Self Care In a Relationship: Look After Yourself
When you enter a relationship with someone you love, of course, you want to do a lot for them. You love making them happy. You want to do their favorite things, eat their favorite foods, go to their favorite places. You probably also want to protect them from getting hurt.
The question becomes, how far will you go to make them happy and protect them from getting hurt? A romantic movie may tell us there is no limit.
That attitude will not create a healthy relationship. When you fail to look after yourself, your relationship suffers. Without self care in a relationship, the relationship won’t last.
What Self Neglect in a Relationship Looks Like
When you are entirely focused on someone else’s needs, you will neglect your own. You may even become resentful towards your partner because they weren’t fulfilling all your needs.
The truth is you should be fulfilling a lot of your own needs. You should be taking care of yourself even while maintaining a romantic relationship. Both partners should protect their individuality without sacrificing themselves for the relationship.
Let’s look at two examples.
Carly and Jake
Every weekend Jake goes with Carly to see her friends. He doesn’t want to hang out with her friends every weekend but it’s what Carly wants him to do. Jake doesn’t tell Carly what he would rather do. Perhaps he is waiting for Carly to ask him what he wants to do. Jake is going to continue to do this but eventually, he will build up resentment towards Carly.
Jake will believe that Carly should’ve cared what he wanted to do on the weekend. In reality, shouldn’t he have cared what he wanted to do on the weekend? Jake was not practicing self care in a relationship.
Wendy and Rob
Every time there is a conflict, Wendy apologizes right away and tries to make Rob feel loved. Rob accepts with little thought towards what Wendy needs. Wendy never tells Rob what she needs. Perhaps she doesn’t know what she needs. She feels like she needs to get approval back from Rob in order to feel okay with herself.
In this case, Wendy isn’t spending any time understanding what she needs. How could she fulfill any of those needs herself? She is so focused on gaining approval from Rob that she forgets herself. It would seem her self worth is dependent on Rob.
In both of these examples, one partner is focused on what the other person wants and they have little focus on what they want. A healthy balance is not one where the partner is expected to fulfill all needs of the other. Especially not because they owe it to the other person who entirely gave up themselves in the relationship.
What Self Care in a Relationship Looks Like
How can caring and loving the other person be bad? It’s bad because you need to have your needs met somewhere, and if you can’t look after yourself you will be disappointed that other people aren’t doing it for you. That disappointment will drag down a healthy relationship.
Let’s look at the relationship situations from above, and point out where they could make healthy improvements to create a better balance in the relationship.
Jake and Carly
Now, let’s say Jake has spent some time evaluating what he wants and needs on the weekend. He has decided he wants some alone time while Carly visits her friends. He is an introvert that needs some time to recharge his batteries.
He lets Carly know and she is a little disappointed. She loves spending time with Rob but she respects his needs and is happy that he is taking care of himself. Rob wanting to spend time alone has nothing to do with Carly or how he feels about her. It’s all about taking care of himself. It’s important that Carly didn’t personalize Rob’s attempt to take care of himself.
Wendy and Rob
Wendy and Rob had another argument. This time Wendy took 30 minutes after the argument to understand how she was feeling and what she needed at that time. When she went to reconnect with Rob she was able to explain to him her feelings and what she needed to feel loved in the relationship.
Rob was happy to understand the situation better. Since Wendy took the time to understand her own needs, Rob was able to see her needs in the relationship as well.
Self Care is a Healthy Sign of Self Worth
You take care of yourself by recognizing and honoring your own emotions and needs. You define yourself. You don’t need someone else’s approval in order to feel your self worth.
Where does your self worth come from?
This is an important question to ask yourself. Self care in a relationship is not selfish. It’s taking care of yourself so that the other person doesn’t have to. It may be more true that not taking care of yourself is selfish. In this case, you are expecting your partner to do it all for you. This would require them to possibly neglect themself. Thus creating an unhealthy relationship.
It’s important to find your value in who you are and not what you give to others. Spending some time on self care will help you to understand exactly who that is. You can then learn how to take care of yourself.
Setting Boundaries in a Relationship
When a relationship already exists with unhealthy patterns, it can be difficult to break old habits. A boundary is where you define what you will do in a relationship. It’s a way to set limits for yourself so that you don’t overstep and fall back into self-neglecting ways.
It’s important to know that a boundary is what you will do. For example, Jake was going to spend time by himself on the weekend while Carly saw her friends. He wasn’t asking anything from Carly, he was just letting her know what he was going to do.
A request is when you ask something of the other person. When Wendy went back to Rob she may have asked him for a specific need. That would be a request.
Boundaries help you to define what a healthy relationship looks like for you. As well as communicating that to your partner.
Finding Balance for Self Care in a Relationship
Self care is about taking responsibility for your own needs instead of expecting the relationship to take care of every need. Of course, there are some needs that will be met in a relationship. Lots of communication and healthy reflection will help you to find where the balance is in your relationship.
A relationship counselor can also help you to find a healthy balance in your relationship. For some people, self care is completely new. It will take time and patience to find the balance. Learning about self care and healthy boundaries together will only make your relationship stronger.