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How Focusing on Yourself Will Improve Your Relationship

Laura Richer, Seattle Therapist

Jan 7, 2022

It is easy to lose oneself in a relationship. Our culture promotes the myth of the romantic rescue. If only you can find “the one” you will have your “happily ever after.” This myth perpetuates that two half fulfilled people coming together will create a healthy relationship and complete one another.

In reality all relationships take effort. The only way to meet the challenges of partnering with someone else is to develop a positive and healthy relationship with oneself.

Two whole people who care for their own emotional well being is the key to a successful romantic relationship. If this is not present, all sorts of obstacles will present themselves. Jealousy, projection, ignoring red flags, arguments and an insecure attachment are a few.

What does it mean to focus on yourself?

Focusing on yourself means to really accept your primary relationship is with yourself. Some people fear that attending to their own needs is self centered. Other’s may feel that if their partner maintains their own identity or has alone time it will be detrimental to the relationship.

Even if your desire is to be the most loving partner, you have to fill your own cup to have something to give. Self-love is required to be able to share your love with another. It is impossible and not advised to be selfless – in fact, this will lead to resentment.

It is important to maintain your own friends, hobbies, and self care practices – in other words, it is essential to work on your own identity outside of the relationship. Spending time on yourself will bring much personal joy that will feed positive energy into your partnerships. Who have you been? Who are you becoming? What do you value?

If you make your partner the only person responsible for your happiness, how might your relationship inspire growth, rather than putting all the pressure of your fulfillment onto the relationship?

How to focus on yourself in a relationship

A new relationship can be intoxicating and cause you to lose sight of our own goals. Initially it may feel as though the other person has the power to complete life. You may unintentionally neglect old friendships and lose site of your own personal goals.

Overtime this can create resentment and cause your relationship to turn sour. It can be easy to start blaming your partner when you do not pay attention to your own basic needs or lose contact with your own friends.

People who invest in themselves and have a strong sense of self worth are attractive to others. Other relationships outside of your romantic relationship and time spent on one’s own activities and goals are a large part of who we are. That is most likely what attracted your partner to you in the first place. Losing touch with your identity outside of the relationship is detrimental to your self confidence, overall happiness, and ultimately will not feel good.

Spend time alone

In order to feel happy in our relationship to others, we need to feel whole and complete within ourselves. It is important to create space in your life to have enough time with yourself. Time apart can give you the opportunity to realize your own goals and become the best version of you. This ultimately can help you connect with your partner on a deeper level.

Unfortunately that romantic line from the nineties movie Jerry McGuire, “You complete me” that perpetuates the toxic myth that an outstanding love could save you from yourself just isn’t true. Other people do not complete us. Connection is vital in our lives, however the connection you have to yourself will dictate what kind of relationship you have with others. A better translation of that line might be -“you challenge me to see myself and what is possible as well as inspire my growth and evolution”.

Spend time alone and explore ways to enjoy your own company. Cultivating self love is an ongoing process that requires your authentic self. Without alone time it is difficult to know what is true for you outside of the influence and desires of others. This makes it difficult to set boundaries or connect in meaningful ways because you will be unclear about what you truly desire.

Maintain your own friendships

Friends are crucial to our happiness and have a tremendous positive impact on our mental health. Connection to individual friends our a community can help relieve stress, create space to explore common interests, and offer a network of support outside of your relationship. One person can not be our everything. That is too heavy of a burden to bear. It really does take a village to create a healthy mental and emotional life.

A friend may offer support or experiences that our family member or romantic partner may not. Professional advice from relationship experts and research all point to the need for romantic partners to share common values, however this doesn’t necessarily mean they will share common interests. You may love watching sports, playing tennis, exploring art museums, or debating politics. However, you could find yourself with someone who checks all of the major compatibility boxes but doesn’t enjoy some of your favorite activities.

