I don’t think self-care has to be at the expense of anyone else’s well-being, and that is why I didn’t call this article “How to put yourself first in a relationship” because that implies that your partner is put second, and that doesn’t seem right. Ideally, both you and your partner are fulfilled, but it can be problematic when we rely on solely our partner to fulfill us, and turn away from ourselves to take on some of that weight.
It’s easy to talk about little things we can do for ourselves to help us feel better. Usually when I think of “self-care,” face masks, shopping or expensive lattés come to mind, whatever you like and what works for you. The reality is, the “real world” is a bit scarier and requires more readily available methods of taking care of ourselves in social interactions. Similar to talking about ways to deal with anxiety in hypothetical terms and then in the time of need, it’s as if all that knowledge is inaccessible. So what can we teach ourselves that will stick? Let’s start at the beginning.
First off, I want to note how difficult I recognize it can be to find somehow who you connect with in all the necessary ways, and your necessary ways may vary from your partner’s. Instead of having to backpedal eventually after not having set clear boundaries and communicated openly about your needs, this can be a good place to begin! This requires a certain amount of self-recognition and awareness of how you want to be treated, how your actions affect others, and how you’ve been shaped by previous relationships, romantic or otherwise. It’s important to, even when putting yourself first, not perceive this as disregarding the other person.
Communication is vital, especially when asserting your needs. Putting yourself first in a relationship can be telling your partner what you really want to do instead of what you think they want to do at your own expense. It’s subtleties like this that add up and help to avoid any possible resentment that can form if you feel like your partner is not fulfilling your needs, whether you voiced them or not. You may feel nervous to admit to some of the things you need, or feel silly or that it’s too exposing, but in my experience, in a relationship worth having, being open (while still being comfortable, of course) makes me feel closer to my partner. Slowly, I think open conversations like these help a relationship grow as the couple understands one another better.
Keep in mind that trust takes time to be established, so it’s important to listen to your gut and how you feel around a person. Recognize that these are primal instincts and are probably accurate indicators that you should acknowledge. Putting yourself first can be as simple as going with your inexplicable feelings and trusting yourself.
I think sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of emotions and want to spend the majority of time with your significant other, but it’s important to remember who you were and who you spent time with before your relationship. I’m sure your loved ones would agree that they don’t want to be put on the backburner, but this will also keep your sense of self outside of the relationship strong so that no matter what happens, you will feel strong within yourself.
You got this. xx, Britt