Healthy Self-Care equals Healthy Relationships

Liesel B&WI would love to thank Jess Bonasso for hosting my article on her beautiful blog, as part of my 14 day Virtual Book Tour! Jess and I met “on the internet” as I was searching for valuable content on the topic of self-care. I found her articles and blog really helpful. We’ve since discovered that we’d both spent many stressful years in the computer software industry before our new careers in the helping industry, and feel like cyber-twins!

~ Liesel Teversham

On today’s topic:

Self-Care equals great relationships…. true or false? Is it healthier to be true to yourself, or should we put the other person in the relationship first?

I have a few ideas and thoughts and before I share them, here are the voices of some of my friends:

  • If you can’t love yourself, how can you expect others to love you? Taking care of yourself is loving yourself.
  • If you’re sick, you bring the sickness into the relationship. It seeps into it. Like a poison.
  • Only if we have respect for ourselves and believe in ourselves can we truly support a partner on their journey and through that sharing do we create a close bond in a relationship.
  • If you’re experiencing abusive relationships then take a look at what ways you’re abusive to yourself.
  • Follow you own dream and let that be your intent throughout a relationship with others.
  • Pandering to others’ needs at the expense of our own, means the relationship is out of whack somehow.

Case closed, I think! These are all exceptionally wonderful ideas from real people who are living real lives. A few of them have many more years of life experience than I have.

Let’s take a look at each individual part of this equation and then bring them together.

In a Healthy Relationship –

  • we respect individuality, embrace differences, and allow each person to “be  themselves”
  • we can discuss things, allow for differences of opinion, and compromise equally
  • we can express and listen to each other’s feelings, needs, and desires
  • we can trust and be honest with ourselves and each other
  • we resolve conflicts in a rational, peaceful, and mutually agreed upon way
  • we engage in a way that eliminates controlling, manipulative, or emotional and/or physical abuse 1

What Does it Mean to be True to Ourselves?

My definition of “integrity” or being true to ourselves is when what we think, do and say are all in alignment. The root of the word integrity stems from “integer” which means whole. If I am whole, in integrity, my thoughts, actions and words are all saying the same thing.

What Happens when we’re Not in Integrity?

I speak from painful experience when I say it breeds unhappiness and resentment and it’s not sustainable. I was married to an alcoholic for around 6 years. It was some of the most challenging years of my life.

I walked on egg shells a lot, and tried my very best to keep the peace. I kept hovering in typical codependent behaviour. If I stirred the pot, or asked too many questions, he’d drink again… and then there would be the inevitable cycle of a terrible evening, a lonely and angry few days, the excuses and finally the apologies and promises. Only to be repeated again.

Did I practice healthy self-care or was I true to myself during this marriage?

No – on both counts. It simply didn’t feel like an option. Healthy self-care and boundaries meant I’d probably need to say “NO MORE!” That would provoke conflict, and it would probably set off another cycle.  If was true to myself, I would’ve said “I’m leaving because alcohol and I can’t live in the same house.” I avoided that, too, for the same reason. I was petrified he would leave – and I couldn’t face the consequences.

The resentment, disappointment and anger boiling under the surface in this kind of unhealthy relationship are hard to describe to anyone. Self-doubts creep in (“Am I the one that’s causing his drinking?”), self-hatred starts (“why can’t I speak up, I KNOW I can’t live like this forever!”) and I was forever making excuses and feeling ashamed about his behaviour. Again – typical codependent behaviour, which I knew nothing about in those years.

Yes, in case you’re wondering, I did eventually leave. That’s why I said earlier that living out of integrity, not being true to yourself and no self-care is not sustainable. Eventually, my soul or some other part of me, could simply not face another empty apology or excuse.

I’m not going say that there were only roses and bunnies after that. It was terribly scary, painful and I was petrified to start over on my own. And I had to do a lot of pondering, honest self-investigation and healing of old wounds.

The wonderful thing is that now, I’m in an exquisitely healthy marriage. One where we can discuss our differences and have respect for each other’s journeys. We each practice self-care in our own way. Hubby plays golf while I enjoy reading, and we can each pick up when the other is “running on empty”. We fill our own tanks as whole and healthy people individually, so that we can support the other. I’m not hoping that he is going to complete me and make me happy, and neither does he expect that of me. Yet, we’re incredibly happy and the relationship feels like smooth sailing!

We’d both learnt in previous dysfunctional relationships that it’s important to be true to ourselves, make sure our own needs are met and then, it’s a joy to support the other partner on their journey.

Jumping to pander to the other person’s needs at the expense of our own is indeed a sign that something is not healthy. It’s not sustainable, and can only last so long before something gives – either the relationship, or our personal physical, emotional or spiritual health.

Action Steps

What can I do if it’s hard for me to take care of myself in a relationship?

  1. Learn a tool like EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) or go to a competent EFT or Journey practitioner to help you through the beliefs and fears that limit your ability to be authentic in the relationship.
  2. Take a hard, honest look at the relationship itself. Is that the real limiting factor? Is this a nurturing relationship? An abusive relationship includes bullying, controlling and manipulating. No blame here. Simply noticing what’s really going on. And then moving forward gently and slowly.
  3. Clear out your own wounds from the past. The way we behave in relationships, and relate with ourselves, stem from our childhood. Always. Whether we like it or not. Children up to the age of 6 are in a hypnogogic state and cannot discern “the truth” from “my parent’s opinion”. Children create meanings like “Mom’s expression means I’m not lovable” or “Conflict is bad and scary” because they have no filters or experience to counteract those early experiences.

Taking care of ourselves first, making sure our own cup is filled with what we need, ensures that we are able to support the other person on their journey of growth. It’s challenging sometimes and require honesty, compassion and empathy from both sides. It’s worth it in every way to live a happy, fulfilled life where personal growth is possible and enjoyable.

Sources:

1 http://counseling.uoregon.edu

A bit about Liesel

No Problem FrontPage WebLiesel (B. Mus Hons) is the author of “No Problem: The Upside of Saying No“. It is a guidebook for those who are overwhelmed, exhausted and resentful and never have a moment for themselves.

Visit her book blog to see the full schedule for the Virtual Book Tour at http://www.no-problem-book.com/index.php/book-tour to receive exciting free gifts, including a free 10 lesson e-Course to accompany the book, available on Amazon.

Liesel is a coach, trainer and speaker helping professional women to implement guilt-free self-care strategies.

Comments

  1. Dear Jess,

    Thanks again for hosting me on your beautiful and inspirational blog!

    I’d love to hear from the readers… what’s your biggest challenge around taking good care of yourself in your relationship?

    Warmly,
    Liesel

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