[Samantha] You are listening to episode 2 of She’s Not Selfish. For any of us who are trying to prioritize practicing self care on a regular or consistent basis, we know how important it is and how valuable it is to have the support of our spouse in order to make that happen. So today we’re going to be exploring what it looks like and what it means to nurture an abundance mindset within the context of our marriages and how that better equips us to support one another, especially when it comes to the pursuit of self care. So, let’s do this thing.
I actually had something completely different planned for today’s episode. And, as I was working on it, I realized that I needed to shift gears. Because right now, as I’m recording this, I’m currently living and working through this very topic myself. Which makes it a really stellar opportunity to just be very real and honest with you. Which is one of my primary goals with this podcast.
At first, you may be wondering how an episode about marriage fits the show. And, I’ll just clarify for you now, and it will become increasingly clear as we progress through the discussion that our conversation is going to tie very naturally into the topic of self-care.
First, I need to fill you in on what’s going on, what I’m experiencing, and then we’ll be using this story as a sort of case study to draw upon throughout the conversation. So, right now, as I’m recording this, it is Saturday and my husband, Todd, is out of state. He is in Oklahoma with one of his good friends, and they are participating in the final track day of the season before winter.
Now, the logical question here is, ‘What the heck is track day?’. Todd owns a motorcycle, and on track day, he gets to take his motorcycle to a designated track and ride it alongside his peers that are at the same skill level as he is. Todd is really good at riding his motorcycle, it turns out. So, he’s in the advanced skill group, which surprises no one, because he’s awesome at everything he does.
So, he gets to ride alongside others who are also at that advanced skill level. And, he gets to practice his skills, go as fast as he wants, which he, of course, loves. And, he gets to do all of this in an isolated environment where they don’t have to be thinking about traffic, which, I, of course, love.
Now, there are some thoughts that often naturally come up when people learn that Todd, number one, has a motorcycle, and number two, that he’s gone some weekends at the track. And, they may be thoughts that you yourself are having right now. So, one of them is, ‘Gosh, that sounds really dangerous.’. The other is, ‘Wow, Samantha is amazing to let him leave for multiple days at a time to let him ride his motorcycle.’.
I’m gonna press pause on that story for now, but like I said, we’re going to come back to it throughout the conversation as a sort of case study, because we’re going to be exploring six principles for nurturing an abundance mindset in our marriages.
Before we get there, let’s talk about what it means to have an abundance mindset, both in general and in marriage, and why it matters. To start, I want to propose to you that we, as women, we, of course, are equal partners in our marriages. But we have a really significant trajectory determining opportunity. And it’s the opportunity to either hold our partners and ourselves back by creating a culture of scarcity within our marriage. Or to foster a really healthy and lifegiving environment by creating a culture of abundance.
Stephen Covey is the author of the bestselling book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. You’ve likely heard of this book at some point. In there, he paints a picture for us of some of the key differences between having a scarcity mentality versus having an abundance mindset. Covey refers to the scarcity mentality as a zero-sum paradigm of life. This means that we believe that whatever is gained by one side, or one person, is lost by the other. He has a really helpful analogy for this. He says, ‘People with a scarcity mindset see life like a pie.’. So the thing about a pie is that there is only so much to go around. If someone gets a larger slice of the pie, what does it mean for somebody else? Of course, it means that they’ll get stuck with a smaller slice.
It’s unsurprising that this type of mindset leads to unhealthy competition, resentfulness, bitterness, and you can start to see very quickly how having that type of mindset in marriage might not be that helpful or great.
Then Covey explains mentality, which he says, flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth or security, and he goes on to say it is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody.
Now, when we adopt an abundance mentality in our marriage, we go from being at odds with each other and confining one another, to creating an overflow and abundance of opportunity and support, and mutual respect within our marriages. Which will quite naturally overflow into our families and other areas of our lives.
You see, we define the culture within our marriage. We have the opportunity to redefine that culture, which is going to enhance the effectiveness, resilience, and joy produced within that partnership, and in turn, elevate the culture of our family units.
I’m going to share six principles for adopting an abundance mindset in marriage. We’re going to use that story about track days as a case study throughout. I want to clarify that, although I call them principles, they’re more accurately like hypotheses, because they’re the result of messy refining, and most importantly, ongoing process of experiential learning that I’ve been partaking in over the course of the past five years of marriage. Of course, I’m still learning, still growing, still making heaps of mistakes along the way. So, you need to be aware of that as we move forward so that you can get a sense of my posture of humility as we address these principles or hypotheses.
