Some of you might remember an earlier post on The Fear Dance. It showed how fear not only keeps us from feeling emotionally safe in our marriage but also how easy it is to be too dependent on others for our happiness and fulfillment. We see it all the time — one spouse starts this unhealthy cycle, and the other follows. Well, as I was writing on self-care and the benefits it has for your marriage, it dawned on me how perfect a segue that previous post is for this conversation.
You may hear self-care and think, “That sounds selfish.” Well, yes and no. Being selfish means making others’ needs and wants less important than yours, but making others’ needs and wants AS important as yours is not selfish — it’s self-care.
Self-care means taking control of our own feelings, thoughts, and emotional well-being rather than giving someone else that power. And when we do that, we fuel ourselves and advance our marriage.
This creates the antidote to the Fear Dance — The Care Cycle.
How do we do good self-care at a deeper, more fundamental level?
Self-care is part of a broader conversation: how to create healthier marriages. Specifically, what are the best starting points in order of importance? The first place to start — unequivocally — is with the heart. After all, the heart is the center of everything we do, feel, think, and desire. From there, we must take personal responsibility for our thoughts and behaviors. After that, we must practice good self-care.
In a marriage, self-care means all the obvious things: eating healthy, getting enough exercise, being well-rested, focusing on your financial well-being, being intentional about your own independence, etc. On a deeper, more fundamental level, being intentional about self-care helps you achieve a healthy love for yourself; but so you can love others well also.
There are seven essential components to good self-care.
- Receiving — From others and from God. We all have needs, desires, and preferences. Not allowing others to give to you means you run on empty. It also takes away the gift of others giving to you. Quality self-care means being okay with accepting good words, actions, and gifts from others.
- Attending — This means attending to your own legitimate needs. Most of us know when we need to rest, play, sleep, and generally do things that revive or refresh us. These are important to our well-being overall and to the next important component of good self-care.
- Giving to others — You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving! The amount of your giving expresses the amount of your love. The true test of love is not feeling; it is action! When we give, we get back, too. We meet an inherent need for ourselves by giving to others. It’s good for others, and it’s good for us!
- Forgiving others and yourself — Failure to forgive leads to feelings and emotions of anger, resentment, bitterness, hatred, fear, and hostility.
- Boundaries — We’ve written about boundaries. They are an essential part of a healthy life and caring for ourselves.
- Celebrate — We can’t overlook the large and small events and victories in our life. Celebrate them! They are yours, and they are important! Stopping to acknowledge and enjoy significant times in our lives helps us to appreciate and be grateful for good things. It helps us get through the harder times and focus on the positive.
- Balance — We don’t go to extremes with busy schedules or even in how we process our thinking.
Self-Care and The Care Cycle:
Unlike The Fear Dance, The Care Cycle means you are AWARE of what you feel in your body when your buttons are triggered, you ACCEPT your feelings and take responsibility for needing to do something to fix it, you ALLOW God to complete and guide you, and then you ATTEND. This means you ask yourself: What is going on? What buttons got pushed? Where is it coming from? Let’s look at the truth? What am I doing to contribute to it? Can I determine what I want? Who do I want to be? The final step is, of course, to ACT. What can you do for yourself while still maintaining your honor and integrity?
You have the power to …
- Stop the chaos.
- Choose how you will react.
- Change and control your thoughts.
- Take responsibility for your “fear buttons.”
- Focus on yourself.
- Focus on your happiness.
- Take things to God.
- Choose and change your expectations.
- Be accountable to others (especially your spouse).
- Forgive and ask for forgiveness.
Notice how we said, “be accountable to others (especially your spouse).” Self-care is not selfish, because as you realize your feelings are understood and matter, you relax and become more open and cooperative toward your spouse. You naturally learn how to properly care for your spouse and their needs. You do this by:
Properly Caring for your Partner
- Offering or responding to their request for your involvement.
- Not imposing yourself to take responsibility to manage their needs.
- Providing understanding, encouragement, and assistance.
- Creating caring interaction and safety.
- Honoring each other’s boundaries.
- Building a foundation of trust.
- Fully understanding each other at the emotional level.
All we are saying here is that we tend to care more for others. And while that’s a great thing, we can’t let our own self-care suffer in the process. It has to be treated as just as much a treasure as the other person.
Our heart is devoted to caring about people and marriages!
Our heart is devoted to caring about people. We want to ensure you have the tools to cherish each other’s heart and listen to it when it’s talking to you. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here.
What do you think? What are some ways you are focusing on self-care? How has that benefitted your marriage? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.