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How the Self-Care Movement Could Actually Wreck Your Marriage

“Love yourself first.” 
“Do what makes you happy.”
“Don’t waste time on people who don’t make you a priority.”

If you’ve spent any time on the internet (duh), and especially if you subscribe to any sort of mental health focused circles, you’ve probably heard some variations of quotes like these. Maybe even shared some of them! Because at first glance, they seem like they make a lot of sense. We have to take care of ourselves in order to take of others, right?

I have a very complicated relationship with the self-care movement. I could truly talk your ear off about it. As a person who struggles with depression and anxiety, I am a huge supporter of REAL self-care. But what even is that? For someone like me, that’s things like paying attention to my body and my mind, learning what my triggers are, making healthy choices to keep going and take care of my family even when I’m having an episode. There are so many things that self-care IS, that are good and necessary for a healthy life. But, there are also a lot of things that self-care is not, and this is where things get dangerous. 

The line between self-care and self-indulgence has started becoming more apparent and more talked about lately, and I’m thankful for that. You don’t need spa days and beach vacations and shopping trips in order to take good care of yourself. But I’m here to talk about something a little more sneaky and a lot more dangerous. Self-indulgence could break your bank account, but this other stuff could break your relationships, and the relationships that I believe to be in the most danger are our marriages.

Whether you’re working on writing your vows, or already have them hung on your wall or tucked into your wedding album, or if they’re still just a dream in your heart, I want you to think about them for a moment. 
Wedding vows are one of the ultimate examples of self-sacrifice and unconditional love. It’s why they’re so wonderful and deep and meaningful.

“For better or for worse.”
“In sickness and in health.”
“Forsaking all others.”
“To love until death do us part.”

Now go back and look at the “self-care” quotes at the top. Go on, I’ll wait.
Are you starting to see any discrepancies between those two sets of quotes? Because I do.
I have seen so many posts and quotes and articles about “taking care of yourself” by only investing your time into people who invest just as much time into you. By only letting people stay in your life who make you a priority, and cutting them out if they don’t. By withdrawing from relationships if you feel like you need a break, or aren’t being fulfilled, or need to discover yourself, or find yourself, or….fill in the blank. That to take care of yourself, you have to put yourself first and love yourself first and if someone in your life doesn’t support that or assist you in that or also put you first, then they don’t love you like they should and you have the right to cut them out of your life in the name of self-care.

I tell every single one of our couples that though I love weddings, I love marriage more. Your wedding is a huge deal to me, but your marriage matters even more to me than your wedding does. And if we make those vows, to love our spouse even when things are “worse” (even if we feel like the source of the “worse” is our spouse), to love them in sickness (even if the sickness is our own mental health, or their mental health, and it comes out in ways that are hard and yucky and we didn’t plan on), to love them “forsaking all others” (even when that means forsaking ourself and our desires and “rights”), to love them until death parts you (even if you go through times in your life when you are no longer happy, or you don’t feel in love, or you don’t think your spouse is treating you the way you deserve), then those quotes that tell us to put ourselves first no longer apply to us. By making those vows, we are choosing to give up those rights so that we can love someone else unconditionally and sacrificially, and if that sounds like a huge deal to you, that’s because it is. Every marriage goes through times when one or both of you are going to think “this isn’t what I thought I was signing up for.” Mark and I certainly have. And that’s when the “for worse” and “in sickness” and “forsaking all others” starts. It’s not just loving each other when something bad happens TO you, it’s also loving each other when something bad happens WITHIN you. Because in those times, if we choose to “love” ourself more than or before our spouse, that isn’t self-care, that’s self-centeredness. 

Only loving someone if they love you back is not unconditional love. Only caring for someone who makes you a priority is not self-care, it is self-centeredness. Only investing your time and energy into someone who invests the same amount into you, and refusing to do it if they don’t, is a very selfish way to love someone. And as it turns out, selfishness isn’t actually love at all. 
Yes, there are dangerous and toxic people in the world, and I am not saying to stay in a situation that is abusive or dangerous. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m also not saying that if you and your spouse go through a difficult time like this, that you just have to suck it up. That is a time to seek help, and to grow together, and to work on learning how to love each other better than you did before.
But not getting everything out of a marriage that you wanted to or expected to isn’t an excuse to stop choosing to love them, or to leave. It’s a chance to reevaluate your expectations, and show them the love of Christ, which loves without reciprocation. Unconditional love.
“We love because He first loved us…” “…while we were still his enemies…”
(This is an extra big deal for those who are believers in Christ, because it’s how he has told us to live, but even if you’re not a believer, this still applies to your marriage.)

Those beautiful wedding vows don’t have conditions on them because they are meant to be an expression of unconditional love. But if we mistake self-centeredness for self-care, and sub-consciously (or consciously) apply those conditions to loving our spouses, then we’re endangering our marriages before they even start.

Photo by Kira Adele Photography (

Mark and I are committed to #beating50percent, and we want that for you as well! Invest in your health. Make wise choices. But don’t mistake self-centeredness for self-care in a world that would sell you nothing but. ❤️

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