National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Overextended

BY Tom and Caroline McDonald

October 5-11, 2008 Issue | Posted 9/30/08 at 3:29 PM

 

Every time I turn around, my wife has accepted another invitation on our behalf. When I complain, she says I’m being selfish. Is she right?

This sounds like a case of good intentions gone wild. In our age of Blackberrys, texting and iPhones, we have developed a sense of immediacy when it comes to communicating. We feel the burden to reply to every message ASAP. When we send one, we get annoyed if the other person does not reply within minutes. We have an expectation that our messages are getting through to the person instantaneously, thanks to modern technology, so what excuse does he or she have for not getting back to us? (And snap to it, unless you have a very good excuse!)

Bundled with this unwarranted expectation is the notion that we must answer every social request immediately. If nothing is on our calendar (which we always have with us, thanks to our personal digital assistant), we must accept the invitation. It would be rude or dishonest to decline. But is this a valid concern?

We don’t think so. First, even if nothing is on the calendar, I owe it to my spouse, out of respect for his time and wishes, not to accept an invitation without running it by him first — unless I am absolutely certain he would reply Yes. If there is any doubt whatsoever, it is unfair for me to blindside him with an obligation.

What about her accusation that you’re being selfish? Maybe you should be open to accepting more invitations, but neither spouse should push the other too hard in any direction.

And there is much to be said for protecting our time from the intrusions of the world. Couples and families need time to just be together, doing nothing in particular. A good practice is to take a look at the calendar, find a free weekend and block it out as “family time.” Preserve certain days as off-limits to outside obligations, just as you might put a certain percentage of your income in the bank. Then, when an invitation comes along, you can honestly reply that you have other plans. Plans for family time are as real and important as any other kind.

We are under no obligation to explain ourselves to the person extending the invitation. We shouldn’t feel the need to justify ourselves to them just because they invited us over. Simply reply that you have other plans and let it go at that.

Family time and couple time are precious. These times need to be guarded. Socializing has its place — in fact, it can be a great way to witness the faith — but a balance must be struck.

And, with the Lord’s help, that kind of balance is certainly achievable.

The McDonalds are family-life coordinators for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.