Self Care vs. Self Love: How to Love Yourself in a Relationship
In order to have a healthy relationship, both you and your partner need to be healthy yourselves. And, yes, physical health is always important, but that’s not exactly what we mean here. We mean that both you and your partner need to be able to support and care for your own mental and emotional health. No matter how much you and your partner love each other, you can not defer responsibility for your overall well being. It can be easy to get caught up in your relationship, no matter what stage it’s in, but it’s crucial to stay connected with yourself so that you can evaluate and work to improve your mental and emotional well-being. This is often easier said than done, but focusing on two different concepts; self care and self love, can help you stay in-tune with yourself so that you can be more present for yourself, your partner and your relationship.
While self care and self love sound similar, and are often conflated, the two things are actually fairly different, and both are important to keep track of and seek out when you’re in a relationship. Self care means taking care of yourself physically and mentally, while self love means showing kindness to yourself. If you are able to take care of yourself and love yourself, you will be able to be more present and loving towards your partner, which can help strengthen the bond of your relationship. Self care and self love might sound a little abstract to you, if that’s the case, here are a couple of ways that you can practice self care and self love in your everyday life.
How to Practice Self-Care in Your Relationship
1. Taking time to be solo
Whether you’re new to your relationship, or you have been with your partner for a significant amount of time, it’s important to maintain your sense of self. Maintaining your sense of self means that you should acknowledge and stay in-tune with your needs and well-being even when you are in a partnership. A great way to do this is by finding/creating alone time so that you can take a deep breath, check-in with yourself and evaluate your emotional state.
Regardless of if you are an introvert or an extrovert, it’s so important to work in some alone time every once in a while so that you can check-in with yourself. For some people, this kind of thing needs to happen every day, but for others it can be more infrequent. The frequency and the amount of time don’t matter (after all, you know yourself best!), as long as you are making a conscious effort to be solo and check-in. It may seem counterintuitive to take time away from your relationship in order to have a healthier relationship... but here me out! You can’t be a good partner unless you are doing well yourself.
For a lot of people it can be really difficult to put your needs first, especially in a relationship where you really love the other person. But this is so necessary so that you can be the best version of yourself. Once you take care of your own needs, you can be a better friend, partner, support system and all of those other important roles in a relationship. Sometimes the only way to take care of your needs is to take some solo time to figure out what your needs are. Staying in touch with your needs and understanding how to address them is critical to self care in a relationship.
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2. Setting boundaries
Creating boundaries is a super important part of any relationship. Like we said before, it’s important to have some alone time, even/especially when you’re in a relationship. Setting boundaries can allow you to take time, space and even distance (if necessary) to practice self care and attend to your mental, physical and emotional health.
In addition to these types of boundaries, it’s important to discuss your physical and even digital boundaries with your partner so that you are on the same page and so that your needs are being respected. Are you comfortable with PDA? Do you expect your partner to respond to a text right away? Or call you back ASAP if they miss your call? Or is there an expectation that your partner doesn’t constantly blow up your phone?
Communicating these expectations and boundaries frequently and clearly can help ensure that you are respecting each other’s wishes and allowing each other to feel supported in the relationship. Making your needs clear, even if it can seem uncomfortable at first, is a key part to any form of self-care. Your partner wants to be able to support you as best as they can, so you need to let them by making your boundaries, expectations and wishes clear.
This should go without saying... but it’s also important to listen to and respect your partner when they communicate their boundaries to you. Allowing your partner space for self care is also super important and key to a healthy relationship.
3. Managing stress levels
No one is their best self when they are stressed. Stress can manifest in a million and one ways, but more often than not, stress manifests negatively and can significantly affect the quality of your personal relationships. If you’re like me, you may tend to lash out when you are super stressed out, snapping at any person in your path for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to take things out on our loved ones, because we trust them and they’re often nearby.... But no matter how stressed you are, it’s never fair to take it out on someone else, especially not your partner!
It can be hard to be in total control under stressful situations, so a good way to mitigate this is to avoid the stressful situation all together. It’s not possible to totally eliminate stress from your life, but it is possible to reduce your stress levels, which can make stressful situations more manageable. Things like getting enough sleep, improving your time management and learning to set healthy boundaries can all help you limit the amount of stress in your life. But certain types of stress are unavoidable, so instead of reducing it, you just need to cope with stress.
