To say that marriages need love is about as obvious as saying peanut butter needs chocolate.
We read about love, watch movies about love, listen to songs about love and even celebrate a holiday about love.
But, do we really know how to love?
"I love me" comes before "I love you"
When we think of selfishness in marriages, we generally think of individuals pursuing their own interests without considering how their actions might impact their spouses. This type of selfishness can certainly harm a marriage.
However, there is another type of selfishness that arises too often in marriages. This sneaky form of selfishness arises from our own self-loathing. If you don't believe me, ask yourself the following questions:
On your down days, what percentage of time do you think about your partner's needs?
How likely are you to selflessly serve your spouse when you feel blue?
When you aren't feeling good about yourself, do you easily demonstrate love to your spouse through words and actions?
We all experience some sadness of course. However, if you allow yourself to celebrate your own "pity party," you will be unable to give your best to your marriage relationship.
I do need to give a quick disclaimer: a lot of selfish behavior can arise in marriages under the guise of "loving oneself." Please note I am not suggesting to love ourselves is to spend more money on ourselves, spend more time seeking selfish pursuits or to become narcissistic in our thinking. Likewise, I am not suggesting we become disinterested in our own self-improvement.
What I am suggesting is that we need to think more kindly of ourselves and become a bit more patient with ourselves as we strive to make necessary improvements.
I once had a wise student ask, "If a friend talked to us the way we talk to ourselves, would we be friends with that person?" That's a rather thought provoking question, isn't it?
Social media can either help or hinder your ability to love yourself
Similarly, I am pleading with you to stop comparing yourself to others. This is a destructive habit and one that leads to self-loathing.
Have you ever spent time on Facebook and thought, "Wow, everybody has either just lost 20 pounds, gone on a epic vacation, celebrated an anniversary to their amazing spouse, posted pictures of their perfect family or received an incredible promotion at work"?
Is it possible that our social media consumption impacts how we feel about ourselves?
This may be the case according to research by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Researchers found as Facebook usage increased, self-esteem decreased, especially for women.
Another study noted that those with low Facebook usage reported higher levels of self-esteem than both heavy Facebook users and non-users, which suggests a potential benefit to moderate social media use.
As you can see, you need to be careful how you spend your time on social media. It affects not only how you love yourself but also how you love your spouse.
Marriages need consistent attention, friendship, spontaneity, creativity and passion if they are to thrive. And since we all have a finite amount of time and energy, we will not be capable of spending the time or energy required to form and maintain such a marriage if we choose to focus inwardly.
We are simply incapable of fulling loving others when we loathe ourselves. Thus, loving ourselves is the first step to truly loving our spouses.
This article was originally published on FamilyGoodThings.com. It has been republished here with permission.
Rob Stewart has taught marriage classes at BYU-Idaho for the last decade and is a co-founder and contributor at familygoodthings.com. He is also the author of the popular new eBook "3 Things You Can Do Today to Create a Ridiculously Happy Marriage."