I wish I could remember who said this, so I could ask them if they’d like to be credited with it. As it is, my memory is terrible and it’s probably a couple years since I heard it, so…. wise person, if you’re out there, do feel free to make yourself known.
‘I have one relationship right now; it’s with myself. I am my own primary partner.’
This was said in a polyamory themed workshop, and it struck me as such an incredibly good way of looking at things that I have been mulling over the idea for quite a while, and wondering how best to approach it in an article.
You have to love yourself before you can truly love anyone else, so the saying goes. I don’t actually entirely buy into this, as I think self love is deeply complex and often a lifelong journey. However, what I do believe is that one needs to be able to have a functional and healthy relationship with oneself in order to be able to have functional and healthy relationships with others.
The sad truth is that most relationships do not last forever. We would all like them to, of course – but in reality, relationships end. Even if you spend sixty or seventy years together, unless you die on the exact same day, one of you will – at some point – be without the other. Losing a relationship, whether through splitting up or through death, is heartbreaking. Nobody is denying that. But one can pull through such a loss and, eventually, be okay. But who is the one person you will always have to live with, no matter what? YOU. So, given that you’re stuck with you, it’s probably best to learn how to treat yourself well.
When I say ‘be your own primary partner,’ I’m using what I consider to be a healthy definition of ‘primary.’ It also doesn’t come at the exclusion of having primary, life-partner and extremely serious relationships with other people.
If you’re in a serious relationship with someone, you take their wants, needs and desires into account when making decisions. Right? Afford yourself the same courtesy. Stop, slow down and, before you make a decision, ask yourself ‘is this what I really want or need? Will this be good for me? Will this help me to grow into the best version of myself that I can be?’ If not – think very hard before doing whatever it is.
This is not to say that you should act selfishly or without regard for anybody else. Hopefully, even in a primary relationship, that person’s needs and wants are significant but not the only driving factor in your decision making process. There are others who need to be considered too. Be compassionate to yourself AND others around you.
Be kind to yourself. If your primary partner was feeling upset, hurt, jealous, angry or any other “negative” emotion, you wouldn’t attack them for it, would you? I hope not. Instead, you’d do your best to listen and help them to alleviate these unpleasant feelings. You’d validate and be gentle and reassuring. Be similarly kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over your emotions. Don’t constantly tell yourself that you’re wrong or not good enough. You deserve so much better than that!
Go out of your way to look after yourself. You’d do this for your partner – so why shouldn’t you do it for yourself? If you’ve had a bad day, draw yourself a bath and go and soak your cares away for an hour (or insert whatever relaxing, de-stressing activity you’d prefer here.)
Make your health and wellbeing a priority. Would you allow a partner to go around with an illness or injury for any length of time without nagging them to get it checked out or treated? No? Then don’t allow yourself to, either! If you’re sick, put yourself to bed until you get better.
Nurture your interests and talents. In an ideal romantic relationship, the people involved support each other in pursuing their own interests and talents. So give yourself time, space and permission to pursue the things that mean the most to you. This might mean taking a class, it might mean having an evening to yourself once a week to work on your crafting/writing/programming/whatever project. Whatever it looks like, make an effort to give that to yourself. You deserve it.
Buy yourself gifts. Doesn’t have to be big. A bar of your favourite chocolate after a tough week or some pretty flowers to brighten up your home will give you a little boost if you’re feeling down – or even if you’re not.
Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. It’d break your heart if your beloved partner repeatedly associated with people who made them feel bad about themselves. So why would you allow yourself to do the same thing? Have stern words with yourself and cut those toxic people out.
Further ideas for having a healthy relationship with yourself? Add them in the comments, please!