Self-care contributes to relationship health


Relationship-ing is not an exact science because many variables can make or break a connection. Past experiences, cultural conditioning, chemistry, and compatibility influence the outcome. And like oil and vinegar, no matter how much or how long you shake it — sometimes they don’t mix.

While I’d love to give you a roadmap that would guarantee relationship success — there is no such thing. Of course, it makes total sense to choose someone whose values and manner of living align with your own on some level. And if emotional intensity is essential to you, choosing a partner that you have strong chemistry with is a good idea.

But your best chance of creating a healthy relationship environment depends mostly on how you choose to show up.

Take care of yourself.

People that take good care of themselves make the best partners. Self-care is the petrol that fuels healthy relationships.

Self-care is not a trend or a luxury. It’s an essential requirement for life — period. Cultivating good habits like having firm boundaries, staying hydrated, and getting adequate rest allows you to be more present.

Your partner wants you to live a long and happy life, which is what you wish for them. But watching someone you love endure and struggle is painful. When your self-care is raggedy, you both suffer.

Self-care is about prioritizing the things that make you feel healthy and strong. But it goes beyond looking after your body and mind; it’s also about cultivating a healthy social life and stimulating your intellect and imagination. Your social network, hobbies, and interests are pillars of self-care because they add variety and excitement to your life. Which, in turn, benefits your relationship.

Taking good care of yourself is a gift for both of you.

Ask for what you need.

There are certain things that every person needs to experience happiness, fulfillment, and security in a relationship. These things are your core needs, and they are non-negotiable. When these needs are met, it's easier to show up fully.

Your core needs are as unique as you are. Maybe you need time alone to rest and replenish at the close of the week. Or perhaps you need to stay in touch regularly to feel connected to your beloved.

While your core needs are non-negotiable, you should be flexible about meeting your needs. It’s okay to compromise.

But what if your partner is unwilling to meet your needs? If your partner is reluctant to meet your core needs, the hard truth is that the relationship cannot flourish. And the same is true if you are unwilling to meet your partner’s core needs.

The first step to getting your needs met is knowing what they are. And once you know what you need — you can ask for it.

When you express your desires, your partner will never have to guess what’s going on with you. And by using your words, you also give your partner permission to use theirs.

Become bi-lingual in love.

The desire to be loved is universal. But how we receive love is not. It matters very little who says they love you; what does matter is whether you feel loved by them or not.

Dr. Gary Chapman developed The 5 Love Languages based on the premise that “relationships grow better when we understand each other.” And he’s right about that. Whether there are more than five love languages is debatable. But taking the love language quiz is a great place to begin.

Knowing how you best receive love is vital to the health of your relationship. The reason is, if your partner expresses love differently than you receive it, you will rarely feel loved. And the same is true for your partner.

Expressing love to your partner in a dialect they understand will allow you to be more accommodating to their wants, needs, and desires. And doing so builds equity in the relationship.

Make attention deposits.

Life is riddled with distractions and opportunities to disengage. So I know it’s not always easy to stay in the room with your darling. But paying attention and noticing when your partner is making a bid to connect with you enhances the relationship-ing experience.

Dr. John Gottman describes bids for connection “as the fundamental unit of emotional communication.” How you respond to your partner’s bids for connection impacts the health of your relationship.

Paying attention to your partner makes them feel valued and significant. And I‘m sure that’s how you want to feel too.

Doing things like showing interest in your partner's interests and checking in to see how they’re doing — just because. Laughing together and kissing your partner when they enter the room. These daily “touches,” as my lover calls them, make loving more loving.

You don’t have to be perfect at responding to your partner’s bids for connection. Sometimes you won’t have the capacity to provide the level of attention your partner needs. And that’s okay.

You can say something like, “Hey, I want to give you my full attention, but right now, I’m a bit distracted. Can we put a pin in this and get back to it later?” By acknowledging their request, you are still being mindful and engaging. You are expressing a desire to connect AND taking good care of both of you — at the same time.

A little attentiveness goes a long way.

Physical Intimacy

Naturally, physical intimacy plays a vital role in partnerships. But it’s not about how much or how often. What’s important is whether you are both on the same page about the state of your physical intimacy.

If physical intimacy is something you choose to experience with one another, both of you should be enthusiastic about it. And if it's not going to be a part of your connection, make sure it’s a mutual decision.

But let’s assume that physical intimacy is something you both agree is essential to the relationship. How do you keep the passion alive?

  • Make it a priority. Life gets busy sometimes, but there are things that you will always make time to do — like laundry. So treat physical intimacy like laundry; make time for it, even if you’re super busy.
“You may not be in the mood for doing your laundry, but you wouldn’t let it pile up for two weeks. So why would you neglect an even more important aspect of your life?” — Rebecca Rosenblat, Sex Expert
  • Be like Nike and just do it. Because let’s be honest, you’re not going to be in the mood all the time. Sometimes your body won’t come online until foreplay begins. And because physical intimacy is one of the ways some partners get their emotional needs met, having regular physical intimacy improves the relationship's health.
  • Talk about it. Couples who talk about physical intimacy report higher rates of satisfaction. And expressing your desire increases the chance of fulfillment. See how that works?

Keeping the “spark” alive in your relationship will boost your partner’s confidence and self-esteem. And when you invest in your partner’s well-being, you are also investing in yourself.

Many of the things I mentioned above center around you, and that was intentional. Popular advice tends to focus on taking care of each other, which is essential. But the problems that arise in relationships are often the result of someone not taking good care of themselves.

So if you want to be a good partner — I suggest you get good at taking care of yourself — first. Because keeping yourself in tip-top shape is the most significant contribution you can make to your partner’s life.

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Intimacy & Relationship coach, writer, and creator of The Sensuality Project. I specialize in Relationship-ing (it's a verb).

Los Angeles County, CA

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