Why Loving Yourself Comes Before Loving Your Spouse
To say that marriages need love is about as obvious as saying peanut butter needs chocolate.
We read about love, we watch movies about love, the most popular songs on the radio sing about love, and we even devote a holiday to love!
But what people might not know about love in marriage is one key factor: the importance of loving ourselves.
We Should Love Ourselves (in the Right Way)
It is my observation that we can’t fully love someone else while we are loathing ourselves. So, if we want to truly love our spouse, we need a healthy love for ourselves first.
I do need to give a quick disclaimer. There is a lot of selfish behavior that can arise in marriage under the guise of “loving oneself.” Please note that I am not suggesting that the way for us to love ourselves is to spend more money on ourselves, spend more time seeking selfish pursuits, or to become narcissistic in our thinking. I’m also not suggesting that we become disinterested in our own self-improvement.
What I am suggesting is that we need to think more kindly about ourselves. And we need to become a bit more patient with ourselves as we strive to make necessary improvements.
I once had a wise student who said, “If a friend talked to us the way that we talk to ourselves, would we be friends with that person?” That’s a rather thought provoking question, isn’t it?
In addition to thinking more positively, I am pleading with you to stop comparing yourself to others. This habit can destroy individuals and marriages!
Are Your Social Media Habits Helping or Harming Your Ability to Love Yourself?
Have you ever spent time on Facebook and thought, “Wow, everybody has either just lost 20 pounds, is on vacation, is celebrating an anniversary to their amazing spouse, just posted pictures of their perfect family, or just received an incredible promotion at work.”
I know that not every Facebook post is like that, but I’ve seen so many that are – you have too. How do these posts affect us? Is it possible that our social media consumption can impact how we feel about our own lives?
This may be the case according to research out of Sweden from the University of Gothenburg. These researchers found that, especially for women, as Facebook usage increased, self-esteem decreased.
Another study noted that those with low Facebook usage reported higher levels of self-esteem than both heavy Facebook users and non-users.
Interestingly enough, the second study suggests a potential benefit to what I like to call “social media in moderation.” In that study, people who limited their use of Facebook were not only happier than more frequent users, but also felt better about themselves than those who didn’t use Facebook.
Why is This So Important?
Earlier I suggested that learning to love ourselves comes before we can fully love our spouse.
When we think of selfishness in marriage, we usually think of individuals pursuing their interests without thinking of their spouse. This type of selfishness can definitely harm a marriage!
However, there is another type of selfishness that arises too often in marriages. This sneaky form of selfishness can arise from our own self-loathing. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself the following questions:
- On days where you are “down,” what percentage of your time are you thinking about your partner’s needs?
- How likely are you to selflessly serve your spouse when you are feeling “blue”?
- When you aren’t feeling good about yourself, how readily do you demonstrate your love to your spouse?
We all experience some sadness of course. And there are some who struggle with clinical depression who may need medical help. However, for the rest of us, as we allow ourselves to remain mired in our own “pity party,” we are unable to give our best to our spouse.
Among other things, marriages need consistent attention, friendship, and passion if they are going to thrive. Since we all have a limited amount of time and energy, if we choose to focus inwardly we won’t be able to give the time or energy needed to form and maintain such a marriage!
Thus, loving our self is a first step to truly loving our spouse. In the words of 19th century Irish poet Oscar Wilde, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”