14 Ways To Effectively Practice Relationship Self-Care

When you think of self-care, most likely you think of the things you do for yourself to help you relax and unwind (or rewind). From taking a long soak in a bubble bath to going for a massage just because you want one, most of us look at self-care as a strictly individual thing. While that's a good point of view to have, because you should take time for yourself, you should also work on relationship self-care, which is about more than just you.


Self-care in your relationship is about being sure you don't forget to care for yourself while also making sure that you're caring for your relationship as well — and that your partner is looking after themselves too. You don't want to lose yourself in your romantic partnership, but you also don't want to forget to give your significant other the attention they deserve as your special someone. Sometimes referred to as relational self-care, LivingUpp points out that this type of self-care is about bettering your relationships and ensuring you're creating quality connections with the people you share your life with.

Do your shadow work

Have you done any shadow work? While "shadow work" may just seem like a buzzword these days, it's actually a valid and important type of therapy, according to Medical News Today. It can help you find balance in your life, even if you're dealing with childhood traumas, past relationship traumas, or any other dark issues that sometimes hold us back from fully being integrated with ourselves. Shadow work benefits relationships because we are able to better understand the things that trigger us and bring about fear when it comes to being connected with others.


As BetterUp shared, some of the effects of not learning to work with our shadow self include increased anxiety, lower self-esteem, and problems when trying to build healthy relationships — and that's not just about the romantic ones. Ignoring your shadow self can also lead to problems in your friendships and relationships with family members. From therapy sessions to guided meditations easily found online, you can learn to embrace and work with your shadow self. There are also lots of guided journals out there about this subject. 

Make time for alone time

Spending every second you can with your partner may seem enticing, but it could breed codependency, which isn't a good thing. According to Cleveland Clinic, codependent people are more than clingy — they make their partner's life the most important aspect of their own. This can open you up to being manipulated by a partner who may not have your best interests in mind, among other things. Dr. Jonathan Becker described a codependent relationship to Everyday Health as such: "Your mood, happiness, and identity are defined by the other person. In a codependent relationship, there is usually one person who is more passive and can't make decisions for themselves, and a more dominant personality who gets some reward and satisfaction from controlling the other person and making decisions about how they will live."


One of the ways you can work on making sure you and your partner keep your own identities is to be sure to get alone time, away from one another. There is nothing wrong with spending some time away from your partner, no matter how much you enjoy being together. When you take time out for your own personal self-care, be sure to express the importance of this to your partner and help them come up with some self-care alone time practices that work for them. You can spend that time doing whatever you want — enjoying your hobbies, hanging with friends, or just relaxing in silence.

Schedule intimacy and bonding time

Life can get busy — from working, playing, raising kids, caring for pets. It's sometimes hard to find alone time with one another, but it's important for a healthy relationship. Don't be afraid to schedule dates, sex, and even time for intimacy.  And remember, intimacy is more than just sex — you need time alone with one another, when you can bond in deeper ways than our daily schedules sometimes allow. 


Two of the most important types of intimacy you want to be sure you and your partner are scheduling time for include physical and emotional intimacy, though there are other types of intimacy to practice in relationships. Physical intimacy can be as simple as holding hands when you and your partner are taking a walk. Consider all the times the two of you touch one another with a feeling of love and affection in your mind — from snuggling on the couch watching a movie together to your first morning kiss and hug. Emotional intimacy is about being there for each other and communicating, so schedule time to talk about your feelings and how they affect you and your relationship. Bond over similar emotions, but it's also important to learn to understand those you don't share.


Know your boundaries for relationship self-care

When it comes to relationship self-care, boundaries are extremely important, and they help ensure that your partner is treating you the way you deserve. You won't go into your relationship knowing all of your boundaries — as the two of you grow together and experience life, you will identify new boundaries. You may learn that your partner does something that annoys you to no end, and it's something they do directly at you that makes you feel uncomfortable. Talk to them about it, explain why it bothers you, and ask them to not do that anymore. While there are some things people do that are just "who they are," we don't have to put up with things that make us feel uneasy or uncomfortable.


If your partner absolutely refuses to accept your boundaries, you could be dealing with a narcissist, per Psychology Today. However, they could also never have learned how to set their own boundaries or how to respect others. If you talk about things and your boundaries continually get ignored, you may want to reevaluate your relationship.

Enjoy hobbies together -- and apart

Hobbies are a great way to bond with your partner and enjoy learning things together, but you also want to have some things you can do alone (great for filling up that all-important alone time you both should be getting every once in a while). Whether you come into the relationship with a shared hobby or interest, one of you introduces the other to something, or you experiment together to find shared interests, there is no end to what you can come up with. If you both like the outdoors, try hiking, fishing, boating, and other outdoorsy things. And, if one of you likes a certain pastime a lot, but the other doesn't, you now have another hobby you can do on your own as well.


You don't want to lose yourself in a relationship by only ever doing things together or only doing the things your partner wants to do (you also shouldn't want to only do things with them that are your favorites -– make things even). Talk about these things too! Some people don't deal well with partners who have their own hobbies that aren't of interest to them, so you want to ensure you and your significant other are on the same page when it comes to your alone time as well as your separate interests.

Never stop having date nights

Even if you've been married for 20 years or have five little ones running around the house, date night is important. It allows you and your partner time out of the house, time that can be spent having fun and focusing on each other instead of those daily duties of life. Date night can help you two feel connected again ... so it's important to put that event on the calendar, even if you only have time to go out once a month. As Dr. Dianne Grande writes at Psychology Today, date night is a "necessity." It offers couples a chance to fall in love all over again, which is especially important after you've been together for awhile.


