September 10, 2014

Richard Swenson, in his book Margin defines margin as “the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.”

Swenson explains, “If we are overloaded we have no margin. Threshold points are not easily measurable and are also different for different people in different circumstances. Options are as attractive as they are numerous, and we overbook. If we were equipped with a flashing light to indicate “100 percent full,” we could better gauge our capacities. Many people commit to a 120 percent life and wonder why the burden feels so heavy.”

A spouse can be an “indicator light” in a relationship. Margin needs are different for each person. Marriage is the dance of creating an “Us Margin” not just a “Me Margin”. Not an easy dance. Margin is the space that allows for relationship time, energy and growth.

My identity is wrapped up in what I accomplish. I tend to slice the margin a bit thinner than my wife. She then gets either worn out or just lets me do “my thing” without her involvement. Neither result is helpful. I am learning to listen when she expresses concern about over-commitment. A consistently over-committed schedule leads to physical, emotional and relational burnout!

Action: Discuss the amount of margin in your life/schedule. Where do you fall in the spectrum between rest and exhaustion? Does your schedule allow for balance and growth physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally? What one or two steps can be taken to create margin in your life and relationship?

Suggested Resource: Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson

Written by Mike Woodard

Mike Woodard

Mike is married to Karen, he is father of 4 and grandfather of 2. Backpacking is his favourite past time. Science and theology are his educational background, a biology degree from Central Michigan University and a master’s degree in Christian Studies from Trinity Western Seminary. Mike is the Associate Director of FamilyLife Canada. For more of his story visit