Minimal Mondays are being touted as a form of self-care, a way to fight feeling overwhelmed, exhausted or stressed by all that comes with work. At its core is a self-care philosophy suggesting that prioritizing yourself and avoiding stressors will yield better results, and that leaning outward is better than leaning in. Your job is just your job, so prioritize yourself over your job. This goes against an alternative perspective that suggests that the best self-care routines do not encourage disengagement, but instead promote meaningful engagement and prosperity. But more on that later.
For some, the Minimum Mondays habit may reflect a broader philosophy about how best to deal with life’s demands, which can walk the line between self-care and self-sabotage. Is such a philosophy limited to the workplace? What would happen if one applied the minimal practice to a marriage or long-term romantic relationship?
Minimum of Mondays, applied to relationships
lasting love – the happy kind – takes effort. To keep relationships healthy, partners need to mitigate threats to their relationship so that it doesn’t get worse and improve the relationship to make it better than it currently is (Ogolsky et al., 2017). These tasks are embedded in people’s daily lives, which can involve work, school, friends, children, parents – a lot to manage. In such circumstances, finding the energy needed to maintain the relationship can seem stressful or demanding.
In addition to the demands of juggling relationship maintenance with other aspects of daily life, sometimes people’s relationships struggle with ongoing conflict, arguments, or frustration. The minimal Monday approach would suggest dealing with relationship stress by giving yourself permission to work less for the relationship.
Maintaining the status quo does not promote healthy relationships.
When employees adopt the Monday minimum, they do what they must to keep their jobs, but nothing more. This philosophy, in a romantic relationship, would translate into making as little effort as possible to maintain the status quo.
Unfortunately, maintaining the status quo does not translate to relationship success. Relationships require pro-relationship behaviors including social support, responsiveness, positive communication, generosity, and gratitude (Ogolsky et al., 2017). These processes are not possible with the least amount of effort, but they are crucial in helping to nurture a relationship, both in normal times and in stressful times. Each day’s improvement work feeds into the next: for example, a romantic partner’s thoughtful gestures today result in better relationship quality tomorrow (Algoe et al., 2010). As another example, the hard work of attentive listening leads to more effective couple communication and greater relationship satisfaction (Kuhn et al., 2018). Facing by leaning inward, not outward, makes for stronger relationships.
Choosing the job is choosing the relationship
In the same way that a minimal Monday can involve choosing to avoid the challenging mental work that a truly productive day would require, people who are stressed in their relationships can choose to avoid investing their energy in the relationship. It doesn’t change the relationship for the better. In fact, romantic partners interact more successfully when avoidant tendencies are kept in check (Overall et al., 2013).
A minimal Monday philosophy is to work on your own terms and avoid self-sacrifice. What makes sacrifice an issue? Interestingly, in romantic relationships, people who think that sacrifice will cost themselves tend to be less committed to their partner and have worse relationship functioning (Whitton et al., 2007). In other words, the desire to prioritize yourself by not putting work into the relationship (ie, to avoid sacrifice) may be more of a symptom of relationship problems than a solution.
True self-care in relationships is not relationship sabotage
People who are inspired by their work, who see it as firmly embedded in their own identity, and who are deeply motivated to learn and grow through their work are unlikely to be the ones who adopt a philosophy of “just getting through” by 20% of each work week. Monday’s minimal workout would be contrary to your identity and goals. Likewise, people who are inspired by their relationships, who see their partner as part of themselves, and who are eager to develop their relationship are probably not the ones who just want to do what they have to in order to maintain their relationship.
Relationships Essential Readings
If dealing with a job requires detaching from work, it begs the question: Is it the right job? Likewise, if dealing with a relationship requires disengaging from it, we might ask, is it the right relationship?
Disengagement in the manner described by Minimum Mondays does not resemble classic models of self-care. Healthy self-care strategies tend not to advocate avoiding or ignoring challenges. Rather, they are about techniques for sustaining prosperity and vitality and may involve restorative work, such as managing sleep well and eating well, and energizing work, such as creating meaning and finding purpose (Spreitzer et al., 2012).
When it comes to relationships, the least amount of effort is unlikely to support the self or the relationship. Instead, consider how, for many people in satisfying relationships, self-care is relationship care: leisure time with a partner, humor, sexual intimacy, and affectionate gestures. Investing in the fun of a relationship can be personally restorative. Indeed, healthy relationships are not about tolerating a partner or maintaining a relationship with minimal effort. Rather, an investment in the relationship is an investment in yourself.