WRITTEN BY Felicia Kashevaroff
Practicing Self Care While Nurturing a Relationship: 6 Essential Tips
Relationships add beauty and meaning to our lives. We are profoundly social creatures and need relationships to thrive. Because our relationships are so important to us, it can be easy to prioritize our partner’s needs or the needs of the relationship over our own and lose ourselves in the process. This is especially true when you’re working to build a more balanced, equitable partnership. When you and your partner do this well, it involves the hard work of deconstructing old belief systems. As you go through that process, things will come up for you that may be difficult. The goal is to cultivate a healthy relationship where you and your partner can learn and grow together, but growing together also involves learning how to take care of your own needs and practicing self-care while in a relationship.
In our modern culture, we often think of self-care as bubble baths, massages, or some “retail therapy.” While those things can feel good at the moment, I’m going to propose a more radical view of self-care, one where you truly nurture your authentic inner self, leave space for the challenging feelings that arise, and create an environment where you can begin to heal and cultivate a healthier future.
Here are six essential tips for self-care while in a relationship:
1. Understanding Your Past — A Key to Self-Care in a Relationship
Your upbringing and past experiences significantly shape how you approach relationships. When building a balanced, emotionally mature relationship, you must unpack the messages you learned growing up, whether from your family of origin or the greater cultural messages at large. Recognizing and unpacking these influences is a critical step in practicing self-care while in a relationship.
This journey can be challenging, as it often involves confronting deep-seated, sometimes painful, beliefs and messages. Some of these messages may have been harmful, and it might be upsetting to see how they continue to impact your behavior and choices. Give yourself grace and patience as you navigate these. Realize that these formative experiences are deeply embedded in your psyche and might take time to understand and reframe.
2. Seek Therapy — Prioritizing Mental Health for Self-Care
Encountering emotional roadblocks or traumatic memories while building a balanced relationship isn’t uncommon. If you find that the memories and messages that come up for you are associated with trauma, or if you find yourself flooded with emotion, it may be time to seek the help of a licensed therapist. Therapy is a valuable tool for personal healing, offering a safe space to work through complex emotions and experiences. Explore if your health insurance covers therapy sessions, as this can make it more accessible.
3. Educational Resources — Enhancing Self-Care Practices
There are a wide variety of books and other educational resources to further support your journey of self-discovery and care. Here are three of my favorite resources that are particularly relevant to the work of building a balanced, equitable, and emotionally mature relationship:
- Loving What Is, by Byron Katie. When we challenge our deep-seated belief structures, we are going to be confronted by the “stories” we’ve been told along the way. Katie offers a simple yet powerful structure to challenge those stories to see what is really true and who we would be without those stories.
- The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, by bell hooks. hooks is a renowned feminist scholar, cultural critic, and writer. This book offers a critical examination of the role of men in society, the nature of masculinity, and the potential for change with compassion for the plight of men in a patriarchal society that isn’t often seen in feminist literature.
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Brené Brown. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston. In this book, she explores the concepts of vulnerability, shame, empathy, and resilience and the profound impact these experiences have on various areas of our lives, such as personal relationships, parenting, and leadership.
These resources can be instrumental in deepening your understanding of self-care while in a relationship, equipping you with the knowledge and tools to navigate your emotional landscape more effectively.
4. Embracing Emotions — A Pillar of Self-Care in Relationships
Truly feeling and understanding your emotions is an essential part of self-care while in a relationship. They’re called feelings because we actually feel them in our bodies. Emotions manifest physically, and learning to recognize and process these sensations is key. It’s critically important that you learn how to feel your feelings and let them move through you. Try these steps to start:
- Learn how to identify and name the emotion you’re experiencing.
- How do the emotions show up in your body? Do they have a shape or a color? Where do you feel them?
- Observe the feeling moving through you. What happens in your body?
Getting more in tune with your feelings will heighten your emotional intelligence and give you more capacity to hold space for your partner’s feelings.
5. Creating Emotional Safety — Essential for Self-Care
Emotional safety is a critical component of any healthy relationship. Discuss with your partner what you both need to feel safe and open. Some elements of emotional safety might include honesty, maintaining confidentiality, mutual consent for discussions, and a non-judgmental approach. Establishing these safety parameters is a proactive step in practicing self-care while in a relationship, ensuring that both partners feel secure and valued.
6. Setting Boundaries for Conversations — Self-Care in Communication
Setting boundaries is an extension of creating emotional safety. Remember, boundaries are for you. They allow you to decide in advance how you will show up to a conversation and how you will respond when things go awry. Just like planning your day can lead to better productivity, setting boundaries for difficult conversations can vastly improve how you and your partner navigate challenging topics. These boundaries are not just about what topics to discuss but also how to engage with them. This might involve agreeing on a ”time-out” signal if things get too intense, choosing a neutral space for discussions, or even setting a time limit to prevent conversations from becoming draining.
By defining these rules in advance, you create a framework that fosters constructive and respectful dialogue. This proactive approach is a crucial aspect of practicing self-care while in a relationship, as it helps prevent emotional exhaustion and ensures both partners feel heard and respected.
Incorporating these six tips into your relationship is a journey that involves continuous effort and mindfulness. It’s about creating a balance where both partners feel valued and cared for as individuals and as a couple. Remember, self-care while in a relationship is not a one-time task but an ongoing process. It evolves as you and your partner grow individually and together.
Practicing self-care while in a relationship requires a deep understanding that your well-being is as crucial as the health of the relationship. It’s about nurturing your inner self, dealing with your emotions healthily, and creating an environment conducive to growth and happiness for both you and your partner.
To sum up, self-care in a relationship is about:
- Acknowledging and working through personal and shared histories.
- Seeking professional help when needed.
- Utilizing resources to challenge and change personal narratives.
- Getting comfortable with and understanding your emotions.
- Establishing and communicating needs for emotional safety.
- Setting clear boundaries for difficult conversations.
By following these steps, you can ensure that you take care of yourself while also contributing positively to the relationship. This balanced approach leads to a healthier, more fulfilling partnership where both individuals can thrive. By nurturing yourself, you’re not only ensuring your own happiness and growth but also contributing to a more fulfilling and resilient relationship.