As a psychotherapist and relationship coach, I work with single adults looking for love and navigating the dating world. My clients often come to my office feeling worn out and overwhelmed by the dating process. They may contemplate giving up on dating, although they don’t want to miss out on lasting love. They may feel burnt out as they sacrifice themselves and their needs for their dates. They may constantly blow off their gym class or plans with friends and find that dating is not working in the way they had hoped. My clients are on the right track making their search for love a priority if it is important to them. However, the missing piece to feeling good about themselves and dating is…self-care. A major component of our work becomes making self-care a mindset to help them recharge and date wisely.
Self-care, or the ways you care for and nurture yourself, greatly affects the quality of your dating experiences and intimate relationships. Self-care involves tuning into your needs on an emotional, physical and psychological level and acting in ways that promote positive wellbeing and self-appreciation. Engaging in self-care is a continuous process, helping us reach (and enjoy) our highest potential and partake in healthy, satisfying relationships with others.
Self-care plays an important role in dating and intimacy. Many daters believe that if they focus all of their energy and time on dating, they will find an ideal partner more quickly. That may be the case for some, however, ditching your exercise regimen, plans with friends, sleep routine and other commitments may create feelings of guilt, a decreased level of confidence and leave you feeling uneasy or stressed.
Appreciating yourself through self-care will lead you to healthier relationships and make you a better dater and partner. In turn, as you feel more worthy and empowered, you will attract a partner who is worthy of you. Dating will naturally feel more manageable and enjoyable if you commit to taking care of your needs first and balancing dating with other important aspects of your life.
So how do you take care of yourself while navigating the world of dating and relationships?
1. Think about what self-care means to you. Reflect on what you do (and can do) to take care of yourself, honor your needs and maintain a calm mind. Come up with a self-care plan or a list of strategies and put your ideas into action. Self-care strategies to consider are regular exercise, good sleep habits, journal writing, time with friends and family, time for yourself daily, a walk with your pup, a bubble bath, reading, etc. Include what makes you feel good, grounded and balanced.
2. Let go of any barriers or beliefs getting in the way of your ability to care for yourself. A common barrier to taking care of ourselves first is the belief that we are selfish in doing so. Let go of this belief and replace it with a healthier one, such as “By caring for myself, I will feel better about myself and more connected in my relationships.”
3. Avoid ditching your self-care plan for your dating life. This seems to be the tricky part for most daters. The key is about balance and making an effort to pay attention to your own needs, thoughts, feelings and behavior. For example, when you find yourself obsessing about where he is or why he hasn’t called post-date, bring your awareness back to yourself and use a strategy from your self-care plan.
4. Treat yourself with compassion, love and appreciation. Self-care consists of acting on the intention to maintain or restore your health and manage stress. This includes treating yourself with kindness, valuing your unique qualities and taking ownership of mistakes without dwelling on them or constantly putting yourself down. Also think about what feels better — saying yes to a date that you have no interest in or saying yes to a yoga class that leaves you feeling calm and rejuvenated?
5. Keep a life of your own and create opportunities to utilize your strengths. Don’t lose your sense of self while dating and avoid neglecting roles that are important to you. For example, if you are passionate about writing but feel that you have no time to write due to your dating life or relationship, make time. Ask yourself if you have unmet goals, dreams and hopes and find ways to pursue them using your gifts and strengths.
Rachel Dack is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and relationship coach, specializing in psychotherapy for individuals and couples via her private practice in Bethesda, Maryland.