A marriage is a union of two people living their lives together, so how does self-care fit into this union? Fact: Self-care is essential in a marriage.
Two Thriving Individuals
Marriages thrive on teamwork, and one of the foundational characteristics of nourished marriages is that they are unique and not a version or copy of someone else’s. Both spouses work together to create ways that work best for them. And in doing that, they ensure that they always look after themselves, each spouse celebrating their own individuality.
Make a list of all the things that you like to do – and if you cant think of what you like, think of what you liked to do when you were young. What was it that really made you happy?
‘Me’ Time, Not ‘Us’ Time
Contrary to the belief that successful couples do fun things together all the time, go out for dates, snuggle up on the couch, go on romantic getaways together; (you know, the stuff that all great Instagram posts are made of) this isn’t only what successful couples do. They also take time out alone, for themselves.
This alone time is necessary to recharge and replenish so that they can reenter the union stronger, more loving and more attractive.
So even though it may feel great to go out as a couple, or as a family, ensure you have some ‘me’ time regular – your marriage will thrive as a result.
Take time out every evening just for you. Alone. Go for a walk, have a soak in the bath, tinker around with your tools, arrange a weekly sports session with your friends, read a book, have an early night. Something that makes you feel good, relaxes you or you find fun.
An Asset To The Marriage
A nourished spouse brings their richness into the marriage. When we thrive in our well-being and fulfilment, we thrive as an individual, and we can show up as an asset to the relationship. Compare this to the opposite: someone who doesn’t look after themselves and lacks vitality. Does that sound like an appealing life-partner? I don’t think so!
If either spouse isn’t looking after themselves, they won’t bring their strengths to the table. If they are depleted in self-care, they may become a liability. When we don’t self-care, we lower our immune system, are more prone to negative thinking, stress and anxiety.
We have the beautiful story of the companion of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, Abu Darda’ who became so engrossed in fasting and prayer that his wife felt neglected and so stopped looking after herself too. When his friend Salman al Farisi saw his state, he reminded him to give not only his Lord but also himself and his family their rights.
Salman told Abu Ad-Darda’, “Your Lord has a right on you, your soul has a right on you, and your family has a right on you; so you should give the rights of all those who have a right on you.”
So be a self-cared spouse! Give your body it’s rights, and in doing so, you will be giving your spouse their rights too!
Think of all of what is really important to you. It could be a value with regards to your religion, health, hobbies pr social life, etc. This isn’t about your marriage; it is about you. And then, ask yourself if that value is being manifested in your life. If it isn’t, think of something you can do to bring it into reality. For example, if health and fitness are important to you, you could take up a tennis class as part of your self-care. It is often the things that are most important to us that are the best ways to thrive as an individual.
Self-Care for Both of You
There must be space for both husband and wife to self-care. It is not okay, and not fair for one spouse to be looking after themselves, being fulfilled with their friends, leisure, and alone time while the other spouse gets lumbered with all of the responsibility.
Take care of your marriage by actively encouraging each other to self-care. If you find that you are doing more self-care that your spouse then encourage them to do more. It could be that they have too much on their plate to self-care, in which case, see if you can lighten their load or share some of their responsibilities to create that time and space for them to do something alone.
On the other hand, if you are not doing enough self-care and your spouse is, then discuss this with them, and work out ways that both of you can have some alone time. Be proactive in what you want to do, and let them know when you will be busy. It could be that you take up an evening fitness class every week – lt them know that you will be out during this time. If they will need to look after the children during this time, arrange this with them beforehand so you can go out each week with both of you on the same page.
If your wife struggles with her workload and cant self-care, offer to look after the children regularly a few evenings a week so that she can do something for herself
If your husband struggles with his workload and cat find time to self-care, keep some evening/weekends free from family commitments so that he can do his own thing.
Self-Care Your Way
Doing self-care is an opportunity for each spouse to feel fulfilled in ways that suit them, and your spouse may choose to do things that may be different from what you like to do. To bring out the best in each other, support and respect one another in your self-care. Thrive in your ability to be separate and different from one another. Opposites attract and bringing in that difference and polarity will enhance your relationship as colour and character to it that would not be there if you both did things the same way all of the time. Be like the oak and the cypress in Kahlil Gibran’s wonderful poem:
Let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
A Marriage Rich in Self-Care
To summarise, you will connect better when you are both fulfilled, and this connection will be rich when it has the beauty of both of you shining through it. You will have more to talk about with each other, and you will feel happier, more positive and self-aware.