When couples think about how to improve their relationship, they tend to focus on their interactions with one another. They may spend more time together, swear off screens at the dinner table or see a therapist to resolve their issues and learn to argue in a constructive way. But there is something else often grossly overlooked in relationships, and that’s the need for self-care on both ends.
Self-care is not just bath bombs, face masks and treating yourself whenever you feel like it. True self-care is about being vulnerable with yourself, acknowledging areas that are not fulfilling in your life and developing the courage to live more fully. Couples who take the time to do inner-work are able to be more emotionally present with one another. The ego defenses that flare up and fuel arguments subside, and they are able to be more open, more honest and more intimate.
What Does a Lack of Self-Love Look Like?
Someone does not have to be full of constant loathing and contempt to be bad at loving themselves. People often fail to see themselves as equally real as the other people in their lives. They care for their partners, their families, their friends and coworkers, but they rarely give themselves the same level of positive energy. A lack of self-love may look like:
- Questioning what on Earth your partner sees in you
- Never speaking up about things that are unfair or hurtful to you
- Letting other people constantly make decisions for you
- Worrying so much about offending others that you silence yourself
- Feeling like it’s always your responsibility to keep the peace and make others happy
- Not pursuing your dreams, owning your wants or meeting your own needs
If the concept of “us” as human beings is not centered with love but instead set off somewhere to the side, we begin to suffer emotionally. We may have a shorter fuse, we could feel depressed, we may feel anxious and have no idea why. Stress feels insurmountable because all it does is pile up with nowhere to go and there are damaging responses to depression you might not even be aware of. Negative emotions people experience in their lives are not merely moods, as they’re signs the mind is sending to you, saying to “look here, I’ve got something that needs your attention.”
How to Start Improving Your Self-Care
The first thing to do is ask yourself, in a quiet space with no interruptions, what you truly want out of life. It’s a big question, so take as much time as you need to think it over. This exercise is best with a journal and pen handy. Write down a list as ideas pop into your head. Let them be outlandish or unachievable with no filtering allowed. The goal is to be completely honest with yourself without letting a single thing hold you back.
Some of the wants on your list might be improbable or even silly, but there will be a lot of truthful, realistic ones that shine through, too. Maybe you admit that you really want to get a better job or start a business. Want to be a lawyer? Look into applying to law school. Money isn’t always the biggest barrier to success; self-doubt is. You can borrow graduate law school loans from a private lender to pay for your education. You can get scholarships, find mentors and even study subjects on your own to enrich your life.
Don’t feel immediately obligated to share all of these findings with your partner. Let them simmer for a while as you figure out what they truly mean to you. Gradually begin to implement more acts of kindness into your life that are entirely self-directed. As you become more aligned with your truest self, it will become easier to be more authentic with your partner as well.