Self-care is usually viewed as a fairly individualistic activity; after all, it is centered on prioritizing taking care of yourself! However, if you practice frequent self-care, you know that self-care has far-reaching effects beyond yourself - you become a happier, healthier, and more loving person to be around. It’s for this reason that self-care is especially important when in a relationship; you want to be the best person that you can be, not only for yourself but also for your partner. When you’re single, you naturally have more alone time that you can use to take care of yourself, but when you are in a relationship, it can be difficult to find the time to step away from your partner and nourish yourself. Despite these obstacles, it’s completely worth it to intentionally pursue self-care regardless of your relationship status! And don’t forget; it’s important to practice self-care both individually and as a couple. Read on for some tips on how to practice healthy self-care when in a relationship.
Ensure some alone time.
No matter how amazing your boyfriend or girlfriend may be, it’s important to spend some time alone focusing on yourself. For one thing, you don’t want to turn into *that* semi-codependent couple, but also, it is important not to lose your identity in a relationship. Make sure to take at least a couple of hours per week to do what you want to do, whether that’s journaling, spending time in nature, or reading a new book -- whatever rejuvenates you. Also, encourage your partner to do the same!
The other side of this is the importance of spending time with others besides your significant other. This could be coworkers, friends from college, a church small group, or family members. No matter who it is, it’s important to maintain a life outside of your partner. While it’s a great sign if you want to introduce your boyfriend or girlfriend to everyone you know, it shouldn’t be a requirement for them to be at any event you decide to attend. Bringing your boyfriend to the monthly girls’ brunch is a bit of a buzzkill, right? When you’re in a relationship, it can be a temptation to want to do everything together, but realize that this is unrealistic and can also leave you feeling completely alone if the relationship eventually ends. Finally, make sure to keep investing in relationships outside of your romantic one. You need more than one person in your social circle!
While some couples struggle to take any time apart, others have a hard time scheduling quality time together. Alone time together means no extra friends, family members, or roommates. Quality alone time requires you to actually focus on each other - i.e. don’t just sit on your phones in the same room. When you spend some quality one-on-one time with your partner, you’re caring for and investing in the future of your relationship. After all, you’re dating them because you find them enjoyable to be around, right? This can be formal dates, yes, but it can also be conversations on the patio over a cup of coffee or a joint attempt at retiling the bathroom. Get creative, but make sure to spend some time together!
It can be worthwhile to physically schedule some time together on the calendar. Yes, it may sound like it’s taking the fun out of your relationship but if you struggle with finding time together, it can be way better than never spending time together at all. Besides, you don’t need to schedule every little thing; just ensure that you have at least one or two quality blocks of time every week or so.
Do your hobbies (or get one).
This goes back to setting boundaries with your significant other, but it’s important to keep up with the hobbies you enjoy even if your partner doesn’t feel the same passion towards them. In fact, it’s actually good if you two don’t do everything together. Were you an avid painter before you met Mrs. Right? Keep going, and prioritize it in your self-care routine. Perhaps you recently joined a chess group - awesome! Part of taking care of yourself is having things outside of work that you genuinely enjoy.
It’s also crucial to find activities that you enjoy doing together. Perhaps you initially bonded over a shared love of hiking or have next to nothing in common; either way, you should prioritize having a shared activity outside of just ‘doing life.’ And don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be fancy. Maybe you both love jigsaw puzzles; grab a couple and get to work during your quality time together!
When you’re in a relationship, it’s easy to put your own goals and dreams on the back burner. And while a little self-sacrifice is great, what’s not great is losing sight of the ambitions you once had in exchange for a ‘comfortable’ relationship that cannot survive if one of you improves as a person. A good relationship encourages you to continue growing, changing, and evolving into the best version of yourself. So take time regularly to reflect on where you are in life and where you want to be as an individual, just like you (hopefully) did when you were single.
I like to take a step back each month and examine what worked, what didn’t, and what goals I have for the upcoming month. It’s something that helps me to hold myself accountable rather than waiting until January 1st each year to make an effort to change. Besides, the best habits are small ones that grow over time, like learning Greek over the course of a year on Duolingo or exercising for just 20 minutes a day. No matter your relationship status, it’s important to continue to take stock of where you are and where you want to be in your personal, professional, and relational life.
Growth as a couple is important too. One of the biggest areas that you can grow together is through improving your communication. Ask yourself, how comfortable do you feel expressing an issue or concern freely to your significant other? Most couples, at least the ones I know, could do better in this area. Communication can take some time to improve, but it is an investment towards positive growth that will enhance your relationship and allow the two of you to become closer.
However, growth isn’t just about communicating better. It’s also about being united in your commitment to shared goals, visions, and values. Let’s say that one of your shared values is giving back to your community. Then, it’s important that you continue to grow into that value by finding ways to volunteer, donate, and mentor those within your community rather than just verbally talking about it. Growth also looks like gently encouraging your partner as they advance on their own individual goals.
Essentially, self-care is important in any exchange, but particularly in a relationship because it is easy for intentional self-care to go by the wayside in an attempt to spend 100% of one’s time with the new boyfriend or girlfriend. However, you should never stop practicing self-care, both as an individual and together as a couple. Taking care of yourself individually allows you to bring the best version of yourself to the partnership while simultaneously maintaining your unique identity. Intentionally practicing self-care in your relationship will make your relationship stronger in the end and result in a partnership of two more fulfilled individuals, both separately and together.