Larry James' BLOG

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Filed under: Health & Wellness,Personal Growth,Relationships — Larry James @ 7:00 am

“She gets up while it is still dark… her lamp does not go out at night.” Proverbs 31

candlebothends“Burning ones candle at both ends” is often said about someone who’s working too hard with too many things, and as a consequence has to stop before he or she is “done”. It typically means that one is staying up too late at night and getting up too early in the morning in an attempt to get more things done.

A candle is intended to be burned from one end to the other only. “To burn the candle at both ends” implies that someone is simultaneously doing two things which are inconsistent or in conflict with each other (such as a married person carrying on a secret affair or one partner spending too much time at work and not paying enough attention to the relationship).

“Knowingly burning the candle at both ends and finding that it often gives a lovely light” ~ Christopher Hitchens

The beauty of this metaphor is the visual image of a candle burning from both ends, consuming itself as it burns; and the danger of being burned. Burning the candle at both ends implies that the two burning ends will eventually meet (“the truth will out”), in fact more quickly than one end alone burning, and in doing so, the “double ended burner” is warned that THEY will be the one who is burned from engaging in this duplicity.

Well, if you were to light a candle at both ends it would burn down in half the time compared to one that’s only burning at one end. If you consider the burn time you’d get from the ordinarily lit candle as normal, then double lit candle would go out prematurely.

If you want your relationship to survive, you must discover what is meaningful to you and focus your attention on that. Connecting to what matters to you illuminates your purpose. Having a purpose nourishes your relationship.

Marriage is a two way street and it takes the efforts of both the partners to make it work. After the initial excitement is over most relationships goes stale causing the partners to focus more of their time on work. This is because after some time after marriage the priorities of one or both of the partners tends to shift into children, job responsibilities, money etc., and as a result they tend to neglect the partner or take the partner for granted enabling boredom to creep in the relationship. It’s important to stay connected to your partner and your family to avoid stress and relationship drift.

It is ultimately not in your best interest to continue burning the candle at both ends. When you burn the candle at both ends you get very little sleep or rest because you are working or studying (or celebrating) late into the night, and then starting again very early the next day. The pressure to get things done faster and better than everyone else can have a crushing impact on our mental and physical health. There’s a good chance that you’re going to get burned.

Notice how your body feels when you have adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Just notice. If noticing convinces you that you feel better and have more energy, do something with that knowledge – noticing alone won’t change anything. Changing your attitude and your behavior will.

candlebothends2Take time for outside interests. . . with your partner. Don’t have time? Make time! Plan time! Many men have trouble balancing work and their family life. They have poor relationships with family members and their partner. Slow down a little. Make sure you are taking care of yourself. Schedule play time. Play is another one of the most significant ingredients that can keep your relationship strong.

Every once in a while, you need to stop and listen to the music, smell the flowers, and sip the coffee. Life is too short to miss out on these little treasures.

Children seem to grow up much faster now days. Blink and you miss the most important time of their lives. They need you. They need to see their mother and father interacting with each other and with them.

At some point you need to reassess and ask yourself whether you are finding the balance between work and play. You cannot continue to avoiding responsibility for your relationship. If you burn the candle at both ends you may not be as bright as you thought you were!

Don’t wait too long. There is often a point of no return. Never sacrifice your relationship for work. You can always get another job, but you may never again find a partner who will be willing to put up with your devotion to work and be willing to help you redirect your focus on the family.

Stop burning the candle at both ends. Stop trying to cram too many activities into your daily schedule. Just stop it NOW. The space-time continuum is limited for a reason – to try to keep you from doing everything at once. Even if you could get everything done – which you can’t – what use is it if you are too exhausted and burned out to enjoy your relationship.

The last thing you need is to experience burnout in your relationship. Smart people are astute at finding the smartest, healthiest most satisfying way to use the same 24 hours that God has given to each of us every day. Never be too busy to pay attention to your relationship.


Copyright © 2011 – Larry James. This idea is adapted from Larry’s books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” Larry James is a professional speaker, author, relationship coach and a nondenominational minister. He performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere.

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  1. Very true. I think that sometimes less is more. Work on things step by step and focus on the fundamentals. The key is to make sure that you both still meet each others needs. But some skill is required to uncover your partners needs. Relationships take focus and effort. The rewards are great.

    Comment by necklace — Wednesday, May 4, 2011 @ 6:39 am | Reply

  2. Great analogy…although I never thought of using this image to talk about relationships. You mentioned the need to take a break from our fast-paced lives and “smell the flowers.” Going back to the relationship topic, we all need to take time to smell those flowers with our spouse/significant other. 😉

    Comment by Sarah B — Sunday, May 1, 2011 @ 8:00 am | Reply

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