is all important, but I’ve found, for example, that I can buy certain foods in bulk, like dried beans, so there is no reason to grow them in my garden when they take so much time to shell.

    I want to grow things that are very productive and don’t take much time to harvest.

    1. Now that’s a unique time loss, Batrice. I can see a lot of benefits from a large, homegrown garden but I can also see how it would eat up a lot of time. Great work in recognizing where you can be more efficient while still having a great garden. Very cool!

  2. We’ve made the decision as a couple to not overcommit ourselves. This can be challenging as we are very involved in our church, our kids school activities, our life group, and other extra curricular type things. Regardless of all that, we both truly feel that when we over-extend our family the time we spend together outside of those things is not quality because we are just SO tired. Sometimes it is really hard to tell people no, especially if it is something that we have always done in the past but at this point in our lives we have chosen to scale back on things that are not at the top of our priority list. We have also chosen to each only work one job and live within our means. We could work side jobs and do extra things here and there for income but don’t feel like money is more important than our time as a family.

    1. Wow Jamie, your situation sounds very similar to ours! Kudos to you for making the tough decisions and putting your family first. 🙂

  3. Saying “no” is so empowering! I learned how to do it last year when I was pregnant with Hudson. I had been a major “yes girl” before that, but when my energy became so scarce I became very good at declining things. Micah and I have clearly defined our favorite family time as cooking dinner together and having lazy Sundays, and we are fiercely protective of that time! I’m sure it will get harder as Hudson gets bigger and more involved in activities, but we will have to remember to keep this same simple clarity in protecting our valued time together as a family. We have already built some great habits – we plan our meals and activities for the week each Sunday, and if we sense that a week is getting too full we find places to pull back. This is a habit that we intend to keep for a very long time because it is so valuable. Not only do we end up with delicious healthy meal plans, but we also have a clear picture of what our week is going to look like before it even starts.

    1. Absolutely, Kate! You will find it’s harder to keep “sacred” time as Hudson gets older and/or you have more children. But it really comes back to making those tough choices and being adamant with your choices as you and Micah have done with your Sunday time.

      We recently started the E-Mealz program, which allows us to plan our meals for the week ahead. We LOVE it…blog post is coming on that front! 🙂

  4. For me it was saying no to a leadership role in my volunteer work with the American Cancer Society. I still volunteer, but I took a huge step back and am not away from home 3 to 4 nights a week anymore. (I hope I never forget how it felt to realize what I had actually put my hubby and our relationship through for the 4 years I was on the leadership team. Thank goodness he was so supportive, but I didn’t realize how much time away I spent, and how “away” I was even when I was home until I left my leadershoip role. The realization of how wrong that could have gone for us really makes it easy for me to say no now!)

    We also made some friendship choices and only spend time with friends that help us stay on track with our goals and beliefs, and they understand when we do have to say no.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Jen. I totally understand how tough it can be to step back and say “no” to an organization that means so much to you. Of course, if you keep over-doing your service at the expense of your home life, you’ll eventually ruin your ability to help the organization!

      And great advice regarding your friendship choices as well. 🙂

  5. As a couple, my wife and I have found saying no to everything for a short season is very helpful. We keep a week or two every 4-6 weeks (max) completely open. If anyone asks to visit or needs a hand with something, we politely decline if it falls during our “off week”. That not only gives us a much needed chance to reconnect as a family, but gives us something to look forward to when we do find ourselves over-committed.

    1. Wow Dean, that is a *great* suggestion that I’ve never heard about before. It’s a novelty in today’s society, and something that I think we need to try in our own family!

  6. Ooh, I like Dean’s idea particularly.

    This is something my husband and I wrestle with–how to shape our lives up when there are so many interesting or important or necessary things to do . . . yet still have the time we need just to be together.

    1. I think that’s a struggle we all face, Sally. I know for us it helps a LOT to simply set aside 15 minutes each day to spend quality time together. These little deposits really add up!

  7. It changes so frequently. We’ve been together for 20 years and married for 16 now. Recently it is being conscious of my laptop being open too often in the evenings. Our “work” hours aren’t normal, but after 5 it does tend to be something I shouldn’t be working on if he is off shift and I don’t have a rush project.

    It’s taken real focus to work on it and COMMUNICATION that it was an issue.

    When we get this one “fixed” I can post about what the next issue will be. lol There is always something. I don’t say give it up, but plan the time and make sure that someone doesn’t feel completely left out and ignored.

    1. That’s great advice, Val. You’ve hit on my “vice” as well, as I find it really easy to spend too much time on my laptop when I could (should) be fully present with my wife and/or kids. We’ve created some clear boundaries in this area, and it’s helped a lot.

  8. My husband and I have an agreement to spend deeply meaningful, rewarding, connected and intimate time together every day. But our commitment is only for ten minutes, so there’s nothing we have to give up to get that! Really, ten minutes is so short – it sometimes takes longer than that to get off the phone with someone you don’t even want to be speaking with. Because it’s such a short time, there’s no excuse that makes any sense. You might think it’s too short a time to be meaningful, but, trust me, it’s amazing how powerful and sacred those ten minutes can be. Everything else falls away, and we are simply there, truly present with each other. (We share more about this in our book, Tantra for Busy Couples.)

    It is true, though, that we do have to pause whatever else we’re doing, in order to show up regularly for our appointment (yes, we schedule this time). So in that way, we are giving up “doing” – whatever it is that we’re doing at that time, to enter together into a state of “being” with each other. How delicious! Single-tasking instead of multi-tasking. Thanks for asking this question, it’s a good one. And thanks for the link to Leo at Zen Habits!

    1. That’s fantastic, Diana! In our house, it’s 15 minutes, but the same concept applies of using short pockets of time to really invest in our communication and connect deeply each day.

      You’re welcome on the Leo link. If you like Leo and Zen Habits, you’ll want to keep an eye on my other site at because I’ll be conducting a video interview with Leo in the next week or so to get his thoughts on wellness for busy families!

      1. Yes, it’s not the length of time that matters – our ten minutes often goes longer! Having a regularly scheduled time helps. And, yes, this is an investment that really pays off. Physical intimacy that is heartful is so necessary and so nourishing in a relationship. Marriage may not be the only way to walk through the world, but if we’re on this path, let’s make it a great one!

  9. I once gave up a job when we were dating because of a co-worker who was an emotional threat to our relationship. We’ve been married for 10 years now with 2 young boys. Besides our day jobs (he’s a worship/youth minister & I’m a work-at-home marriage educator), we also perform with his afrofusion (Positively Africa) band on the side. We bring our boys to some family friendly gigs that end earlier 🙂 Life at home can get nuts! We try to have date nights every other week, we often have lunch and dinner together. I’m great at saying no to outside requests that overburden us. I also gave up a stressful job four years ago so I could work at home and spent time with the boys. We have not arrived though! We are still in that 30’s zone, married with kids, doing ministry, building businesses and trying to keep it real 🙂

  10. I gave up a great job with the possibility for promotion and a big pay raise. My job had me commuting over an hour each way. I loved the job, but needed to be near the family and what is important to me. I took a lower paying job closer to home and I have been reaping the benefits ever since.

  11. I have an awesome job that I love, but due to some very poor financial decisions earlier in life as well as a divorce last year, I am in the position where I need to make several changes.

    I decided that I am simply going to have to give up some portion of my free time, evenings and weekends alike, to get out of debt. I am now dating a wonderful Christian man who is in an awesome financial position and I don’t want any plans that we may make to be negatively affected by my financial history. I plan on being out of debt within the next year.

    I have interviewed for two different part time jobs and continue to look for additional sources of income.

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