Relationships. So many of us have them: friendships, family relationships, co-working relationships, team member relationships, the list goes on and on . . .
But there is something unique about the relationship dynamics that happen within an intimate relationship, right?
Whether you are in a relationship, in-between relationships or interested in being in a future relationship, there are things we can be mindful of when we are practicing self-care.
Our intimate relationships include so much:
- Taking care of someone, emotionally, intimately, physically . . .
- Creating, resolving and experiencing conflict together
- Sharing experiences and making memories together
- Managing our own invisible luggage
- Listening to, supporting and encouraging each other . . .
Again, the list goes on and on. Not to mention that in many cases, relationships can be both a source of stress AND a resource for stress relief. Whew!
Practicing self-care can not only help you show up as your best self, but practicing self-care on a regular basis can also help you show up as the best partner you can be. (And I’ll speak for myself/my relationship: my fiance and I would both love that!)
So here are a few ideas to marinate on when caring for yourself within a relationship:
Understand what your boundaries are.
We talk about boundaries a lot here and there’s a reason for that. Our boundaries help keep us safe and help us navigate our world. When in an intimate relationship, you are creating and sharing so many experiences together, that there is a very high chance that your boundaries will be tested.
When it comes to self-care in your relationship, being mindful and aware of your boundaries will help you better navigate the potential stressors, problems and issues that will mostly likely arise between you and your partner.
Understanding what your boundaries are can help you pro-actively problem-solve relationship problems and decrease the risk of you taking things personally. It is incredible how our invisible luggage can take such a huge role in some of the conflicts that arise in relationships.
To strengthen your understanding of your own boundaries, take a look at these gmichelle blog posts:
- The Key to Managing Your Triggers
- The First Step in Creating Healthy Boundaries
- How to Begin Setting Boundaries While Dating
Clearly communicate what your boundaries are with your partner
Boundary-setting is usually a series of steps, especially within a relationship. When you have an idea of what your boundaries are, the next step is to clearly communicate what they are to your partner.
As we mentioned in our blog about beginning to date, this experience is usually a process, not a one-time event. If you are currently in a relationship, you mostly likely have already been doing this work.
As we get older and have more experiences, it will be helpful to continue to practice recognizing our boundaries and communicating them with our partner. This, in itself, is a self-care practice: because again, boundary-setting helps keep us safe and helps us navigate our world. You both will have new experiences that may require you to revisit or recreate boundaries.
Open and consistent communication about boundaries in our relationships helps us feel less stressed and anxious. It also helps us seriously reduce the ‘guess work’ that sometimes shows up when you care about someone. The best results are if both of you try your best to stick to this practice.
Make the most out of your time apart.
As many couples know, spending time apart can be a very good thing. Especially for folks that are cohabiting, raising children and/or fur babies together, work together professionally and/or spend a great deal of time together.
For couples that have opposites schedules (for example, one works during the day, the other works at night) and couples that are in long-distance relationships, where being apart is part of your relationship, you might already naturally be practicing this self-care tip!
With this self-care, create some space and time for you to do the self-care practices you love. This can look different for everyone.
For couples reading this and thinking, “But we love to do everything together?” take it from this perspective: self-care can help you restore yourself. And while there is nothing wrong with loving to share experiences with your partner and/or your family, ask yourself:
- When was the last time I spent some time with just myself?
- What would it look like for me to take myself on a date?
- Is there anything that I like to do on my own, that my partner doesn’t necessarily like/or prefers to do?
- Do I ever avoid spending time with myself? How come?
It is okay and quite natural to want to do things on your own sometimes. Take a look at these blogs to learn more about this one:
- The Difference Between Feeling Lonely & Being Alone
- 3 Self-Care Ideas for Extroverts
- How to Creatively Practice Self-Care
Share a space, do different activities
For my couples that live in close quarters, try to creatively utilize your space to participate in your self-care activities.
There isn’t a right or wrong way to do self-care, there is just the way that helps you meet your needs.
When sharing a space with your partner, think of trying some of these ideas:
- Each of you reads your own favorite book, blog article or comic book, while sitting on the couch or in bed together
- While at the gym together, do separate work-out routines
- If your space has separate rooms, each person take a room to practice self-care
- Depending on who else shares your home (children, pets, roommates, etc.) create a ‘quiet hour’ where one or both of you wear earphones or turn down the TV as to not disturb the other
With this self-care tip, you can find ways to feel the intimacy of sharing the space while still meeting your own self-care needs.
There are so many ways to uphold the value of your relationship while respecting your individual needs. I hope this blog can be a starting place for you and your partner (or future partner!) to talk about self-care.
How do you practice self-care in your relationship?