For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always done well managing a lot of activity in my life. In high school I balanced academics with school musicals, piano and voice lessons, work, volunteering at church, class officer responsibilities, community theater, marching band and more. I love living life to the fullest and have always had the energy to accomplish whatever I set out to do!
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always had limits in my energy level. In my teen years, I worked night and day in a family business. Much of the time I pushed past my emotional “stopping point” simply because I had to. In high school I balanced primarily school and work with a couple of extracurricular activities here and there. I love a medium to slow pace of life so I can enjoy the scenery along the way.
In our early years of marriage, I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree and Mark was working. Our differing capacities were camouflaged by the energy of our youth. We were young, in love, and exploring the world together!
And then we had kids.
Adding kids into the mix began to reveal our capacity differences. I could be up in the night with a baby and still function decently well during the day.
I, on the other hand, was a walking zombie if I was up much in the night.
I always have a “to do” list in my head and love to use my days to accomplish things.
I also love to accomplish things, but when Jill has 10 things on her “to do” list, I’ll likely only have 3 things on my list and a nap just might be one of those 3 things!
I also can have high capacity for short periods of time or during a project I’m working on, but a truly high capacity person sustains their level of energy most of the time.
Capacity refers to the physical and emotional energy you have to spend. It also refers to the amount of stress you can carry before shutting down emotionally or physically.
As you can imagine, when my medium/high capacity clashes with Mark’s medium/low capacity, sparks can fly. We’re both frustrated but for very different reasons! I’m frustrated because of my expectations to get more done or to keep working on something to the finish and he’s frustrated because of his expectations to have more down time, to stop earlier, or to take longer to do something.
Neither one of us is wrong. We’re being true to our design. The key is learning to respect our differences and to value the needs that come along with the way God designed each of us.
We’ve also learned the beauty of balance. Our marriage brings a balance to each of our lives. Mark helps me slow down and value rest and relaxation.
Jill’s drive keeps me motivated and helps me to accomplish goals I have, but sometimes lack the energy to do.
Capacity issues could be at the core of some conflict in your marriage. For example, are you in agreement of how many children you want to have? Maybe one partner wants to stop with two and the other longs for a houseful of kids. This may be a capacity issue if the spouse who wants less children feels they can’t honestly physically and emotionally manage more.
Are you in agreement of how to spend your weekends? Maybe one spouse longs to accomplish all kinds of things on the weekend and the other longs to put their feet up and read the paper. Again, this could be a capacity conflict.
When you travel, could one of you drive for 18 hours straight only stopping for bathroom and food and the other spouse hits his or her max at 8 hrs? That’s a difference in capacity.
Learning to navigate capacity issues requires three elements:
1) Understanding: Be willing to walk in your spouse’s shoes. Understand how God made him or her and resist the urge to demand change.
2) Compromise: You’ll need to learn how to meet in the middle when you can. Jill has shortened her “to do” lists over the years, and I have learning that doing one or two more things on a Saturday than I’d like to do doesn’t kill me. When we travel, we stop before Jill would like to and we stop a couple hours past when I would like to.
3) Respect: Respect one another’s needs and limitations. Instead of seeing it as wrong or something that needs to be changed, look for the value they bring to your life. When we travel longer than I would like to on a trip, I have learned to be grateful that we will get to our ultimate destination earlier. Jill has learned to be grateful for a more relaxed travel pace.
Need some help figuring out capacity? Here are some questions that might be helpful. Choose which statement in each group of two best describes you:
1) If I have too many things to do each day, it can feel overwhelming
2) My calendar is full….maybe too full at times.
1) I’m careful about how much I say “yes” to because I know my limits.
2) It sometimes feels like I’m doing more of the work at home or in a group than others.
1) I get to a point in my day where I’m just done. I can’t do anything else.
2) I’m like the energizer bunny, I keep going and going and going.
1) I love doing nothing on occasion.
2) There’s always something that needs to be done.
1) I love to listen to my kids.
2) I love to help my kids do something.
If you have more 1’s you are likely a Medium Low Capacity Person
If you have more 2’s you are likely a Medium High Capacity Person
What about you? Have you ever considered how your differing capacities might be affecting your marriage? Is it time to have a conversation about capacity so you can begin to value and respect each other’s differences?