Principle number one, a perpetual state of being sacrificial is not noble. You might be thinking, ‘Well, of course it is.’. As moms, it’s really easy for us to create habits of perpetual sacrifice and de-prioritization because it’s what we have to do sometimes in order to help our families function and to get our children what they need. We have to put ourselves last often. The problem becomes when that common occurrence becomes a habitual practice. In partnerships, which marriage is, it’s a partnership, partnerships can’t thrive in a situation where one person always feels like their the one making sacrifices. Especially given the perception that the other person isn’t doing so as much. The partnership will collapse, and if not collapse, at best, it’ll just not be able to function as well or as strongly, as resiliently as it otherwise could.
So, when people say, ‘Oh my gosh Todd, Samantha is such an amazing wife to let you go to the track to ride your motorcycle on the weekends.’, yeah, it strokes my ego when people say that, which incentivizes me to keep up the behavior that produces the praise. But, perpetual sacrifice can very easily, very subtly lead to secret resentment if we’re not careful. Resentment builds up over time. It’s kind of like tartar on your teeth. It will weaken and wear down the integrity of the structure of your marriage. We have to be really aware of, and cautious, regarding the correlation between sacrifice and resentment.
There’s this really interesting practice that I learned from a gentleman by the name of Hal Elrod. If you’ve never heard of Hal, he is the author of the bestselling book The Miracle Morning and Hal has been through some crazy stuff in his life and he has such mindblowing perspective as a result of it. But one of the things I heard Hal talking about once on a podcast was this idea of allowing yourself to fully feel whatever negative emotion you’re experiencing for five minutes. So you put a timer on it and you say, ‘Okay, for five minutes I’m allowed to just feel the depths of this despair.’. You don’t try to filter it, you don’t try to tell yourself the reasons why you should be grateful instead, or whatever, just feel it, really feel it for five minutes. Then, when that five minutes is up, you start switching gears and you start going down that path of realizing, ‘Okay, I have the power to determine what happens next. I can’t change what happened. I can change and impact and be the director of my response from here on out, so what decisions am I going to make now about what I’m focusing on?’.
That process of five minutes then done has been really a game-changer for me. Certainly, there are times for me when I do feel jealous of Todd. There are times when I feel resentfulness towards Todd. but allowing myself to feel those things for moments, for minutes, rather than for hours and weeks and months. Obviously, that is not healthy to be feeling those things perpetually and to be focusing on those feelings perpetually. But, at the same time, we want to just not steamroll past our emotions and our feelings. Give them permission to be. Sit with them, reside with them for a limited period of time. Then, start switching your perspective and start choosing to focus on something higher knowing that where you place your focus matters. We’re going to talk more about that in a little bit.
If you’re feeling that you are making sacrifices often. Like, your general feelings toward your spouse and your marriage is that you often have to make sacrifices, I want to offer a couple of steps for us to take.
Step number one is to take a walk in empathy and imagine the ways in which the other person has sacrificed too. In empathy, try to imagine the sacrifices that your spouse has had to make. Do that without trying to calculate the relative value of that sacrifice. Then, as you’re doing that, bear in mind that what you perceive as minimal may be perceived as maximal and vice versa. What you perceive as maximal sacrifice, they might perceive as being minimal. So, it’s for this reason that at this initial stage, we’re not trying to calculate the relative value of the sacrifice, because that is a very subjective calculation. All we’re doing is submerging ourselves in empathy, putting on our thinking caps and imagining the ways in which they’ve had to sacrifice too.
Step number two is to communicate. Oh my gosh, I’m so shocked that Samantha told me to communicate. Talk about it. But the goal when you’re talking about it is to relax that sympathetic nervous system and to not approach the topic defensively, but to put words to what you’re feeling and experiencing.
Step number three is to think through the specific things that you need in order to break up that pattern of sacrificed fueled resentment. Often times the things that we’ll need in order to do that involve self-care practices, ways for us to take care of ourselves and prioritize ourselves and to temporarily shift our focus away from the other people in our lives that we are often having to think about and take care of.
So think about those specific things that you need, and then share them with your spouse and come up with a game plan as to how you’re going to get them. For me, if I simply need the opportunity to get out of the house, go to the gym, and then go to my favorite coffee shop, I need to be able to communicate that to Todd and I need for us together to come up with a plan for how that’s going to work and when that’s going to be possible.
So again, step one is to in empathy imagine the other person’s sacrifices. Step two is to communicate, to put words to what you are feeling and experiencing. Step three is to think through what you need, and then share those things with your spouse.
