The framework I use to think about my relationship with my wife is our Four Pillars of a Relationship. In fact I think this framework also applies to to my relationship with myself. To be at my best these are some of the questions I’m currently reflecting on:
- Desire – do I like myself and the company I keep when I’m alone?
- Time – do I allocate time to myself and do things that feed me outside my relationship and family?
- Direction – do I have clarity about what gives my life meaning and do I work towards realising my dreams?
- Communication – do I have a high quality of inner dialogue and compassionate, non-judgemental thoughts about myself?
Why is this important?
If I’m not taking care of myself then I cannot take care of others in the way I would like. Self-care means, for me, doing what is in my power to ensure I am at my best as often as possible.
This might sound selfish but ‘selfish’ implies I put myself first and don’t consider or care about others. This is not what I’m talking about.
There isn’t a word that accurately captures what I mean here. ‘Self-ful‘ would get close. It is about recognising, valuing and considering other people in my life while I carve out time and activities that are purely about myself. It is about getting balance between where I put my attention and focus and including myself in that picture.
It might, for example, be about recharging my batteries or about contemplating the direction of my life or about simply enjoying some solo activity that no-one else in my family appreciates (in my case, that’s soccer)
It Starts with Time
I’ve written several articles about the importance of time spent together with your partner – both the amount of time and the quality of that time.
Just as important is time devoted to self-care.
How to find this time when I’m struggling to find time to devote to all the other things in my life? Here are some questions that might help:
- Are you overcommitted?
If you have taken on more than you can handle at home and work then it’s time to reassess and drop some things you have committed to. Free up some time for yourself.
- Are there windows of time you could use?
Looking at a typical day, you might find periods when you are on your own. Why not use those to take care of yourself?
For example, I am usually awake about 1 hour before everyone else in my family and I have grown to really appreciate this time when I dance, meditate and run.
- Where can you fake multi-task?
True multitasking is not possible – at least for activities that require concentration – but is actually sequential tasks with rapid switching between activities. It is possible, though, to do two things at the same time when they require different types of concentration.
For example, once a week I clean the whole apartment which takes me about 2 hours (I enjoy it a lot – sense of progress and contribution to our comfort). I worked out a methodical and efficient system for cleaning so it all flows pretty automatically and leaves my mind free for other stuff. So I listen to audiobooks while I work.
So where can you combine activities – one of which could be self care?
- What mutual agreements with your partner would help?
The chances are that your partner also needs time for self care. So how can you arrange things between you to support this?
For example, one evening each week I take care of our daughter so my wife has an ‘evening off’ … and another day each week I have an evening off. This more extended time could be used for drinks with friends, reading or self reflection.
- Do you have gaps in your schedule?
In most schedules there are some gaps between activities and commitments, such as travelling to a meeting or waiting to go to bed while your partner takes a shower. Sometimes they are predictable and others appear unexpectedly. I recommend being prepared to use those gaps as they present themselves.
For example, on my phone I always have audiobooks, meditations, music and yes, even the odd game or two. I use these whenever I have a gap.
So how do you make sure you get the quality time with yourself that you need to function at your best?