I know what you’re thinking. This title is click-bait, up there among the lady who married a bridge and the man who married a box of pizza.
It’s not like that, I swear.
I’ve been reading the book I mentioned in this post, Emotional Agility by Susan David, and it’s…well, it’s one of those books I think should be mandatory reading if you are human. I think I’m going to need to make a list of books like that. I keep reading books like that.
In the first section, she talks about self-compassion, about accepting yourself for better or for worse. Sounds like marriage vows to me.
I gave it a try. Self, I accept you, body and soul, till death do us part. Yeah, it was just as stupid and crazy to do as it sounds. I didn’t put on a dress, thank heavens, or play music, although the music might have helped. I just spoke the words to myself, thinking of all the times I’d treated myself like absolute shit, speaking ill right in front of me, blaming me for every failure and setback, and ultimately deciding I was just no good, willing to leave me for another, younger, better version of myself.
Except, unlike marriage, I can’t actually divorce myself. I can only learn to live with me, which, when you take into consideration my annoying eating habits and tendency to leave clothes on the floor, is no mean feat.
I’m trying to make it comical, but it was really quite a turnaround in thinking. Just like in marriage, and in any other relationship, you work at it. You work at being kinder and fighting better and caring for the other even when they’re being a lazy bum and not doing what they promised they would.
Marriage means accepting the other for better or worse, in sickness and health, in productive times and unproductive times, in financial straits or excess. It means you’re committed to being in it for good.
So the same with this notion I had, of, well, not marrying myself, but treating myself better.
Self-compassion, self-care, treat yo’ self – these are all popular buzzwords in society today. But they often take a dangerous form known as enabling. Enabling is typically when a partner, friend or parent allows their loved one to engage in damaging behavior (drugs, alcohol, bad health habits, bad financial habits, seeing bad friends, verbal abuse, etc) and doesn’t call them out on it. The justification is usually that they don’t want to hurt their loved one, don’t want to force them to face the consequences of their actions. Parents continue to give money to grown children who won’t face responsibility. Wives don’t follow through on threats to leave their alcoholic husband. Friends don’t tell each other the person they’re dating is treating them poorly.
This so-called love and compassion is more damaging than helpful, and we often take this stance with ourselves too. We’re so harsh on ourselves normally that we cave in the name of treating ourselves and go to the opposite extreme of trying to let overindulgence, impulsive shopping, or working on something other than our dreams make us feel better about ourselves. In the same way that enabling allows destructive behavior to continue, treating ourselves to cheap and fast rewards leads to less happiness overall.
Instead, as in a good marriage, we need to call ourselves out on bad behavior with compassion and love. We don’t need to rail about how awful we are for failing to work on that project again, or overeating again, or yelling at our kids again. We need to ask why we’re reacting that way, what the deeper issue is, and work to resolve it. We need to have more constructive self-care habits, like meditation, connection with supportive and healthy friends and finding something we value to invest time in.
That’s a good marriage. That’s a good relationship. That’s what I’m trying to do for myself. I’m a pretty nice person. A lot of people have said so. But I’m not nice to myself most of the time. I judge myself by a far higher standard. Most of us do that. We know what we want and what our version of perfect is, and we rarely meet that standard.
The answer is not mindless indulgence after a bout of self-loathing. The answer is healthy communication and honesty with ourselves.
Marry yourself. I recommend it.*
*THIS IS A JOKE. I took it too far, yes. You get the picture.