That doesn’t mean you should let go of all of your favorite free time pass times. Friends are the people who we can share common interests with and continue to focus on the things we enjoy. If you or your partner sees friendships as a threat, there is work to be done on the relationship. Healthy partners support each other in their outside interests which includes friendships with others.

Pursue your dreams and goals

It can be challenging to find a compatible partner, and you might feel grateful when you finally do. It can be easy to lose sight of your goals when you are so excited about merging your life with another. Once you are in a committed relationship it may be more challenging to find ways to focus on your individual life.

Carefully weigh your options when it comes to focusing on what is in the best interest of your relationship, and what is in your best interest as individual. When you have found a compatible partner their will naturally be intersection between the two.

Letting go of future dreams and goals for the sake of your relationship will take a hit on your self esteem because you will no longer be investing in you. It will also cause you to resent your partner even if they never wanted you to give up on you. Focus on your goals so that you can realize the person you want to become. Not only will this cultivate your own individual happiness it will make you more attractive to your partner.

Practice self love and care

Self love and care are the practices you implement to care for your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well being. The activity itself does matter all that much. What matters is the intention behind it. Common examples of self care include writing in a journal, focusing on meditation, moving your body, eating nutritious foods, or simply creating space in your life to explore things that you enjoy.

Caring for yourself includes offering yourself the same love and compassion you would offer your romantic partner or best friend. This means letting go of comparing yourself to others or trying to live up to other people’s standards. It also means trusting yourself and tuning in to your inner wisdom for guidance when you need answers.

People who take good care of themselves know how to take their partner’s needs into consideration, but not to the point of self sacrifice. Focusing on your needs allows you to live your life in a way that is congruent to who you really are and attract the right relationships to you. Relationships that require you to sacrifice your own well being are never worth it.

Stay in physical shape

This have very little to do with how you look. It is all about how you feel. Feeling good in your own physical body translates into feeling good in your interaction with others. Staying in physical shape is not about maintaining a certain body weight or muscle mass. Instead it is about doing the things that allow you to take care of the best care of your physical body, which include getting enough rest, eating foods that benefit your overall health, and moving your body.

Our bodies change overtime. We don’t need to strive to look the way we did in our youth. We can however, work towards maintaining physical health and well-being in order to live life optimally. When we don’t feel good in our physical bodies, it’s difficult to enjoy our interactions with others. This will have a negative impact on our ability to stay engaged with a partner sexually, mentally, and emotionally.

Don’t neglect your mental health

The quality of our mental state affects how we think, feel, and behave. It also informs how we handle stress, connect with others, and make important life choices. Just as caring for your physical health will have a positive impact on your mental state, caring for your mental state can improve or prevent the mental conditions that are sometimes associated with a physical illness. For example, effectively managing stress and anxiety can have a positive impact on conditions such as heart disease and chronic pain.

Mental health challenges can have a significant impact on how we interact with others. Specifically in romantic partnerships, conditions like depression and anxiety can impact:

  • Your libido
  • Limit your desire to engage in the activities of daily living
  • Restrict your ability to express positive emotions like love and empathy
  • Make it difficult to communicate
  • Lead to feelings of isolation for you and your partner.

We can not give what we do not have ourselves. Caring for your own mental well-being allows you to be emotionally available to your partner. We will all experience mental health challenges at some point in our lives. Grief, loss, and stress are part of the human experience. However, when you intentionally focus on your own mental well-being, you are more apt to overcome these challenges and more likely to be there for others.

Healthy relationships encourage personal growth

A relationship that requires downplaying strengths or triggers traumatized / negative parts of our personalities is not healthy. While we can learn from these challenging experiences, they are usually draining and destructive in the long term.

Healthy relationships both encourage and foster growth. A positive relationship can create a safe space for individuals to explore and develop their potential. Your partner can act as a mirror where you can examine and experience various parts of your personality that you may not see or be aware. If you are struggling with focusing on yourself in a relationship, consider individual therapy to get the support you need to be your best self in your relationship.


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