We are all used to the concept of self-care, but what about when you are in a relationship? In the first few exciting months as you draw close to another person, it can all be about ‘we’ and ‘us’, but it is actually healthy to step back and focus on yourself too. After all, the relationship you have with yourself affects the quality of relationships you have with others.
Cultivating independent interests
When you meet someone you click with mentally and emotionally, life can feel so much brighter and lighter, and brim with possibilities. You may have bonded over shared interests and activities; you love the same films, books, or sports. You travel to new exciting places together, discover brilliant little restaurants and B&Bs, and feel like a team.
However, it’s important to maintain your sense of self. This is because however much you love someone’s company, the individual experiences you have are just as important as the shared time together. They are part of what attracted you to each other in the first place, so it is essential to keep that sense of interest alive for a strong and fulfilling relationship.
Having some ‘me’ time
To help maintain your sense of self, it’s important to set aside some time for uplifting activities, which could simply be a walk outside, gardening, painting, or reading a good book. Remember that even the most loving and supportive partner is not responsible for your mental, physical, or emotional wellbeing; you are.
The best way you can love and support someone else is to be healthy and well-balanced yourself. Spending time with yourself shouldn’t be about avoiding or escaping the other person, and neither should it be something you dread. If either of these things is happening, you may need to examine your relationship for co-dependency issues.
Maintaining your friendship group
It is unfair to expect one person to meet all your emotional needs; everyone needs to spend time with other people occasionally. This will help you to feel less stressed, and give you fresh insights and perspectives on life which you will naturally feed back into your relationship, and keep it alive.
It may sound counterintuitive, but having good relationships with your friends and family will make you feel more open and emotionally available to your partner. You know you have that network of support to turn to when life’s inevitable difficulties crop up from time to time, and you won’t place all the burden on one person’s shoulders.
Respecting each other’s boundaries
Of course, while you carve out some time for yourself, you also need to make sure that you respect your partner’s boundaries too. Establish what you both expect in terms of personal space and contact.
This isn’t about control, it’s simply to make sure you are on the same page. For example, in a previous relationship, your partner may have enjoyed exchanging texts frequently throughout their working day. However, another person, even if they care deeply about you, may find being texted at work an unnecessary distraction.
Similarly, you may find that you need an hour or so alone to unwind after a stressful day at work, so don’t be afraid to let your partner know that.
Being kind to yourself
Self-care is different things to different people. Some of us may have to work on challenging negative inner voices, by looking for the objective truth of a situation when that critical devil appears on our shoulder.
Of course, we all need to give ourselves advice and warnings sometimes, such as to stop procrastinating over a task, or to put off a journey in bad weather if we know we are a nervous or inexperienced driver. However, an honest appraisal of a situation can sometimes become excessively mean and negative in tone.
If you catch this happening to you, ask yourself if you would speak to a friend or partner in the same way; it is unlikely you would call them lazy or useless in any of the above situations. Talking to yourself constantly in this way is stressful, and can stop you progressing to your full potential in life.
To be the best version of yourself, and keep the doors open for positive relationships with others, learn to recognise your inner critic. Personify them with a name or cartoon appearance! As soon as they pop up, neutralise what they say, and cross-examine it for exaggeration or untruths.
Practising self-care means you will be more engaged with your own emotions, so you can connect better emotionally and physically with your partner.
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