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Where's the line between being selfish and self care in marriage?

conflict priorities stress Dec 15, 2020

Here are two common traps in marriage.

The first is getting so lost in errands, to-dos, and the thousand or so other demands of domestic life that you forget about caring for yourself. At the end of the day, you feel scattered, tense, and exhausted. You’ve been carrying the weight of your family system but you haven’t been caring for yourself.

The second is this problem in reverse. It's overdoing self care. Instead of following through on important logistics or doing the things that need to get done, you require a daily regimen of self care that looks like the activity schedule at a local day spa: morning meditation, followed by a little bit of yoga, workouts and walks scattered throughout the day, and maybe even a massage.

This is a classic continuum that shows up in most marriages, running from too little to too much. And what we learn from everyone from Aristotle to the Buddha to other classic texts is that the goal is to find the “middle way" -- that point of balance between self care and selfishness.

Getting stuck on either side of this polarity is a problem. Too little self-care can leave you burned out and exhausted by the demands of life. Too much can leave you checking out from important responsibilities.

So what does it look like to find the right amount of self care for you?

 

Tools

 

1. Identify your location on the continuum.

Where do you sit on the spectrum running from too much to too little self care? Answering this question is the starting point. The reason? One person's medicine is another's poison. For someone who never takes time for themselves, self care is essential. For someone who fills their days with excessive self care activities, on the other hand, taking more time to care for themselves makes the problem even worse.

So be honest with your self. Where are you on this continuum?

Do you tend to neglect all forms of self-care? Do you find yourself contributing to your work or the family at all hours, never able to take time for yourself?

Or do you find yourself getting lost in the pleasure-seeking habit of excessive self care? 

 

2. Overshoot the mean.

Once you identify your spot on this continuum, shift back to a place of balance. Our favorite shift move for doing this comes from one of the great philosophers of all time: Aristotle. His philosophy is based on the idea that the best way to get back to the middle or the "mean," as he calls it, is by overshooting it.

If you never take time to cook nutritious meals, exercise, or create space in your life, then overshooting the mean looks like trying to overdo self-care, at least for a little while.

If, on the other hand, you get stuck in excessive self-care, do the opposite. See what happens when you radically cut down on these self-care habits.

By overshooting the mean, you can begin to correct the imbalance. You find that elusive middle way between being selfish and caring for yourself.

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