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Dear friends, 

As always, we’re pleased to present this self-care piece from our longtime contributor, Max Daniels. We also want to highlight one of Max’s pieces that has been a particular help to us in these times: What to Say to Yourself in the Middle of the Night. Take care of yourselves, everyone. 

—Ann and Kay

Not long ago, a friend worried aloud: What if I fully commit to self-care? Does that mean I’m doomed to be single forever? She was not at all joking.

Of course, the answer is that self-care and partnership are not mutually exclusive. The concern is partly about jinxing yourself—the fear that if you’re self-sufficient, maybe the universe is just gonna tick that box: Self-sufficient? Independence (which is not actually a thing, by the way) achieved? Well, that’s you sorted!—and move on to a more urgent case. And it’s partly a fear about becoming too self-involved and spoiled to be attractive to others.

Let’s take the second worry first, because it’s easy. Can too much self-care spoil you? Can self-care render you unfit for coupledom?

No, on both counts. Science has yet to demonstrate whether there even is such a thing as too much self-care. But even if, hypothetically, you were to overdose on self-care, that wouldn’t doom you to singledom. Extremely self-involved people get married every week of the year. Some of them are public figures, so if you can’t think of an example, just do a little quick reading in the checkout line.

More important, self-care does not create spoiled people. Self-care is just one of our current buzzwords for “being a grownup.” Other current term: “Adulting.” The ever-popular “being responsible.” Or as I think of it, “managing enough of your own crap so it doesn’t roll downhill on someone else,” also known as doing what all able humans are supposed to do on their Earth ride.

In other words, the very opposite of self-involvement.

If the term “self-care” still makes you think of bubble baths and overpriced potions, if it seems almost the same as “self-indulgence,” just substitute a term like “self-cultivation” or “responsibility.” And then ask again if the need for self-care goes away in partnership.

It doesn’t. People with partners still have a moral obligation to attend to themselves and not offload all the responsibility of being human on their other half. Taking care of some (some! no one can take care of everything on their own) of your needs will never stand in the way of love and romance and weekend getaways or anything else we hope for.

What a commitment to self-care gives you is a solid foundation. It’ll set you up for:

1. A good life if you don’t find someone you can share care of the selves with. (Let’s take a moment to remember that there are 7 billion other people on the planet, and while a large number of them snore, there are still quite a few reasonable potential partners (“potenches,” as my sister calls them) out there. We are made to be attracted to each other, and there are solid professionals to help with any stumbling blocks you’ve got, so I like your odds. Either way, if you’re going to spend any amount of your time with yourself, make yourself somebody you want to spend time with.

Even the golden anniversary crowd are forced to fall back on themselves from time to time. Who doesn’t want to be sturdy enough for that? Self-care for strength!

2. Self-care also helps you avoid a poor choice of partner because you’re so desperate you’ll settle for a terrible one. You may know that I’ve done some citizen diagnosis of narcissism in the past, and have vowed to stop that. But I will say that good self-care weeds out those potenches whose plans for you are, let’s say, more self-serving than based on mutual good.

3. Self-care is the no-fail fairy dust that will repel the person who’s just looking for someone, anyone, to rescue. That person who is less interested in you than in someone, anyone, to “care” for. To do everything for, even things you prefer to do for yourself, perhaps in their secret lair located somewhere deep inside Skullcrusher Mountain. (See checkout line for evidence, as previously mentioned.)

4. Finally, self-care is a beacon that will attract another adult who’s also hip to self-care, so you can be in an adult relationship with each other. Two adults, both with full-enough wells to help hydrate the other, which is kind of the whole point of relationships. Neither of you places the primary responsibility for your wellbeing on the other. Neither of you sabotages the self-care of the other because you’re so needy that all their caring energy must be spent on you. Neither of you is still hoping that being in a relationship means never having to take care of yourself again.

None of us knows how long it’s going to take to find a partner. But no matter how long it takes, I can’t think of a reason to spend a moment of that time in self-neglect.

In the MDK Shop
And for all your beloved laundry—Soak is the modern way to clean and refresh.
Image: Portrait of Lizzy Ansingh, Thérèse Schwartze, 1902, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

About The Author

Max Daniels is a research-based life coach whose weekly emails make us laugh with recognition and rethink everything we thought we knew.

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  • I appreciate the Skullcrusher Mountain reference!
    ”Welcome to my secret lair on Skullcrusher Mountain…”

  • Thanks Max. This is a great article. I’m quite happy in my world where I will stay single until I meet someone who doesn’t try to destroy my ability to care for myself, and if that happens to be forever I’m fine with that. I have plenty of stuff I still want to do!

  • Self care works. I was married in a dysfunctional relationship for 15 years. We divorced and I spent the next few years taking a break from dating, committed to growing and self care. Grew into someone I had no idea I could be, someone I was proud of, happy, accomplished and self sufficient. It was not always easy and took time but it was worth it. When I was ready to start dating again, was able to sort through the “no’s” and be patient because I liked my life. Met a wonderful, adult, man who also practiced self care. We have a strong, loving, ten year relationship, through joys and challenges where self care fits easily with “us”care too. Life willing, we are good for the long haul.

  • I divorced my husband 20 years ago and although I get lonely, not as lonely as I was when I was married

  • Amen! 🙂 My dad used to say, “anyone can *get* married,” and then went on to tell me that just getting married doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good marriage, or even a healthy one. I still want to be in a relationship, but at this point in my life I’m not nearly as desperate as I was when I was younger. Yay!

  • Thank you for these gems! Also, this is one of my all time favorite paintings – love it as a rep for self care.

  • Well said! Thank you. This year will be our 32nd anniversary, successfully practicing ‘self care’ together.

  • Well said, Max. Thank you

  • I really enjoyed this. I was in a sad marriage 26 years. Been on my own 10 years and bought myself a “Freedom” ring. I totally glad to take this time to do better for me. During the last five years I cared for my sick Mother and was so happy I could dedicate that time. We worked on our genealogy research and found missing family links.

  • I am tired of the notion that one is “doomed” if they remain single. I’m 63 and have been single for many years. I have come to appreciate my singledom and actually prefer it. I don’t feel like I am doomed and am actually very content.

  • I was in a controlling marriage for forty two years. I husband died nine years ago. The freedom was overwhelming. I like myself and do as I please.

  • Love,love,love your site! Wouldn’t miss a day for all the tea in China! Keep it up!

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