How would you define self-care? (Trying to explain how it’s not so much about baths and pedicures as it is about caring for yourself as a human and prioritizing your mental/physical/emotional needs.)

Anyone who is in a relationship in which you seek to be able to take care of the needs of others requires that you invest as much time and energy into your own care as you give to the people you love. Self-care is not a luxury or an indulgence because if you don’t have any gas in the emotional tank left you are not going to be able to show up and give back. You must stop and put gas in the tank and self-care is the way to do it.

You can’t physically, emotionally, or mentally give to others if you are wiped out. Think about the last time you flew in an airplane. The stewards instructed you that in the event of an emergency for you to put your own oxygen mask on and breathe deeply before attempting to assist others traveling with you. These instructions are applicable to life because you are of no value to anyone if you are laid out blocking the nearest exit. Self-care is a priority and equally as important as showing up to be caring and attentive to the needs of family, children, friends, or partners.

How does acknowledging and addressing your mental, physical, and emotional needs bolster your sense of self and set you up for a more fulfilling dating life or relationship?

By letting a romantic partner know that you prioritize your mental, physical, and emotional health, you are setting expectations about what a relationship with you will look like. Self-care represents that you deeply care about all the members of the relationship team, including yourself.

This kind of declaration of love for your needs, at an equal level to your partner’s, symbolizes that you have healthy boundaries and that you stick with your commitments. This includes the commitment to yourself around the need manage your own mental health, even during a caring relationship. This behavior also symbolizes that you take responsibility for your own mental health and well-being. This signifies that you are strong and do not depend on someone else to care for your needs. This promises your partner that they have less of a worry for them to develop resentments or feel burdened by the responsibilities you might ask of them. This is a very attractive trait in a partner especially as we age and there is more potential for one partner becoming ill or experiencing a loss of mobility.

Seeing yourself choosing to care for and love yourself by doing continuous self-care and addressing our personal needs, makes it easier to have perspective about the value of doing so. This perspective can help you have more compassion and feel less put upon when a partner talks about their needs. You will be able to see these requests as less of a rejection or a request for you to give something more of yourself, but as a trait that has merit because the other person is able to take inventory of what their own limitations are. Asking for your needs, even if the other person can’t give them to you, tells yourself that you honor yourself and your experience of life.

These answers were featured in an article by InStyle.com. More about it here.

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Dr. Dana McNeil

Dr. Dana McNeil
PsyD, LMFT

Founder of The Relationship Place
Marriage and Family Therapist CA License #99008

certified gottman therapist
DANA-DIVIDER

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