Having a healthy, thriving relationship takes time, there is really no way around it. Finding balance is tricky. There are some commitments that just require a certain amount of time no matter what, think school, kids, career, etc. And somehow you have to find a way after all that to devote enough time to caring for yourself AND your relationship. It can be exhausting, so here are a few thoughts on balancing your self-care with your relationship:
What Is Self-Care?
First, I think that it is important to define what I am talking about when I say “self-care”. The term has blown up a bit in pop culture and in internet advice articles (I blame “Treat Yo Self Day” from Parks & Rec). I think that we sometimes mix up “self-care” with selfishness. Self-care is not over-the-top self-indulgence. For me, some self-care is probably going to involve some ice cream. But we are talking about self-care if I sit down with a half gallon of ice cream at once. That is something different.
Self-care is very literally about taking care of yourself. Yes, sometimes this involves enjoying some of the simple pleasures of life. But other times, it is about making sure your needs are met whether it is enjoyable or not. For instance, I know that I will start to feel depressed and sluggish if I do not exercise in some way at least a couple times a week. I know I am not alone in that because research shows that exercise is an effective treatments for Major Depressive Disorder. Exercise is sometimes the last thing I want when I finish with work. It might not be fun in the moment, but I know what is waiting for me if I do not take care of myself.
Self-care is about making sure that you are energized in a way that helps you function in your day-to-day. It is not just about functioning. It is about connecting. Emotionally intimate relationships are a healthy part the human experience. Intimacy is a give and take. And when neither person in a relationship practices self-care, it will start to feel like there is a lot of taking without any giving.
How do I balance it?
That is the question right?! If you spend too much time focusing on yourself, your partner will start to feel neglected. But over-focusing on the relationship might leave you feeling drained. Two ideas here are really important: attunement and asking the right questions.
First, you need to be attuned to your partner and to yourself. Too many of us get swept up in the business of life, and we do not realize we are struggling until we are in crisis. If you find that you are tired, angry, depressed, or anxious all the time you probably need to adjust how you take care of yourself. When You notice he same in your partner, it is probably time to check in on how they feel about your connection.
Once you are attuned to yourself and our partner, you have to know the right questions to ask yourself. This will help you figure out if it is time to focus on yourself or your relationship. Here are some of the questions I suggest you ask:
-Am I struggling because I feel lonely, or because I feel flooded?
-If someone asks “what is wrong?”, would I be able to tell them?
-Do I feel comfortable asking my partner about things that are bothering them?
-When I need my partner but they can not be there, what will I do to make it okay?
Sometimes things do not match up between you and your partner. If you find that one of you needs more time to themselves or you feel disconnected, give us at The Marriage & Family Clinic a call.
About the Author
Ryan Hicks is a licensed therapist and marriage counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado. He specializes in working with couples in high conflict and working with couples in the LGBTQ community. When he’s not working with couples, you’ll find him rock climbing or taking in the great outdoors of Colorado.