God's plan for marriage is that the man and woman become two halves of one body (Genesis 2:24). If you don't love yourself at all, it's basically impossible to have a really great marriage - you already hate half of it! For so many women, we find it hard to put ourselves first, and when we do, we end up feeling incredibly guilty. And we need to stop it! Taking care of ourselves isn't something to feel guilty about - it should be natural. And by putting ourselves first, we do put our marriage first.
I got to wondering - what kind of improvement would an ordinary marriage see if one spouse dedicated herself (ok, or himself) to really loving herself (or himself. Whatever). And not in a selfish, self-serving way. In an honest organic way (did I use that right?).
So here's a little list (I like lists) to get
- Forgive. If you have a specific nagging guilt, get over it. Go to God right now, get on your knees, and talk to Him about it. Lay that burden right there at God's feet and leave it there. Forgive yourself.
- Spirituality. Have a relationship with God. I mean a relationship. Pray often. Read His word. Fellowship with others who are like minded. Sing His praises.
- Rest. Allow yourself the rest that you need. If you are so exhausted you can't hold open your eyes, you are not doing yourself (and by extension your marriage) any favors by cooking an elaborate dinner and then doing the dishes. Order out. Have sandwiches. Find a way to accomplish the same goal without burdening yourself. Don't feel guilty about early bedtimes, sleeping in, or naps.
- Eat. Fuel your body right. It's hard to really love yourself when you ate a whole pizza for dinner, with some chips on the side. And then followed it up with a tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream. (Was that too specific?) And it's especially hard to love yourself when you are on some cult-ish diet (looking at you, Paleo and Raw Food) because you may never be able to live up to "perfection". Eat well. Don't eat too much, but eat enough. Go read this.
- Exercise. This is a big one. Some of us don't love ourselves because we think we have a bit too much of us to love. Those hips. Those thighs. That muffin top. So do something about it. And while you are doing something about it, you'll get an endorphin boost - a natural antidepressant - so your mood and outlook will improve. Even if you never fit into a size 4.
- Family. Stay connected with your family. Hopefully your family loves you and accepts you and encourages you. Hopefully they support you and can assist you with other items on this list. If not, or if you don't have much family, focus on #6.
- Friends. Have a great core group of friends. Have friends that you can call at 2 am and tell them anything. If you don't have this already - it's going to take time to develop. Work on being open to new friendships. Invite people out for coffee or over for a BBQ. Having good girl friends is wonderful, but don't forget to have "couple" friends that you and your husband enjoy, too.
- Community. Get involved in your community. It's really hard to hate someone (you) who helps the poor or battered women or abused animals.
- Relax. Spend a few minutes each day just unwinding.
- Recreation. Recreate yourself - have a hobby or a craft that you enjoy. Maybe you just like to read. Maybe you like to blog. Maybe you like to unicycle. Go for it. Having a great hobby gives you an identity and you'll never be at a loss when asked to fill in forms that ask you about "special interests".
- Housekeeping. Find a balance with housekeeping, 'cause it's really hard to love yourself if you live in an episode of Hoarders. But be gentle and don't expect too much - especially if you have little ones. Make a list, download an app, or have a chore chart, but just do your best. And then accept that you did your best.
- Finances. Control your financial life. It's hard to love yourself if you are swimming in debt or living paycheck to paycheck because you just have so much stress (see #9). Allow me to recommend Dave Ramsey - he even puts most of the really beneficial information for free on his website. He also hosts a (free) radio program, so you can find out where to tune in.
- Affirmations. Recite affirmations - they really work. This is the "fake it 'till you make it" stuff. If you are having trouble finding friends, then a good affirmation would be "I am a friendly person and I attract good friends". You phrase it in a positive, present tense way, never using "I will..." or "I hope..". You do. You are.
- Work. Last but not least, don't go to a job you hate. I'm not saying "don't go" - I'm actually saying "stop hating your job". As Christians, we are supposed to do everything to give glory to God's name (1st Cor 10:31). That's pretty hard when you show up to a job that you just despise. Pray for an attitude change and try to remember you work for God, not man. If you are Pollyanna and still hate your job, find another one (except if your job is being a wife and/or mother. Feel free to take another job, but do not take a different wife/mother job).
I'm letting you read the list, but it's totally for me. I need this stuff. I'm going to spend the next 40 days working on this list and reporting back to you (if anyone is reading) the changes I have made and hopefully I'll have another list - a list of positive impacts to my marriage.