What is your opinion on taking care of yourself in the marriage relationship?
Candace: We got married with the best of intentions, committing all of our attention and time and effort into each other (and our daughter). Our circumstances didn't leave much room for anything else. During that tumultuous time in our life, we battled against our families and counselors (who placed their bets on us failing as a couple) to prove our undying commitment to one another. I'd say, and I think Nick would agree, the first several years of our marriage we focused so much on who we were together that we lost ourselves as individuals. We both agree that once married, it's healthy to spend lots of time together. I mean, after all, no one makes me laugh until I cry as much as Nick does. It is also beneficial to our relationship to sacrifice our own needs and desires for the other one every once in a while...who are we kidding...every dang day. I felt so loved that his whole world revolved around me and visa versa. We both thought it was cute and endearing that one of us would pout when we had "plans" that didn't involve the other person. I'd say we were pretty pleased with ourselves and our commitment to live "as one."
For a short while, this plan of attack worked. Our tactics included completely forgetting we were two individuals who came into this marriiage. The greater need to become one blended us so well that our individual selves seemed watered down beyond recognition. A short stint at this would work, and even work well, but the problem with marriage is that "forever" isn't so short. Throughout the years I have loved our life together. But seven years of marriage later, and three kids added to the mix, I believe we both have realized that becoming one doesn't mean losing the two. I'm no biblical scholar so grasping the holy trinity seems above my pay grade. But Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three in one. The fact that they are one in the same doesn't take away the magnificence of each one of them individually, but rather it adds to the holiness of them together. I'm thinking the same thing is true about marriage. We have got to care for ourselves as individuals in order for the holiness of a unified marriage to truly shine. Once Nick and I grasped this concept, we made (and are still learning to make) small intentional steps with each other to ensure that the other is caring for themselves as a complete unique person.
Nick: Though it has been a blessing in our marriage to have ‘“become one,” we were also able to acknowledge the need for time to be our own individual selves. It was after about five years of marriage that we came to believe and take notice of the need for this individual time. We fell in love with each other because of the differences and the unique personal attributes that we brought into our relationship. We didn’t lose ourselves as some people would say, but we were not taking the time to nurture those things.
After our son Titus was born, Candace hit a low place. The beautiful person that I fell in love with was deeply missing something. She was engulfed in being the best mother and wife, but she wasn’t shining as herself. We made it a priority for her to take time for herself. Candace took the time to take care of herself, go shopping (I am now a "believer" that this really does help make women happy), and do the things that made her feel better as a woman. She started having a positive reaction to herself and her own self-worth improved. The better she felt about herself, the better our marriage became. The confidence that you have in yourself will translate in how you live your life, and in turn the relationships that you hold close to you, especially the one with your spouse.
For me, my outlet is sports. I have played sports all of my life. But once we had kids, and responsibilities and work became more demanding, I ceased that. Now I try to play on a league and watch some games from time to time to have an outlet.
Candace: Even after our above journey, as a couple, we both struggle in our everyday lives to care for ourselves within our marriage. We still have seasons of ignoring the need to fill “our tanks" up with rest or hobbies or personal interests until bitterness begins rearing its ugly little head. Sometimes the reminder of the need to refuel ourselves comes in tears (from me) or grumpiness (from Nick). The progress we’ve made, though, in the past seven years of marriage in just acknowledging the fact that self-care brings us closer together is a good enough step for us. We don’t do it perfectly, but we practice intentionally giving each other space to live as a whole person, to renew and flourish in the mundane tasks of working and bringing up a young family. That makes all the difference in what God can do with our marriage. Sometimes that just looks like Nick heading to a friend's house alone to hang out and watch a UFC match. Other times it’s me going to dinner with girlfriends on a Tuesday night. Heck, most of the time it’s Nick’s uncanny ability to recognize the unspoken plea for a moment of silence as I look at him with desperation, and he says, “I’ll stay in the car with the kids, you run in the store for what we need.” Praise Jesus, that’s self-care. Nonetheless, simple acts make a profound difference for us. Overall, I think the biggest lesson we’ve learned is that there’s a balance. Sometimes you have to fight as your own advocate to show yourself a little love. The other times you show your spouse you love them the most by acknowledging their need for the same. Marriage is totally not 50/50. It’s two people living at a whole 100%, coming together by the grace of God to equal one.
Nick and Candace have 7 years of wedded bliss (or something like that) under their belt. It all started in a psychology class they had together in high school and they've been trying to figure out what's inside each other's heads ever since. They have three wonderful children who add a ton of laughter and chaos to their everyday. If a good merengue song comes within earshot, you'll be surprised when they tear up the dance floor together (it's a hidden talent). Both Candace and Nick are old souls, and are usually teased for being the young bucks within their groups of friends. On any given Sunday afternoon, you'll find them both in a pair of blue chairs perched in their front yard watching the kids running around and playing with their three dogs, their equivalence to heaven on earth.