What happens if we fail to grasp the work before us? Relationship problems will be our cue that something is off kilter. When I try to manufacture love rather than serve as a conduit of God’s love, I will grow reactive and weary. Some might call this codependency run amok. In my understanding of life, it is only through conscious contact with a power greater than ourselves that we ever receive the power we need to love ourselves and others well. Conscious contact is a big deal.
Self-awareness is also a big deal. I know several things about myself that are prerequisites for me in order to live a wholehearted life. I’m old, and I’ve figured some of this out but I still relapse and end up in a big mess in one or more arenas of love. It took years and some help from those I love to begin this journey of self-respectful living.
Pete and I had been married nine years when we had a huge fight. We are not big fighters. We usually live pretty companionably. But at this point in life we had joined a gym and Pete found ways to use it faithfully. From an adult’s perspective, we would call this good self-care. He also played on a softball team that he loved. He worked hard, was fully present at home for me and the kids, was responsible in all ways that we consider adulting.
But I was ALWAYS resentful of his ball games and his gym time. I made him pay for his time of self-care with manipulation and pouting. Finally, he set me down for a talk. It went something like this. “Hey, I love you and all that, but this is unfair to me. I am not asking for unreasonable time for myself. You need to accept this and stop punishing me for a crime I haven’t committed.”
I retorted, “When do I get time for me?”
He replied, “Whenever you want it. We just need to plan for it. I am happy to do whatever it takes for you to have me time too.” And he meant it. I knew he meant it. It made me mad that this was true. Here’s the deal. I was NOT being responsible for my own self-care. I blamed him for a problem that was mine to solve. I realized he was speaking the truth in love and that conversation changed my life forever. I took him up on his offer and started hitting the gym myself. I joined a tennis team (short-lived because I discovered I did not enjoy it). I took responsibility for my self-care. If we had not made this pivot both in our marriage and for me personally, I do not know how our life would look today but I am certain it would not look as joy-filled. Are you taking responsibility for you? It is one factor that helps improve our relationships in the other two arenas.