When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children,
in one way her life begins but in another way it stops.
You build a life of details.
You become a mother, a wife and you stop and
stay steady so that your children can move.
And when they leave they take
your life of details with them.
And then you’re expected to move again
only you don’t remember what moves you because
no one has asked in so long.
Not even yourself.
It happens to all of us: Sometimes marriage starts to feel a little stale, a little frustrating. Dealing with your spouse can feel like just one more stress in your busy, stressful life.
There’s something you can do about this, though. And it’s not some complicated, multi-step plan to improve your relationship. It will take a few minutes. And it’s all about you.
Ready? Here it is: Set a timer for two minutes and make a list of things that bring you joy. Don’t overthink this. Just quickly write down what comes to mind, whether it’s a big joy, like a dream vacation, or small, everyday joys, like an uninterrupted cup of coffee or catching up with an old friend.
After you finish your list, take a look at your calendar. How many of the things on your joy list did you do in the past week? The past month?
I’m betting you’ll discover that the things that bring you joy didn’t make it onto your schedule very often. Our days are busy, and unless we make a conscious effort to add our joyful activities to them, they can fill up fast with less-gratifying things.
Make Time for Joy
Here’s what I want you to do now: Schedule some time in the next week for a few of the things that bring you joy, or find ways to nudge yourself to do them. Maybe that means setting aside a lunch break to walk around outside instead of staying tethered to your desk. Or maybe it means putting a Post-it note in your car reminding you to listen to music you love instead of that stress-inducing news channel on the way home.
So what does all this have to do with your relationship? Regularly doing the things you love inevitably changes how you show up in the marriage. When you give to yourself and inject more joy into your life, it makes you happier and less stressed — and that takes pressure off your relationship. Including yourself in the circle of people you give to regularly usually lowers the resentment most people feel when they are giving, and giving, and giving. When you put energy into allowing yourself to be more you, don’t be surprised if that kind of vibrance makes you more irresistible to your husband!
If you do not value yourself enough to keep yourself in the picture, there are tremendous limits to how much love you can truly give or receive. Holding onto your marriage and holding onto yourself go hand in hand.
Adding joy to your life is a gift to yourself — and to your marriage. Try this relationship tip and tell me about how it goes!!
This Independence Day, I encourage you to think about your own independence within your marriage. I’ve seen a lack of independence hurt many relationships. Sometimes women get caught in the trap of being too focused on their husband after marriage. Our husbands fall in love with our vibrant individuality, but then are surprised when we start making everything about them.
What drives a person to be overly focused on their partner in a marriage?
Insecurity. If you have a weak sense of self, odds are that you feel insecure and cling to your husband to make sure you don’t lose him. Unfortunately, excessive closeness can feel suffocating, so your husband may do the very thing you’re afraid of–pull away from you.
Niceness. Many women also believe they must be nice and nurturing at all times, so they are constantly looking for what their husband needs. You may have the misconception that if you don’t completely take care of your husband, he will think of you’re selfish and become dissatisfied in the relationship. Be warned: If you are too nice and never take care of yourself, your husband may start to take you for granted, and this is an inevitable recipe for resentment.
Need for approval. Another common fear is that if he doesn’t approve of your choices, he will become disinterested. So you may give up what you like to wear, the things you like to do, and the types of foods you like to eat in order to please him. Unfortunately, the more you twist yourself like a pretzel to get his approval, the more needy and boring you appear to him.
Independence doesn’t mean that you don’t think of your husband at all. (Behaving that way would create a whole other kind of relationship problem!) It’s good to care about him and want him to have his needs met. However, it’s also appropriate to consider your own needs and expect your partner to support you in meeting them.
Your relationship will be healthier and happier when you both have a secure sense of self, trust one another, and can move between independence and closeness in your relationship. If your own sense of self is feeling a little shaky, try to ease up some on your focus on others. Get back in touch with who you are and what you like to do. Give some of that care and validation you lavish on others back to yourself.
It sounds counterintuitive, but pulling back a bit to take care of you will actually bring your partner closer. My book Strong Women, Strong Love has more ideas for nurturing yourself and your relationship.