Let's get selfish for a minute. And by selfish, I mean "let's take care of ourselves." Because a person without self-care is like a mermaid without a tail. I mean, you can swim, but it's exhausting. Plus, taking care of yourself doesn't just make you feel good. Self-care leads to a happier relationship. So if you're the kind of super unselfish person who thinks, "I couldn't possibly do something for myself," just remember that doing something for yourself is actually kind of like doing something for your partner. Win win.
I'm kind of a self-care maniac. When I worked as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I got my own education in just how many people constantly do things for others and never do anything for themselves. And then their relationships suffer because of resentment, lack of feeling appreciated, and plain old exhaustion. I'm getting exhausted just writing about it. (Like, phew! Is it too early for margs? Margaritas are self-care, right?)
Luckily for you, I've got some tips to help you wean yourself from doing it all and to start sometimes doing whatever the F you want. Because being in a relationship isn't about becoming a pleasing machine that works for everyone but yourself. You deserve self-care, damn it! OK, sorry, I got a little excited there. But seriously. Check out these tips and add a couple to your routine. You'll be surprised how both your life and your relationships improve. How could that ever be a bad thing?
But it doesn't have to be dancing. Anything that gives you a few minutes of unbridled joy is fair game here. Maybe what makes you really happy is to go outside for a minute and just breathe in all that green. Or perhaps it's getting your makeup done in a trendy boutique. Or maybe it's watching an episode of Broad City in your underwear while wearing a unicorn headband (don't judge me). These secret moments you steal from the day are yours and yours alone, and they're part of refilling your well of joy. We all need joy.
2. Make A Friend Or Five
It's really easy, especially the older you get, to put friendships on the back burner. It's also common for people in relationships to become a co-dependent love unit that can't be separated. Healthy people in healthy relationships spend time without their partners, and do their best to maintain their friendships. If you haven't had an grown-up play date with your squad in a while, schedule one. If you don't have a squad, it's really important to get one, even if that squad is just you and one other person. Here are some tips for making friends as an adult, because I like you. You're welcome.
3. Say No Like It's Your Job
Sometimes there's a downside to having friends. Like, have you ever looked at your calendar and realized your month had, like, five weddings, a kid's birthday party, a dog christening, three baby showers, (seriously, why can't your fiends stop having babies?), and a surprise housewarming party for your bestie? Then you, your bank account, and your neglected Netflix queue (I meant partner) cry fat crocodile tears together? If you're like me, you'll try really hard to ignore your anxiety and introversion in order to please everyone when what you really need to do is tell a couple of those people a big fat no. Protecting some of your money and free time (and sanity) isn't selfish or rude. It's good self care.
4. Rock Your Personal Style (Or Get One)
I love when people post those Instagram memes about how they put on makeup for themselves, not for their partners. Heck to the yes. Self-care doesn't have to just mean basic hygiene. Some people find it makes them feel good about themselves to dress a certain way, get their hair done, get their nails done, or rock some tattoos. If your personal style is sweats and tank tops, get yourself the softest sweats ever. If it's tutus and glitter heels, wear them, even if you're just going to the bank. Remember, the key is doing whatever makes you feel happy. This might mean stopping your ritual of wearing a full face of makeup every day just to make your partner happy, or it might mean the opposite. You do you.
5. Get A Hobby That's Just Yours
I do nail art. And I raise plants. And sometimes I paint. My wife would rather swim in glue than do any of these things. She plays softball (no thank you) and takes photos. We have joint hobbies, too, but the point is, we both do things we love that are just ours. You need to have things that are just yours. Do crafts. Grow herbs on your windowsill. Take a photography class. Join a dance crew. Start a book club. Collect wine. Just get something that's yours.
6. Get Some Goals
Relationship goals are awesome. Maybe you want to move in together, or maybe you want to buy a house or something. But you have to have personal goals, too. It's so easy to forget that you're an individual when you're in a relationship, and it's even easier for all your goals to become joint goals. But taking a step back and remembering the things you wanted to accomplish, whether they include going to school or writing a book or being able to do 10 pull ups, is really healthy for your relationship.
7. Admit What You Don't Like
This self-care tip is powerful. It's also difficult, and it might lead to some conflict. But you got this. What I mean is taking a look at your life and all the things you do, and eliminating the things you hate. Do you hate Friday board game night because you have terrible ADHD and you'd rather put needles in your eye? Is Wednesday book club making you fall behind on your school work? Does being the person in charge of birthday cakes at the office totally stress you out because you might forget someone? Are you tired of watching The Voice and want to admit that you're team X Factor instead? Hate yoga, but your bestie makes you go? It's totally OK to say that something isn't working for you, or isn't making you happy. And it's equally OK to cut that activity from your life.
8. Admit Who You Don't Like
This one's more powerful, but also more difficult. There are people in this world who annoy you, get under your skin, take too much energy to deal with, make you seethe with rage, or who just aren't healthy to be around. Get rid of them. And if you cant get rid of them, then minimize your contact with them, and set up boundaries about when, and how long you'll be around them. Does your partner have crappy parents? Agree to go on half the visits instead of all. Or none, if you can swing it. Co-workers suck the life out of you? Engage only when necessary, and let the rest roll off your back. What about those people on your Facebook who just drive you bananas? Gone! It's very freeing to create a life that only includes people you choose to spend time with.
9. Go To The Doctor
You make sure your partner is healthy, but what about yourself? When was the last time you went to the dentist? Are you overdue to go to the gyno? Do you even have a doctor? What about those headaches you keep getting, or that new suspicious pain in your hip? Taking care of yourself is not just important for you, it's important for your partner. It can be selfish to not take care of your health when you share your life with another person. And if you don't have insurance, what about looking for free clinics, or applying for assistance programs? The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) provides an income-based subsidy to help your pay for insurance.
10. Make Some Playlists For The Car
Because equality! You don't always have to be the one who says "you can listen to whatever you want, babe." Half of the time, those speakers are yours! Maybe you've listened to enough crappy rock and gut-churning dubstep to more than earn your singer-songwriter piano whining music, or your guys-with-beards bands. I mean, if it's something your partner really hates, you can be awesome and not play it. And they can do the same for you. But your music matters, too. Music is life.
11. Get Your Half
Continuing with the idea that the speakers in the car are yours half of the time, remember that so is the TV, the credit card, the vacations, the weekends, and the home. And so is the free time. Make sure to get your wants and needs met, too. Use your half! Your partner won't die if they have to watch a show they don't like. You didn't. They'll survive a date you planned that they're probably not pan themselves. You have. Even if it's just buying the kind of cookies you like sometimes, make sure you're getting your half.
If you do all of these things, or even just a handful of them, you'll be so full of joy and relief that it will spill over into your relationship. And your partner will have a newfound respect for your "yes" because they'll know you really mean it.
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