This blog is for those of you in relationships as well as those of you currently enjoying the status of “single.” Focusing on yourself may seem counterintuitive, even radical, especially while in a relationship. Yet, by doing so, it frees others up to love you. Please do not read this to mean that I am encouraging you to be self-absorbed, but those of you who are burnt out in many aspects of your lives due to focusing on everyone else but yourself will be amazed at how rejuvenating turning inward can be. It is not intended to shut others out, but actually to create room to invite them in and to give of yourself from an authentic, free, and unconditional place. Do not be afraid, this will actually attract more people into your life than repel them. So when your abandonment fears rise up, soothe yourself with the knowledge that the best thing you can do is take care of your internal house and make it a place where others may want to spend some time with you, rather than trying to clean up everyone else’s house and wondering why they never come over to visit.
Self-focus within a relationship:
Many times when we settle into a committed relationship, we have been seduced by this beautiful and amazing partner and our attention has been zeroed in on them for a significant period of time. Societal messages like “happy wife, happy life,” and “just tell him what he wants to hear,” or “take one for the team,” tell you that it is your job to make or keep your partner happy. So you may find yourself always thinking of them first, doing what they like to do, or sacrificing your own wants and needs in order to maintain the status quo between you.
The downside to this is that over time, you lose yourself. You forget what you liked to do in the first place, what is truly important to you (besides maintaining this partnership), and your self-care goes down the drain due to “no time” or not wanting to disturb or disrupt your partner’s world, sleep, desires, time-off, etc. This dynamic also tends to get old and can even develop resentment between you both when it feels more like a chore or obligation to keep thinking about your partner first or wondering why it seems that nobody ever thinks about you. Who you truly miss as the one who watches out for you, is yourself! While you have been so afraid to be abandoned by your partner, you actually abandoned yourself! Self-focus brings you back to taking care of the one person in life that you are actually 100% responsible for… Y…O…U!
So, how do you bring the focus back on yourself while in a relationship? Two words: self care. This requires you to take your focus off of your partner. Stop trying to preempt their needs, finish their sentences, assume what they are thinking, and constantly play out conversations or storylines in your head that do not include their own words coming out of their own mouths. Inquire with yourself: “what do I like to do? what nurtures me? what would I do if I had a day all to myself? what are my values? what is truly important to me?” First, you must discover and own the answers to these questions. Then, if you have never shared these things with your partner, or its been a very long time, please do so. And begin to ask your partner to share in some of these activities with you. Invite them into your internal world, rather than always trying to fit yourself into theirs. And whatever you would like to do on your own, begin setting aside some time to do that. Exercise, meditate, journal, go on a trip, visit an old friend, wake up early and do yoga, read the paper, or just sit quietly, go to church, a concert, or buy yourself some books or music that speak to your soul. These activities and practices will enhance your well-being and expand your experience so that you can continue to teach your partner about who you are. And enjoy listening to what your partner discovers about themselves while practicing their own self-focus. Each sharing your own self-discovery actually deepens intimacy and enhances your relationship.
So please, stop the grandiose notions that you are somehow in control of your partner. Or that you even have the right to be since you are in a relationship with them. Be respectful, encourage each other to grow and develop, and be curious about who your partner is and is becoming. Release your fear that if you take your eye off of them for a second or don’t constantly demonstrate your interest in them, their bodies, or their needs, that they will leave you. One of my favorite phrases goes something like this: when you maintain your focus on what you want in a relationship, people or circumstances in your life will either transform or drift out of your experience. Allow that to comfort you when you want to hold on tighter. The more you focus outside of yourself, and try to control the universe, the more you interfere with what is naturally and inherently available to you.
Self-focus when single:
So whether you have just entered singlehood again after a long hiatus or have been enjoying your status for some time, you are in an awesome position to practice self-focus. It’s a bit less complicated than the relationship scenario because you do not have to filter another person’s “stuff.” You are free to write your own script and do not have to negotiate what you want or deal with resistance or interference from a partner. This is a great time to strengthen and develop your relationship with yourself.
As stated above, begin with some self-inquiry. I love the 12-step concept of self-inventory. It implies even more personal responsibility and accountability as you take the reigns of your life into your own hands. What do you want, like, dream of, relish, feel nurtured and rejuvenated by? Although there may be a fear of loneliness when single, and even some pain at times, do not allow this to push you into acts of distraction and other-focus. That will only dilute the opportunity that you are afforded here to really give yourself what you need and want. Anyone or anything that you are waiting for and hoping that another person can provide to you, give it to yourself. You deserve it, you are worth it, and you are blessed to love and accept the beautiful, wonderful, and amazing gift that you are!
Celebrate this time and be radical in your self-worth and value, it may just attract the most intimate relationship you have ever dreamed of; the one with yourself! And if he or she is lucky, a healthy partner may drift into your life and appreciate you just as much as they appreciate themselves. Enjoy the journey!
Click here for more information on Couples Counseling.