As a marriage mediator, I often hear women's stories about how they're struggling to stay afloat in their marriages. One woman described her decade-long marriage to me, and I immediately saw her courage and bravery in seeking help. She could have walked away from the marriage, but she didn't. She loved her husband but was unhappy and overwhelmed.
Have you, like this woman, ever committed so much time to others that you barely had time to breathe?
By all counts, her husband, children and even extended family were thriving from her constant care. She believed that whatever she did for others would come back to her tenfold, but it hadn't happened. She was waiting.
She was looking for karma to happen instead of creating it. With all of the buckets of love she willingly poured on others, she failed to be showered by one herself.
She required a mind shift to help her see she too needed attention and love. The beauty is, the remedy is self-care, which can be done practically solo.
Here are five tips for the struggling married woman.
1. Consider yourself at least once a day
You don't need perfection to be happy, but you need consideration. You are the most important part of the equation in your mission of giving to and caring for others. Failure to stand under a single stream of kindness will surely find you feeling empty.
Try five minutes of yoga stretching before bed or commit the first 10 minutes of every day to yourself. You can read a devotion in a spiritual book, meditate, listen to music, imagine happiness in your day and life or any number of things.
2. Acknowledge where you stand and where you've been
Sometimes when you're on a road that seems deep in service to others, you can forget to turn and look back. When you do look back, there are things to be celebrated like challenges lived through, ideas that changed people's lives, acts that were inspirational and times when grit was found beyond the edge.
Now, gain perspective by taking that view and looking at the road ahead. Make decisions that will give you more of what you want and take steps to prevent what left you hollow.
Jot down some things you would like to try, books you might like to read and some of the things you'd like to do. If you can't can't come up any of those things, focus on a feeling you would like to have. Do you want more thrill or awe or even motivation? Seeking those feelings might lead you to visiting outdoor markets or amusement parks. It may lead to looking through scenic photos or becoming the collector of them on a social media page. Perhaps you commit to attend two live motivational conferences in the year.
Let's be honest, no time is a good time for cruel comparisons in marriage.
Chick-flicks are the best and worst when it comes to comparing. Beautiful women. Well-groomed men. Both making all the right moves and knowing exactly how to resolve the situation when they've flubbed. And don't get me started on how the men on the big screen communicate with just the right emotional temperature.
We compare our worst to their best, and we (and our husbands) always end up on the short end.
Be cautious of expecting your husband to suddenly change his behavior when you've created a well-oiled pattern for your marriage. Don't do negative self-talk because you ate ice cream and broke your diet rules.
There are so many factors at play when we choose to compare. Step back and breath. You might find that blindly following the crowd has left you holding their version of perfect. Decide for yourself what perfection means to you. What do you believe? How beautiful can you be? How do you express love? What is passion between you?
4. Welcome your limits
Everyone has them, and every marriage promises them. Life can have sparks once you accept the human side of you, your husband and your marriage. Just because someone else claims to be married to their best friend, fix breakfast every morning and iron their man's underwear, doesn't mean they set your standard of happiness.
Get more efficient in seeking what you want. If you want more romance in your marriage, take a class or join an online group. If you want to make more money, sit down and draft the plan to get there.
5. Take a break
Perhaps you need an entire day alone or together - either way, take a break. Marriage is weighed down with expectations about performance, income and behaviors. The calendar is filled with appointments, obligations and - whew! - the countless unexpected events and emergencies. Honestly, marriage takes a beating that needs a break. Look for slivers of time or take an entire day.
If you go it alone, do the things that mean rejuvenation to you. Hit the mall and stroll pointlessly. Visit a gallery and sit until it closes. Visit a friend and make appetizers.
If you have a day with your husband, eat at both places you'd each like to go to. Discuss which topics you don't want to talk about and which topics are vital to talk about. You could also simply bring up a positive, forgotten memory and see where that conversation goes. And don't forget to dream. Together, dream about the next escape day, a future job or income goals and retirement plans. Fill the time with the magic other days don't get.
Karleen Andresen is a mediator and conflict professional. She has a specialty in crisis and suicide issues. Focusing her work on the mainstream, Andresen hosts half day workshops to share how hostage negotiators help others deal with stress - and you can too! If they can talk someone from the ledge, it works.