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May 13, 2014
by Casey Truffo, LMFT

Who comes first, you or your partner?

May 13, 2014 02:55 by Casey Truffo, LMFT


You read a lot of advice columns about how to treat your partner well such as:

·        Being kind when they’re having a bad day.

·         Making small, thoughtful gestures as often as possible to show you’re thinking of them.

·         Keeping your temper in check when you get angry to avoid making offensive comments you’ll regret later.

There are a lot of recommendations out there about how to keep your relationship healthy by the way you treat your partner and much of it is good.

On the other hand, an often-neglected area is how you treat yourself and how being kind to yourself positively impacts your relationship. Here are a few important reasons why:

1.     Treating yourself well boosts your self-esteem and a healthy self-esteem makes you both happier and more attractive to your partner.

Splurge on a pedicure, a new haircut, that outfit you’ve been eyeing in the window of your favorite boutique, or whatever makes you feel good about yourself. More substantial changes will go even further, such as joining a new gym or taking up a new health regime. The better you feel physically, and the better you look, the more you’ll be in the mood for intimacy or just having fun. Another added benefit is that self-esteem is catching, which is an extra benefit for your partner.

2.     Martyrdom is not healthy for relationships.

In extreme examples, partners who worry that their boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse is unhappy with the relationship will often do anything they think their partner wants them to do. On the other hand, if you sacrifice your own wants and needs in the process, the long-term results are usually disastrous. Even if your partner directly asks for a change in your lives, like moving to a new house, getting a dog, or buying a new car, always take time to make sure it’s a desire you both share. If you have doubts, talk about them. When making decisions with long-term repercussions, both partners need to be on board. The alternative is for one just to go along with decisions for the sake of the relationship, which can lead to resentments that benefit no one. 

3.     When you don’t take care of yourself, you might be unconsciously hoping your partner will.

This creates a burden your partner probably doesn’t want or if he or she does it creates an imbalance of power that is detrimental to your sense of self-sufficiency. While you should always tell your partner when you could use their support, if it crosses the line into neediness, it is not an attractive quality. More importantly, it’s not a healthy one. Part of being in a balanced relationship is knowing how to meet your own needs. If you find that turning to your partner for help is becoming a dominant aspect of your relationship, it might be time to turn to outside sources such as counseling or other neutral third parties to talk through problems that you’re experiencing. Otherwise, you might find that turning to your partner for help has become a disproportionate part of your relationship, smothering other areas that need air to breathe. It’s true that mutual support is critical to a happy relationship, but so is mutual enjoyment. Make sure you’ve left room for both. 

4.     “To Thy Own Self Be True” is more than a Shakespearean quote.

In long-term relationships, it’s easy to lose yourself in the “us” while forgetting there’s still a separate “you.” Just because your partner doesn’t care an iota about football doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make time to watch your alma mater play. Likewise, if you’re more observant of religious holidays than your partner is and love attending midnight services on Christmas Eve, join friends for Seder dinners, or whatever it is, and suggest that your partner join you if they’re up for it. If not, consider going with another family member or friend. Your partner is more likely to support you continuing a tradition that’s important to you rather than see you stay home against your will for their benefit.

If you have children, this takes on new importance. Mothers in particular tend to take on an identity as “Tom and Jenny’s mom” that can quickly supersede their own sense of self. Just take a look at your friends’ Facebook profiles; how many of them have dozens of pictures of their friends, but few of themselves? It might seem like a superficial example, but there’s often a hidden message there; that it’s more socially acceptable to boast about one’s kids than post a flattering picture of yourself. Always remember that you can be all of these things at once; your kid’s parent, your spouse’s partner, and just you in your own rite. You’re always more than the sum of your relationships.

If you are considering couples counseling, let the counselors at Orange County Relationship Center help you.  Call us today at 949-220-3211 or book your appointment via our online calendar.


About the Author

OC Relationship Center OC Relationship Center, LMFT

You deserve to feel better - in your life and relationships. At OC Relationship Center we want to help you find more love, more joy, more peace...and less conflict and less stress. Our licensed and caring counselors can help if you are single, dating, married, divorced.

OC Relationship Center can be found at
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