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Spending Time Together

My wife wears a watch. I don’t. That‘s a hint but there is more to how we approach time.

A few weeks ago, we started doing a study called “Your Time-Starved Marriage” by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott as preparation for becoming empty nesters. It was sort of like getting the car inspected before a road trip. (So far, we’re in good shape.)

Lesson three on “Time Styles” was quite revealing. We’re still unpacking what it means for us.

The Doctors ask two questions:

  • Do you think of time as objective or subjective?
  • Do you find yourself focused more on the present or the future?

They are quick to point out that these aren’t value statements and that there are no right or wrong answers. God has created each of us with certain predispositions. Understanding those predispositions helps us relate to one another better.

As with all personality types, what one’s answers reveal is a “default” or dominant tendency. Virtually nobody will behave the same way in every situation. Knowing our tendency helps us predict and control our behavior. Moreover, knowing our type does not excuse us for not adapting to different situations.

So, let’s unpack those two questions.

The passage of time is ordained and controlled by God. How we measure and allocate time are man made constructs. Indeed, the whole point of the questions is that there are different ways to do this.

The objective view of time is a literal, rigid view: “10:30 means 10:30.” The subjective view of time looks at time as flexible: “10:30, give or take, um, forever.”

Those whose focus is on the present give their full attention to what is happening right now. Those whose focus is on the future are always looking to what will happen later.

Time Styles quadrant map

As you can guess, how you answer the two questions puts you in your dominant quadrant of the “time styles” table. Doctors Parrott give these quadrants names:

  • The Planner: future-oriented with an objective view of time;
  • The Manager: present-oriented with an objective view of time;
  • The Improviser: present-oriented with a subjective view of time; and
  • The Dreamer: future-oriented with a subjective view of time.

Again, nobody lives in any one of those modes all the time. In fact, the mature person moves to the appropriate box as the situation dictates. For example, although I happen to be a Dreamer, I need to quickly come back to the present when I’m talking with my wife about her day. Our daughters is a Planner, but she has to become more flexible as we adapt to the frequently changing situation caused by dealing with the novel Coronavirus.

It turns out that my wife and I tend to be in opposite quadrants. As I mentioned, I’m a Dreamer. She is a Manager. So, when I told her that I am going to finish our bathroom, I really meant it. She thought I meant it too, but she did not realize that it would be three years before I did.

As each of us is spending a little more time than usual with our loved ones, expectations will be set. Some will be met and others will be missed. Before we get too upset with each other, it might be worth asking each other two questions: subjective or objective? present or future?

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