Great coping strategies include exercise, yoga, meditation and hobbies like cooking, painting or art in general. Pretty much anything that helps you relax, unwind and take your mind off of the things that are out of your control. Managing your stress by reducing unnecessary stress and/or learning how to cope with stress is a crucial part of self care that can require a lot of hard work and dedication. While managing stress can be hard, learning to do so will benefit your personal life and your relationship life in a super positive way!
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How to Practice Self-Love in Your Relationship
1. Being present
The command to “be present” can feel super abstract, I mean you’re here so you must be present, right? WRONG! Being present is much more than a physical state. Being present means being in touch with your emotions, observing your experiences and being intentional with your actions and responses. It can be easy to turn on autopilot and just cruise through life, but this behavior is not conducive to self-love or a happy relationship.
It’s important to engage with your emotions – good and bad – so that you can address them and move forward in a happier and healthier manner. A good way to be present is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a super approachable type of meditation that can help you turn inward, relax and feel more grounded. There are tons of mindfulness books, apps and guided meditations out there that can help you engage with yourself and become more present. Another way to be present is to practice intention setting and positive affirmations. This can be a good strategy for people that like organizations and lists.
Make a list of intentions that you want to focus on such as noting positive and negative emotions as they arise, using positive self-talk or expressing your boundaries to people as well as acknowledging things that you like about yourself. Being present and kind to yourself will improve your mood and self-esteem, which will allow you to be your best self for yourself and for your relationship.
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2. Recognizing your feelings
We touched on this a bit when we talked about being present for yourself and your relationship, but it’s worth exploring this concept in a bit more depth. Recognizing your feelings is a super important part of self-love. It requires you to check-in with yourself and allow yourself the space to analyze your mood and emotions. And while recognizing your feelings is important, it’s not the end goal.
Once you recognize your feelings, it’s important to accept them for what they are. A lot of people are quick to judge their reactions to things, thinking things like “why can’t I be more chill” or “I shouldn’t be sad, people have it much worse than me”. But this type of judgement is not healthy because it dismisses and invalidates very real feelings. If you begin to recognize negative thinking patterns, you should first of all pat yourself on the bat, because it means you are doing some serious introspection. Not all people are self-aware enough to notice these kinds of deep-seated patterns. But after this step, it’s important to be kind to yourself and withhold judgement of these feelings. Instead try to reframe your thinking patterns or point of view through a positive and self-affirming lens that lifts you up.
Accepting your feelings will allow you to experience more self love, because you are taking judgement and negative self-talk out of the picture. Being in touch with your feelings, dealing with them and expressing them will help you be more compassionate towards yourself and your partner. Promoting self love in this way will help improve both your personal life and your relationship.
3. Seeking spiritual connection
For many people, self love is not only a personal journey, but also a spiritual journey. A lot of common self love techniques, such as mindfulness, yoga, meditation and prayer are grounded in spirituality and religion. Engaging in meditation and prayer in a spiritual or religious way is very grounding for people and it can offer a higher purpose to your practices.
In addition to these practices, it can be helpful to seek out religious meetings such as temple, synagogue, church or wherever you are comfortable worshiping to facilitate these types of activities. Seeking out a spiritual or religious connection will not only help you be more intentional and grounded, but it can also help you embrace self love.
Regardless of your religion, a common theme in many religions is acceptance and love. Engaging with these concepts on a routine basis (weekly temple for example) can help you practice incorporating self love into your weekly routine. Even if you are not a religious person, it can be helpful to turn to religious or spiritual literature to help guide your reflection during your self love routines and rituals. This is not to say that incorporating spirituality is the only way to accomplish self love, just that this is often helpful for people who have a difficult time making enough space for themselves to practice self love.
Seeking a spiritual connection can also help you keep a routine of self love, because it gets incorporated into your religious or spiritual routine. Spirituality and religion are both very personal, and not things you necessarily need to share with your partner, but pursuing these connections can help you on your path to self love, which can improve your relationship regardless of your partner’s beliefs. If you and your partner share religious or spiritual beliefs, it can also be really special to pursue self love, together through this type of practice.
Just like being in a relationship, practicing self-care and self-love takes time, patience and a level of commitment. Let Relish help you on your self-love journey with unlimited one-on-one coaching, customized lesson plans and more. Get started for free.