From good communication to honesty and commitment, there are many factors that go into building a healthy and fulfilling relationship. But there’s one factor of a successful relationship which many people still fail to recognise – our relationship with ourselves.
While the way you think, feel and talk to yourself may seem independent to the relationships you share with others, the two are actually intrinsically linked. And while taking time away from your partner or friends may feel like a counterintuitive way to develop your bond, nurturing your relationship with yourself can make a big difference to your relationship satisfaction.
“The type of relationship you attract from a place of self-love is exponentially different to that of a pre-self-love awakening,” explains Gina Swire, a self-love expert and mentor and author of the new book PS I Love Me. “The depth you can go to with a partner and the space you can hold for each other reflects that which you have grown into yourself.”
As well as allowing you to form a deeper and more meaningful bond with someone else, making space for self-love within your relationship can also help you to maintain boundaries and look after your wellbeing – a habit which, in turn, allows you to give more to the other person in your relationship, Swire explains.
“When you don’t have self-love, you might not be able to build good, solid, healthy boundaries – you might be people-pleasing, abandoning yourself in order to do what the other person wants or letting negative self-talk take over,” she says.
“All of this can have a hugely detrimental impact on your mental health and wellbeing.”
Swire continues: “We can think it’s our job to make the other person happy, but it’s our job to make ourselves happy. We can’t give what we don’t have – if we don’t have enough compassion for what we’re going through, or if we’re not giving ourselves enough space because we’re really busy or dealing with a healthy challenging, then chances are our cup isn’t full enough to hold compassionate space for someone else.”
While Swire is keen to stress that self-love isn’t a fix-all solution, and that sometimes leaving a relationship is the most self-loving thing you can do, she believes practising self-love can help both sides of a relationship to lead a more healthy, happy life.
“A lot of us are programmed to overstretch ourselves – to prioritise other people’s happiness and wellbeing,” she says. “We’re not taught to look within, but we can learn new, healthier ways to relate which support our own and our partner’s mental health and wellbeing.”
The idea of ‘practising self-love’ can sometimes seem a little wishy-washy, but it’s a lot simpler than it may seem. Some ideas Swire suggests include checking in with yourself on a regular basis – “ask yourself how you’re feeling, create space for your needs and desires to come to the surface and create the opportunity to tune in to what is not working well for you” – and taking yourself on solo dates.
“Creating space for self-love and self-awareness practices is hugely beneficial to your mental health as well as the health of your partnership,” Swire concludes. “Getting on the same page does wonders for your connection – and this all starts with self-love.”