Refusing to take care of yourself does not make you a martyr worthy of medals but instead probably a total pain to live with. This may sound counterintuitive but makes total sense if you consider that we all want the ones we love to be happy, healthy, and around for as long as possible. You might worry your partner by not taking care of your health because this may mean losing you to a preventable disease.
Similar rules apply when you don’t take care of your emotional health. Maybe you are depressed or chronically unhappy at work but refuse to change jobs or get help through therapy. You may feel entitled to your partner’s empathy every night and that is true to some degree. Life can be relentless and occasionally gives us a raw deal but when your unhappiness becomes chronic and you remain passive about fixing the problem, asking for continued sympathy turns into a selfish act. Nobody wants to come home to misery every night.
Plus, it’s very painful to see our loved ones suffer so you are not the only one in pain when you are unhappy. In truth, none of us can give to others what we cannot give to ourselves so our capacity to take care of ourselves and make ourselves happy is closely tied to our ability to give to others generously. Both of you deserve a significant other who takes responsibility for their health and happiness.
So, even though you may feel pulled in multiple directions by all your responsibilities, make time every week for these essential steps of self-care:
- Eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly.
Life is short and you only get one body to live it with so treat it like the irreplaceable necessity it is. Use common sense and take care of it every day in small ways and big.
- Spend time with friends and family.
We are social animals and nothing nourishes us like our relationships. Sharing a laugh with loved ones makes our everyday worries fall away and connects us to something bigger. This experience is crucial for our well-being because it relieves stress.
- Seek ways to grow and learn to stay engaged in life.
This could be reading a new author or developing a new hobby. When we are young, everything piques our curiosity and feels fresh and exciting but as we get older, it’s easy to just stick with the same old, same old. Don’t be boring and predictable but instead find something new to be excited and talk to your partner about.
- Spend quality time as a couple.
Block times out every week where you don’t engage in stress talk about work, bills, etc. Instead, see a movie together or plan a trip to the park or museum. During those times, turn off your cell phone. Whether it’s a full date-night or just catching up in the morning or evening, having even just 30 minutes of together time can help with forging a stronger bond. Feeling close to others is nature’s Prozac without the costs and side-effects so use it generously.
Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally makes you more present, focused, and calm. Be the person that you would want to come home to, someone who works on their own well-being and happiness and thus has the bandwidth to make someone else happy too.
Last but not least, if you feel that your partner isn’t practicing self-care, speak up and talk to them about it. Point out why it matters to you and how it affects your relationship. Be supportive and upbeat about it as much as you can and offer suggestions. Hopefully, your partner will be open to your attempts to improve the quality of the relationship. If he or she is not, you can always try couple’s therapy to improve communication