I have a secret to tell you, and it may be counter-intuitive if you’re a fan of rom-coms: Your spouse shouldn’t be the source of your happiness.

If you’re expecting your partner to be your happily ever after, the sun in your universe, your missing half, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. If you expect them to make you happy at all times, you’re putting too much pressure on their shoulders. There will be difficult, sad seasons of life when you need your partner by your side, but they shouldn’t be the sun that you revolve your life around. And as for your “missing” half, you are a whole being with the capacity and need for self-fulfillment, and you shouldn’t hope for another person to provide every need, want or desire that you feel like you can’t provide for yourself.

You know I love marriage, so don’t get me wrong – having a life partner, someone to lean on, love, trust and laugh with is amazing. My marital relationship is the pillar on which I base my decisions, it is a top priority, and it is a source of happiness. But I can’t expect my husband to be perfect for me, because no one is perfect, and I certainly can’t expect to be perfect for him. In fact, if you rely too strongly on your marriage to fulfill you, it will actually suffer! So consider a few areas where it isn’t selfish to put yourself first.

From your mental health to your physical health, you are in control of your body. Self-care is so important to your overall well-being, and only you know what you need. Sure, there are ways we can exercise with our partners, cook healthy meals together and even enjoy a mental health day together to recharge and renew, but if your partner doesn’t have the exact same health and fitness goals, you may quickly lose sight of your own.

If you know that you need to take a walk every morning to start a productive and enjoyable day but your partner always asks you to stay in bed, you may find yourself in a conflict about priorities. Listening to your body and what you need is a way to keep yourself and your relationship feeling its best. Chat with your partner about your self-care needs, and recognize that you should each find your own routines to make sure they happen.

Chat with your partner:
What are some activities that make you feel healthy, happy and strong?
How do you feel when you miss out on those activities?
How often do you need to participate in a self-care activity to feel your best?
How can I support you in your self-care practices?

During your single days, time with friends was a natural top priority, but once you got into a serious relationship, you may have started spending more time with your partner. While this is totally natural, it’s important to recognize how important friendships are, even when you’re married! Above all, your partner should be your best friend, the person you share your most intimate secrets with and whose company you truly enjoy, but having other relationships is still necessary.

Each person’s need to socialize can be different (and often, an introvert will marry an extrovert), so it’s a good idea to chat about how much time you need to spend with friends, and what those friendships look like. Having other couples as friends is great, but having your own friends is still totally acceptable and healthy! Having friendships outside of your marriage can benefit you by giving you a sense of community, as well as encouragement and accountability.

Chat with your partner:
Are you an introvert or extrovert? How much social interaction do you need outside our marriage?
How much time do you feel is a healthy amount to spend with friends?
How many nights per week/month do you want to spend with your own friends? With other couples we know?
Do you prefer having friends come over to your home, or do you prefer going out?
Are there any topics about our marriage that you don’t want me to discuss with my friends?
Are friendships with the opposite sex okay? Are there any ground rules for these friendships?

Alone Time
When you live with someone, it can be really hard to have any alone time, and it’s even harder if there are kids in the picture. Whether all you need is a nice, long, hot shower after work, or you need to have a mini-getaway once in a while to relax and renew, discuss your needs with your partner. Spending every free moment together may be nice for a while, but after a few years of marriage, you’ll find that it’s normal and healthy to have a few hobbies, activities, or relaxation techniques that are all your own. Remember, each person is different, so it’s not that you don’t love spending time with your spouse if you crave more free time than them.

Stress can quickly build in a relationship when you’re always in the same space, staring at the dishes in the sink and avoiding laundry while trying to enjoy some time together in the evening, so taking time to relax or pursue your own interests allows you to remember who you are – and that may remind your spouse why they fell in love with you in the first place!

Chat with your partner:
What are some activities that you enjoy doing on your own?
How often do you need alone time?
Do we physically need to be in different spaces for you to enjoy your alone time? (e.g. one spouse plays video games while the other reads in the living room)
How can we balance alone time, friend time, and time as a couple?