Often in premarital counseling, we discuss the “two becoming one” of marriage: communication strategies, finances, family issues, and future plans. Not often discussed is how to continue caring for yourself in the midst of the many transitions that marriage brings.
A healthy marriage is dependent on two healthy people working and communicating towards common goals. If one partner in the marriage is unhealthy, the marriage will struggle.
Wives are especially prone to forfeiting self-care for the sake of their spouses or children. It’s easy to see the many needs of our family and put those needs first, at the cost of our own. But, as the flight attendants always tell you, “Put on your own oxygen mask first.” If you are not caring for yourself, you will not be able to care for the other important people in your life.
Here are some keys to caring for yourself in your marriage.
1) Take responsibility for your own spiritual growth.
Feeding your soul is your job, not your husband’s. Take time to read scripture, journal, go on prayer walks, retreats, and participate in Bible studies. Couples Bible studies, prayers, and discussions can be helpful for a healthy marriage, but in order to have something to add to the conversation, you must pursue spiritual growth yourself. Choose to make it a priority, and then do it.
2) Don’t compare your internal struggles to other people’s perfect appearances.
With the constant presence of social media in our lives today, it is easy to look at snapshots of others’ lives and immediately compare that picture to your present reality. Remember: you do not know the junk that other people are dealing with; you are just seeing a picture. Your life probably looks picture perfect to others as well. Avoid those comparisons and judgments, whether it makes you feel better or worse. Practice thankfulness for what you have instead of envy of what you don’t have. Pray for contentment.
3) Invest in relationships with friends and mentors.
Relationships are important and should be considered a priority. Surround yourself with peers who can encourage you in the current challenges you are facing. These are the “me, too” friends that you can call when you’re struggling in your marriage or need accountability in other areas of your life. But don’t only invest in women who are your age. Seek wise mentors who personify where you want to be years down the road. These mentors might be a step ahead or much further down the path. Take time to invite them to coffee or lunch. Hear their story and ask for advice on life. These relationships can make a world of difference for your identity and your marriage.
4) Do things you love.
Your hobbies and pursuits give you ways to grow, goals to pursue, new people to connect with, and more things to talk about with your spouse. Whether it’s playing tennis, gardening, rock-climbing, or painting, these interests help shape who you are. Do not feel guilty when you take time for them. Would you want your kids to stop pursuing their interests or your husband to give up his favorite hobby? Give yourself this same opportunity.
5) Ask for help when you need it.
Whether it be from your spouse, friends, parents, pastor, doctor, or counselor. Be willing to acknowledge your own shortcomings and communicate your needs clearly. Don’t expect your spouse or anyone else to read your mind. I have bad news for you: they cannot. If you need something, admit it and ask for it. It’s that easy. For example, your husband does not know you want him to bring you flowers or need an extra hug or really wish he would offer to pick up the kids today. When you realize you have a need, communicate that to him. At the same time, realize that no person, including your husband, can meet all your needs or make you feel complete. Only God can do that.
As you put all of these keys into practice, remember who you are. You are a Daughter of the King. You are a Beloved Child of God. Remember that you are found in Him, regardless of how you feel at the current moment and whatever struggles are coming your way. You are loved and held by the all-knowing God. Allow God to care for you, and remember you will only be fully whole in Him.