Principal number two, the ‘I can’t’ scenario. ‘Oh my gosh, I love lose-lose scenarios.’, said no one ever. They’re the worst. No one benefits from that, right? This statement, ‘I can’t, so therefore you shouldn’t.’ is the perfect example of operating in a scarcity mentality in our marriages. It’s a really limiting way to think about things because it keeps us both from getting what we need to function at our best. That’s just a shame. That’s just silly.
What does it look like for us to go from creating that lose-lose scenario to putting on our creative problem-solving thinking caps and trying to turn it into a win-win scenario? So, first of all, let’s take that negative statement, ‘I can’t, so you shouldn’t’, and turn it into a positive statement. For example, ‘I want to and I want you to.’. From my example, I could say, ‘Todd, I can’t leave for multiple days at a time, for multiple weekends throughout the summer, so you shouldn’t be able to either.’, but see how different it sounds when I say something like this instead, ‘I really want to be able to do the things that restore my energy, fill my cup, that I really enjoy, and I want you to as well.’.
Now, instead of assuming that that’s impossible, that that could never happen because of limited resources of time, money, energy, etcetera, we need to stop with the assumptions and start putting on our thinking caps, like I said before. Getting creative with the solutions to try to bring that win-win scenario to life. How can we make it to where each person is getting what they need to function at their best, their most thriving self for their own benefit and then in turn, for the benefit of this whole operation, this whole team.
Statements like that, that, ‘I can’t, so you shouldn’t’, it comes from this desire to keep things fair. We’ve all heard it, ‘Honey, life aint fair.’, yeah, yeah yeah. But, deep down inside, we still feel like it should be, right? We want things to be fair. It needs to be fair, doesn’t it? So we put these systems in place to try to ensure fairness, ‘If I can’t, you can’t.’. But I’m going to suggest that marriage is intended to be, or designed to be fair. We’re not trying to achieve fairness in every situation. That’s a really small way to think about our grander purpose and vision. What we’re trying to do is make sure that both people in this partnership have what they personally need to be healthy and well, to feel valued, and to function at their best. Fairness is not a prerequisite for that. It’s really not reasonable to hold one another’s needs to the standard of fairness, because sometimes I need more or less, or differently than Todd. And additionally, our needs are not always going to require the same exact input of resources. Think of resources like time or money.
If our primary focus is fairness, we’re really missing the bigger picture. We’re setting ourselves up to create lose-lose scenarios where no one gets what they want, ‘Well I can’t, so you can’t.’ that's not needed, it’s not helpful, it’s not helping anyone for us to do that.
So, is there a way for us to do that? So, is there a way for us to flip our thinking on this, and to get creative, put our heads together and come up with a scenario where we both are getting what we need, rather than neither of us getting what we need. There’s got to be, right? There’s got to be a secret option C. We’re smart people, how can we make it happen? These are the types of conversations that Todd and I have. ‘Okay, you need this, I need this. What can we do to make both of those attainable?’. I tell you what, it sounds small, perhaps, but when you start thinking about these types of things in that way, where you’re focusing on the possibilities rather than the, ‘Well, there’s no way that that’s going to work.’, it really makes a difference.
Principle number three. Keeping score keeps our focus off of what matters. So when I say, ‘Keeping score’, I’m talking about statements like, ‘Well, if you get X, then I get Y.’ or in my example, ‘Well he got a weekend off, I get a weekend off.’, or something comparable. Stuff like that. And this desire to keep score goes back to that desire for things to be fair. But here’s the thing, keeping score keeps our focus small, it keeps us caught up in the details that I’m going to argue don’t matter. It reduces our needs to accalculation. Very subtly, keeping score implies that we have to earn the opportunity to have our needs met, and it implies that we’re owed something when we help support the other person in getting their needs met. Furthermore, it encourages comparison. And we all know what they say about comparison. It is the thief of joy, right? Comparison and marriage don’t mesh well, and I should know because I do it often.
I want to encourage and challenge us to elevate our focus to thinking about, ‘What is best for our spouse?’, not ‘What am I owed?’. What is my role in helping the other person attain what they need to be functioning at their best, and how can I step up to help provide that? Because, you better believe that we do have a role in helping one another be our healthiest, our best, our most whole. I mean, a car doesn’t run without oil, right? Or maybe to be on theme I should say a motorcycle doesn’t run without oil, right? You know, we act like we expect one another to be able to function and operate at optimal levels but we still do these petty things like keeping score when it comes to prioritizing one another’s self care, and that’s really unhelpful. I’m even going to say it’s really unhealthy. We have to have a grander vision for what we’re trying to achieve and where were headed. Understanding that supporting one another in getting what we need to be able to be at our best for ourselves, and for the sake of this team, the team being our marriage, and our family, it’s really important.
