Like many couples, my husband Kevin, and I are busy. Between work, raising four children, and myriad extracurricular activities, we can find ourselves with full schedules and little margin.
One evening, during a conversation about how stretched thin we were feeling, Kevin and I realized neither of us had been paying much attention to our individual health. As a result, we were maxed out, burned out and felt we had very little to offer the other person.
Self-care as stewardship
Rob Jackson, a licensed professional counselor, says self-care is an act of stewardship, or caring well for the life God has given you. It can involve caring for your physical health, your mental health or your spiritual health. “Rightly understood and balanced with other responsibilities, self-care in marriage becomes a gift to your spouse,” Jackson says.
When regular self-care is taking place, both spouses will feel less depleted and have more to give. Here are three ways you can give the gift of self-care to your spouse:
Make spiritual self-care the priority
A healthy, Christ-centered marriage requires that husband and wife are actively growing in their relationships with God. “Spiritually, one needs to stay in love with God,” Jackson says, “so time in the Bible and private worship are foundational.”
Have a conversation with your spouse about his or her spiritual self-care needs. Maybe she needs uninterrupted time to do her devotions. Maybe he wants to observe a “Sabbath” rest each week to slow down and focus on God. Every few months, my husband likes to spend a day alone in a natural setting to read his Bible and journal. I am spiritually encouraged by participating in a weeknight ie Bible study. We find that being supportive of each other’s spiritual health pays dividends in our marriage relationship.
Participate in joint self-care
While you and your spouse will have individual self-care needs, you can also experience soul care through joint ventures. I have friends who love to go to the gym together. Another couple loves hiking — and another gardening together.
Kevin and I like taking walks and drives, drinking good coffee on slow Saturday mornings and attending church services together.
Find healthy, refreshing activities you and your spouse can do together to ward off stress.
Make time for your spouse’s self-care
When Kevin and I discovered we were running on empty, we immediately scheduled how each of us could integrate self-care into our lives. He wanted morning gym visits and an occasional fishing trip with a buddy. As an introvert, I wanted alone time to process my thoughts … and lunch or a coffee date with a girlfriend several times a month. Each of our needs required the other spouse to be “on duty” with our kids. But we made an intentional decision to alternate and support our individual self-care needs.
When Kevin and I brought up our feelings of burnout that night, we were thankful to discover it was nothing a little self-care couldn’t fix. As we allowed each other to focus on our own needs through self-care, we found we had more to give and a stronger marriage.