Our closest relationships require different types of care, attention, and intentionality. The myth of low maintenance relationships is important to call out in family life: they don’t exist.Every functioning adult with the cognitive capacity for self-agency is responsible for self-care: rest, diet, emotional replenishment, and spiritual cultivation. Neglect of our own physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual health leads to burnout or relational damage.
Every mutually satisfying marriage requires intentional effort to nurture a friendship and partnership in which both spouses experience love and care, and feel understood, desired, and important to the other. Neglect of one’s marriage results in cold and superficial relating bordering on co-habitation or worse.
Every well-functioning household operates by some mutually agreed-upon division of labor, principles, practices, systems of organization, and maintenance. Every emotionally healthy child is engaged by both parents in love, structure, discipline, and instruction. Neglect of household maintenance yields chaos. Neglect of children can perpetuate generations of brokenness and pain and trauma.
3 Essential Types of Care Needed in Every Household
Addressing all three types of care in every household is essential for mental health and contributes to societal mental health.
1. Self-Care Adequate sleep is correlated with work productivity, overall mental and physical health including brain and heart health, a stronger immune system, and creativity. Experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night. (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/sleep-needs-get-the-sleep-you-need.htm)
Similarly, eating healthy with a well-balanced diet can give the energy to keep you active throughout your day and give nutrients for growth and repair of the body, help you to avoid diet-related illness, and add years to one’s life expectancy. (https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/food-and-nutrition/eating-well/health-benefits-of-eating-well)
Regular exercise and movement also add longevity, as well as boost productivity, focus, and creativity. (https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/physical-activity-its-important) Emotional recharging or replenishment is needed at the end of a workday. (https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-recharge)
Spirituality, or one’s relationship with God is cultivated via regular rhythms, practices, experiences, and community. (https://www.sharecare.com/health/spiritual-wellness-religion/spiritual-affect-quality-of-life)
When healthy self-care is pursued, the capacity for giving to others is also enhanced. How are you engaging in healthy self-care? How are you supporting your spouse to pursue his/her self-care?
Daily reaffirming commitment via speaking my spouse’s love languages, checking-in and tracking with one another’s hearts, and taking time to cultivate friendship with one’s spouse are part of the life-long commitment to marriage.Researchers John and Julie Gottman discovered that one commonality of married couples who reported great satisfaction in their relationship is regular if not daily focused attention given to one’s spouse in order to track with his/her emotional status.
Another factor that was addressed in highly satisfying marriages was the continual building of friendship between husband and wife. (https://www.gottman.com/love-lab/)
Gary Chapman identifies Five Love Languages by which love is experienced: affectionate touch, affirming words, acts of service, meaningful gifts, and quality time. (https://www.5lovelanguages.com/)
Good spouse care is about choosing to love, demonstrate commitment, and maintain practices, seek friendship-building experiences, and do the work to understand one another.
The experience of regularly feeling loved and understood then becomes a foundation for decision-making, healthy conflict resolution, and fruitful partnership. When there is physical-emotional and spiritual intimacy between husband and wife, children in the home also experience emotional security.
How are you practicing spouse-care? How are you working together to cultivate a strong connection?
3. Household and/or Kid Care
Systems of organization (regarding finances, home sanitation, food buying and preparation, household maintenance) are needed to avoid systemic chaos. What is the division of labor and partnership for these in your household?
Children need daily attention and mirroring of their emotional state, (http://www.daniellemaxon.com/blog/2016/4/6/mirroring-your-childs-intense-emotions), affirmation and speaking of their love languages (https://www.5lovelanguages.com/book/the-5-love-languages-of-children/), loving discipline when correction is needed and defiance is addressed, instruction in spiritual life, emotional nurturance, the setting of healthy boundaries for behavior and character, caring for and addressing physical, mental-emotional, social, spiritual, and academic needs. Teamwork, mutual support, coordination, and alignment are needed between parents regarding parenting. How do you achieve these in your household?
Care of self, spouse, household, and children as I’ve described above are practices that reflect values. It’s important that spouses share the same values including the value of mutual support to address all these kinds of care.
How will you support your spouse to engage in all three kinds of care, and with you? Sometimes the need is to clarify and negotiate how these kinds of care will be addressed together.
Christian Marriage and Family Counseling
Christian marriage counseling can be a setting in which you can discern, dialog about, and commit to the value of addressing all three kinds of care needed in your household.
A Christian counselor will support and leverage your faith convictions and can help you to communicate and enact these three kinds of care. A counselor can be one source of support and accountability for your sustaining vital practices that express these three kinds of care. If you are interested in getting help to clarify, enact, and live out these ways of caring in your family, please contact me or one of my colleagues.
“Hugging”, Courtesy of Matthew Fassnacht, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Curbside Chat,” Courtesy of Sebastian Leon Prado, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hike”, Courtesy of Alberto Casetta, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Washing Up”, Courtesy of CDC, Unsplash.com, CC0 License