I was about three years into my marriage when I got a book called Total Woman. It was an older book, but it talked about how to treat your husband so he would ADORE you. The author claimed by the end of the first week you’ll get flowers. It sounded like something I wanted to try!
Now, I have to tell you that I haven’t read this book in at least five years, but these are some of the things I internalized after reading it.
1. Make a list of priorities and do the most important first—bringing order to your day.
2. Meet your husband at the door after work looking good, smelling good, with a smile and dinner cooking.
3. Never talk negatively about your husband to others. Or to him.
4. Give your husband a 20-second kiss as he heads to work, giving him thoughts of you throughout the day.
5. Have sex daily (or as close to it as you can achieve).
6. Compliment your husband. Cheer him on. Affirm him with your words.
Sounds great, right? And it was. John loved it. I was the best wife ever, and we had the perfect marriage. Or at least it looked that way. At least John thought so.
And most of the time I did great. I was able to balance everything reasonably well. I sent my husband off with a kiss and a wave. I made dinner and kept the house clean. I balanced writing and volunteer responsibilities. And I did enjoy the intimate times with my husband.
This system worked extremely well for a people-pleaser. It also worked extremely well for someone who despised confrontation and conflict. And for someone who didn’t really like sharing her feelings anyway. Until I crashed.
Looking back, I suppose I shouldn’t be, but I was shocked by how needy I was and how quickly my emotions got entangled when through email contact from an old boyfriend, a voice from the past, (talked about in my book Generation NeXt Marriage) I heard things like:
1. You are wonderful.
2. You are still beautiful.
3. You’ve told me all about your family, what do you do for you?
4. When do you have fun?
5. When do you relax?
6. Remember the fun we used to have?
It’s not that my husband wasn’t telling me how wonderful and beautiful I was—he did on a regular basis. It’s just that for some reason those additional comments hit trigger points of needs I didn’t realize I had.
Sure things bothered me about my marriage, but I stuffed them.
Sure I wished I had time for coffee with a friend or a manicure, but there were people to take care of.
Sure I wanted to relax . . . but there were people to help—a family, church, and community to serve—work to be done.
Looking back, if I hadn’t had such a solid relationship with God, I know I could have wandered down a dangerous path. Because in addition to emotional ties from the past, there was validation to emotions I didn’t realize I had.
Since then, I’ve realized the importance of caring for self. For taking time to breathe. For caring for my body. For sharing my true feelings. For understanding that happiness doesn’t mean plastering on a smile and pushing through when you’re tired and cranky, overwhelmed and needy inside.
Looking back I also saw additional unhealthy habits that I’d turn to in search of small glimpses of satisfaction through the day . . . namely food. Especially anything with sugar. Or chocolate.
I saw how I took on more responsibilities and cut out my needs in order to fill them. These are behaviors that don’t work for me anymore. They never worked. And while I haven’t given up on caring for my family, writing and volunteering, I take a realistic of just how much I could/should do without burning myself out. I also share my struggles, joys, fears and hopes with John. I’m trying to be real. I’m also trying to take care of the real me, in the process.
How do you take care of you?
© Tricia Goyer author of Generation NeXt Marriage