This leads very naturally into principle number four, which is, permission to practice self-care is not a bargaining chip. First of all, let’s acknowledge that self-care looks different for all of us, and we all need it. You know what’s kind of interesting is self-care is thought of as a female need. But, I’m going to suggest that self-care is not gender-specific. Men, our husbands, need it too, although granted, you’ll probably never hear them call it that, but ultimately, it is self-care as well. Just because it looks different for them and sounds different for them, doesn’t mean that it’s not really important.
Something for us to think about, along these lines, is that people will say, ‘Oh Samantha, you’re such a great wife for letting Todd go to the tracks on the weekends.’. I take issue with those words that I quote-unquote, ‘let him’, because if the script were to be flipped and if someone were to say that Todd ‘lets me’ go and do what I need to do to take care of myself, I would be like, ‘Uh, no. He doesn’t ‘let’ me.’. We identify it as a need and I do it. It’s not like I’m ‘allowed’ or ‘permitted’ to do it. If I would not appreciate those things being said about me, I don’t want to say that about him either. It’s not that we ‘let’ the other person do x, y, z, it’s that we ‘support’ the other person in doing x, y, z because we understand that it’s valuable and important. And the semantics there really matter, the intention really matters. We have this very mature understanding that enabling and equipping the other person to practice their version of self-care is really valuable and important. It’s from that mature understanding that we operate. As opposed to the less mature stance that, ‘Well, if he gets to do that, I get to do that.’ or ‘If I can’t do that, he doesn’t get to do that.’. That sounds pretty immature, doesn’t it? In comparison to, ‘Oh yeah, we support each other in getting what we need because we know what makes us both better.’.
Principle number five. We all need at least one hobby, and in parenthesis, it must be unrelated to our children. So, not that long ago it felt really easy for me to call out Todd’s hobbies, but for me it was crickets. I have no idea what my hobbies are because a lot of time it felt like my kids just owned my time. They were my priority, my focus and I think as mothers we tend to enter into this what I call ‘mom fog’ and it’s like this zone where we are really focused on our kids and our families and the day to day. Time becomes very limited and it’s like there is only an opportunity to focus on the need to get done because the nice to have, nice to get done stuff, takes a back seat. Hobbies fall into that category.
Of course, the way that we invest our time changes, and our hobbies and our interests, and our daily activities, they all shift and change in response to that shift in priority and shift in time use that happens as a result of being a mom. Then slowly, progressively, eventually, the fog starts to lift. It can feel like, ‘Gosh, I don’t really recognize myself anymore because things have changed so much. What I used to be interested in, I don’t know if that still interests me, I haven’t done it in so long. I’m not really sure who I am.’.
I think that it can be really challenging sometimes to see our spouse and to see a very dynamic and versatile identity that isn’t just being a father. They have all these components to their identity, whereas for us, maybe our primary identity feels like being a mom. That is the main thing about us. There can be some frustration or jealousy, or resentment that comes out of that, because it’s like, ‘Gosh, they have all this stuff, I just have this one thing.’. It can feel very out of balance.
I’m going to say that it’s really important for us to prioritize doing things, at least one thing, for which our children or our family is not the primary focus so that we can develop our own interests and not feel like we’re losing ourselves to motherhood. But really invest in getting to know ourselves beyond just being moms.
Last but not least, principle number six. Our focus is our secret weapon. Have you ever heard the phrase that, ‘What you focus on, expands.’. It speaks to this idea that where we place our focus there our energy will be drawn, and from that, we will create our realities. We’ll find in our lives what we choose to focus on. We’ll find more of that.
For example, when Todd is away doing what he enjoys, when he’s gone at track day, I could choose to focus on the fact that he gets to leave and I don’t, that I’m quote-unquote stuck at home with the kids, you know, whatever negative type of narrative that I want to give that really ugly version of myself. It’s just not a happy place. But what’s really exciting and powerful is the fact that we can rewrite that narrative. When we choose to focus on the positive rather than the negative aspects of what we’re experiencing, it really elevates the circumstances, and in a very tangible way, changes them so that our experience is totally different.
A really helpful thing is to ask yourself, ‘How can I incorporate gratitude into this narrative?’. For example, I could say, ‘I’m stuck at home with the kids. I’m stuck here with the kids.’, versus saying how I have the opportunity to spend today with my kids. It sounds very different, right? So where we place our focus definitely matters. Where we place our focus is our ability to control our experience of our circumstances. When we incorporate gratitude into the narrative that we’re speaking to ourselves, it changes everything for the better.
Now armed with these six principles, let’s elevate our pursuit of self-care and our marriages with an abundance mindset. Deal? Thank you so much for hanging out with me today.