Relationships are key to a healthy and happy life. In fact, Blue Zones*, a project centred around researching the healthiest and longest-living cultures on Earth, found that creating a long-lasting relationship and close-knit family is integral to a long and healthy life. It is listed as one of the nine “longevity secrets”.
So how do you cultivate a loving relationship that will remain healthy for years?
It’s hard to know in a society where a lot of us come from divorced or unhappily married parents. We weren’t all brought up to see first-hand what a healthy relationship looks like. If we use books or movies to judge, we’ll be hugely disappointed when we don’t get that fairy-tale ending.
So my advise is simple. In order to build a good relationship with someone else, build a good relationship with yourself first.
I am no relationship expert but I do have the luxury of observing years’ worth of what not to do; including my own relationship experience.
I know that being absent and selfish will kill a relationship. I also know that giving everything you have, will kill a relationship. And that’s what I’m focusing on today. I think this is where a lot of us get trapped.
We might have seen a poisonous relationship that made us think, I will never be that way. I will never get trapped into a relationship with someone I end up hating.
Instead, we go for a relationship where the other person is kind and fully accepting of our love. It’s perfect, right?
It is unless we never did the work on building a good relationship with ourselves to begin with. If we never did this, we never understood balance. We can end up pouring everything that we have into another person. We will give until there’s nothing left to give.
This is something I learnt the hard way. I was with someone for twelve years and in that time, I lost who I was. My sense of identity got so wrapped up in the idea that I was a loving and giving person that I forgot everything else. I was so focused on never wanting to have a failed relationship that I gave the relationship everything and myself nothing.
I think that a lot of people can relate. Years go by and our old hobbies and interests are forgotten. We stop caring about things that we used to care about. We adopt our partner’s interests. It’s easier. And it’s not like we even fight it. Part of us is happy to have an excuse to stop some of our old habits. But somewhere along the line, we do a check-in. Suddenly we realise that we don’t recognise ourselves anymore. We realise that we hadn’t planned this. We think, how did I get here?
It’s a scary place to be and not one that is easy to get out of. For me, it took a tremendously sad breakup and years of hard work. It does not need to be this way for everyone. But for me, I had a lot of personal work to do. You see, I never should have gotten so intertwined with someone when I never really knew myself well enough to begin with. It is one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn and I am grateful to have learnt it.
So how can we start to build a good relationship with ourselves so that one day we can have a great relationship with someone else?
- Date Yourself
Instead of dating someone else, think about dating yourself for a change. If you’d go out of your way to cook for someone else but your go-to meal for you is a ready-cook meal, there’s a problem. Cook yourself a nutritious meal. Learn what you really love to eat. Learn what you really love to read or watch. Learn what hobbies make you feel good about yourself. Learn what activities zap your energy and what activities build your energy. Record these things in a journal. You have to know this stuff. When you get into a relationship, you need to be able to ask for time or space to do the things that build you up and keep you fuelled. If you’re already in a relationship and don’t know this stuff, have one night a week dedicated to learning it.
2. Daily Soul-Care
We’ve all heard of self-care. People talk about it all the time, but they seem to misconstrue a spa day once a year with self-care. This may be a nice treat for yourself, but it doesn’t undo the daily grind that got you so stressed and tense in the first place. Soul-care is about finding something that really feeds your soul. Something that gets you in-tune with your true self every single day. It might be yoga, gratitude, painting, meditation, dancing, journaling… Take the time to trial new things. Once you’ve found that thing that gets you connected to yourself, commit to doing it every day. Even if all you can commit to is five minutes a day, you will begin to see real transformation.
3. Kind Talk
Take the time to really learn how to be kind. Not to others, but to yourself. Listen to the voice that spends all day with you and really hear what it says. Is your voice kind? Does it say kind things about your body, your mind, your life? Does it encourage you the way a friend would? Does it have your back? Chances are, it doesn’t. Women have a fantastic talent for building up everyone around them but not using that same talent on themselves. Spend the time to change this. You have the rest of your life with yourself. It is worth the time it takes to get this right. Set a reminder on your phone 3 times a day that reminds you to check-in and tell yourself something kind. Challenge every judgemental thought. This will change your life.
Once you’ve worked on these steps, I promise you, you will have more natural energy to give others. I feel that building a good relationship with yourself is the first and most important step to moving on to good relationships with others. So dedicate the time it takes. You and your future relationships will love you for it.
*Learn more about Blue Zones by checking out their website.
I first heard about it on a podcast a few years ago but I keep hearing it crop up as it’s credibility increases and people are beginning to adopt their lessons from years of amazing research.