How To Love Yourself When You're In A Relationship

These days, Alone Time (that is, physical time by yourself—oh, how we must stop referring to singlehood as “being alone”) can be scarce. We have myriad distractions—in the form of screens, screens, and screens—to keep us from solitude. In turn, it’s becoming more and more difficult for us to be alone with our own thoughts. Often, we choose to spend time with other people simple because we don’t want to spend time with ourselves. But spending time with yourself is essential.

In fact, the journal Science recently conducted a study that showed that people would rather give themselves an electric shock than be on their own for 15 minutes. Now more than ever, one’s own company has become a harrowing prospect. It’s essential, clearly, that we start better nurturing our relationships to ourselves. The feat, however, can be a real struggle when you share your life with another human being. The Internet is rife with advice on how to create healthy rituals with your partner, but how do we do the same with ourselves? How do we find our own backcountry when we eat at the same table, lounge on the same couch, and sleep in the same bed?

Here are seven simple ways to hold on to that precious relationship with yourself.

1. Make Bathroom Time Your Own

There’s something special about brushing your teeth together, and—let’s just go there—something real special about being able to shit in front of your partner. But the bathroom is a good place to keep sacred, if only on the weekdays. It’s where you start the day, and, for many people, where the best ideas arise. Devoting your morning bathroom routine to me, myself, and I, is a way to inspire self-awareness throughout the entire day.

2. Take Walks

The bevy of writers, artists, and scientists who have ruminated on the benefits of simple walking is seemingly endless. There’s nothing quite like strolling hand-in-hand through fall foliage with your beloved, but if you’re someone who has trouble being alone, small walks are a good place to start. Movement, ironically, seems to still thoughts, and various studies have shown a direct correlation between walking and creativity. There’s a clarity to the action that will make you more aware of yourself.

3. Date Yourself

One of the most common complaints I hear from single friends is: “I just want someone to do things with, you know?” It’s a more-than-fair hankering, but in a partnership, we’ve got to be aware of the opposite—it’s essential to see the value in doing things on one’s own. Go to a party without your S.O.; take a class on your own; visit that exhibition you’ve been trying to get to; see a movie; if you’re down for the ultimate go-it-alone endeavor, grab dinner with your sweet self. If once a week seems excessive, try twice a month. Either way, get to some solo pursuits—they’ll help you love yourself more.

4. Masturbate

It’s easy to forget the joys of a self-made orgasm when someone else is always doing the job. But there are reasons to keep up your masturbation routine even when you’re having great sex. It’s probably the most effective way to continue learning about your body and, according to multiple studies, it can improve your sex life. Physical self-love also translates into emotional self-love: women who masturbate have been found to have more self-esteem. If you’re going to go it alone, what better direction to go than toward climax.

5. Visit Your Family On Your Own

The seamless integration of a significant other into the family is, I imagine, on par with the happiness supplied by a personal chef. But there’s a problem when bonds between kin weaken on account of your new relationship. Admittedly, family gatherings are infinitely more endurable with the one you love beside you, but it’s crucial to upkeep healthy ties with your original tribe. Spending time alone with family helps us get back to our roots, and we often experience a replenished sense of self after a solo visit with Mom.

6. Read Fiction

Reading is one of those singular activities that you can’t do while doing something else. When you’re reading, you’re reading—it requires your utmost presence. Fiction has proven not only to sharpen your empathy, but to change the very physicality of your brain. There is something personally gratifying about completing a novel. Stories can act as little worlds into which you and only you are granted access. They’re a way to carve out a mental space for yourself when sharing a physical space with another.

7. Have Something That’s Yours Alone

Vague as it is, this is an important component in a self-reflexive relationship—the significance of it marked by the very fact that you’ve got to choose it on your own. It could be anything from a standing weekly date with a girlfriend to a night of at-home pampering (for which you request S.O. be out of the house between six and nine). It could be as intangible as a daily affirmation that only you know, or something material—a piece of decor you insist on displaying in the living room. The critical point is that it remains your own. It’s there, but you don’t need to talk about—a lifeline to a place all your own.

Image: Lotus Carroll/Flickr; Giphy