Date night doesn't even have to take you out of the house. If you don't have a lot of money to spend on a fancy dinner, a movie, or a couple's date at the spa, you can cook a romantic dinner at home and light some candles. Enjoy a movie together on one of the streaming channels that you've both been itching to watch, or play a board game together.

Don't forget to share

From sharing what went on at work that day to discussing your favorite movies and songs with your partner, this is an excellent way to give yourself self-care while also bonding in your relationship. You get a chance to enjoy the things you're passionate about while also learning what your partner is interested in. As they say, sharing is caring. You don't have to love the things your partner is sharing with you, but you want to give these things a chance, and hopefully, they're doing the same for you.


"It's essential to continue exploring new things together so your relationship can grow and change over time," Charisse Cooke, a relationship psychotherapist, told Refinery29. And, while you may explore new interests as a couple that you discover together, you should also be sharing things you discover on your own — whether it's a cool movie in a genre you both love or some new local store that sells items the two of you enjoy.

Learn each other's love languages

When discussing the importance of self-care in relationships, love languages definitely should be on your list of topics. Learning your partner's love language will help you love them in a way that speaks volumes about how much you care about and appreciate their place in your life. You also want to share with your partner what your love languages are. Dr. Gary Chapman wrote the book "The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts" about the different types of love languages: acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, gift giving/receiving, and physical touch. You can have more than one love language, and even if you and your partner have completely different ones, you can still make things work.


The most important reason to understand each other's love languages is to help avoid miscommunication in your relationship. Your partner may come to you and say that they don't feel loved, even though you feel like you do everything for them and show them tons of affection — but it could be that their love language is not acts of service or physical touch, but rather receiving gifts and words of affirmation.

Be open and honest with each other

The best way to learn about your partner's love languages is to talk about them and be honest about the things that make you feel connected in your relationship. Don't be afraid to speak up when your needs aren't being met; likewise, don't be afraid to voice when your boundaries are being crossed. You're not only caring for your own feelings and thoughts by being open, but you're building a strong foundation for your relationship. Shula Melamed, M.A., MPH, told mbg, "Relationships are built on trust, so honesty is very important in a relationship," adding, "We depend on our partner being our port in the storm, a person who we can trust with our thoughts, feelings, and heart."


Being able to share your thoughts and feelings, whether they're good or bad, helps you feel closer and safer in your relationship. Communication is important, and without it, you may grow apart or find it hard to bond with one another on a deeper level.

Take it outside

If you and your partner are having some struggles, get outside and get some fresh air -– together, or on your own. This is a great time to talk things out, whether you're discussing them together or playing the scenarios out in your head. You're focused on the walk and the scenery around you. You're not being distracted by trying to watch a TV show or listening to the lyrics of a song, so spending this time together allows you to be very present and in the moment.


Dr. Janet Bezner told Parade that when walking, "Your mental processing speed is improved, so you can just respond more quickly, think better, your memory is better, executive functions improve. Executive function would include mood and just the ability to be mindful and to know how to respond in the moment." These are fantastic reasons to both walk alone and with your partner, not only sharing the physical health aspects of this simple exercise but also the mental health benefits, while also enjoying the conversation.

Focus on gratitude in relationship self-care

While starting and finishing each day listing the things you're grateful for is excellent for self-care, going over the things you and your partner are grateful for in each other is another wonderful bonding experience. It can also help you figure out where your relationship may need work. Aside from making verbal lists to one another of the things you're grateful for, you also want to be sure to say "thank you." Thank your partner for being in your life, for helping with chores, and for making sure you didn't oversleep or miss a meal. According to Psychology Today, practicing this gratitude is wonderful for relationship self-care, as it makes your bond stronger.


If you are struggling to find things you're grateful for about your partner, it may be time to reevaluate your relationship and consider couple's counseling, which is also great self-care if you and your partner are struggling. It's also okay to start small — even if you can only think of one thing you're grateful for about your significant other, be thankful for that and start focusing on that feeling to look deeper into what this person is bringing into your life.

Set goals together

It's fairly easy to set personal goals, but what about those relationship goals? Having goals with your partner is both self-care and relationship care. When you're working on your daily and weekly personal goals, talk to your partner about their goals and collaborate on the things you can work on together.


There are minor goals you can work on as a couple, like getting through a favorite TV series together, but there are also major goals you may want to help each other with. There could be a fitness goal you both want to achieve, like eating healthier or working out more. Perhaps you want to schedule weekly yoga or gym sessions with your partner. Huge goals you should be setting together could include saving up to buy a home, doing some projects around the house (from repainting your home to buying new furniture), or making a plan to go on your dream vacation together, which could include creating your ideal itinerary as well as coming up with a savings plan.

Become emotionally intelligent, together

When you let your emotions take control of you, it can cause all sorts of issues in your relationship. Perhaps your excitement about a big raise sounds like bragging to your partner who has had a bad day (this is when it's important to know how to "read the room"), or your sudden misery is an additional weight on their shoulders that they weren't prepared to handle right now. Knowing how to recognize your own emotions, understand them, and move on from them is known as emotional intelligence, per Good Therapy. This type of intelligence can be really helpful when caring for your relationship. Of course, it's important that both you and your partner are in touch with your emotions (shadow work helps, too).


Never assume that your partner is going to understand your emotional reaction to something. Be open and talk about how things make you feel so that you can both gain a better understanding of your own feelings — your partner may be able to help you process them, or will at least be a friendly ear as you talk your way through them.

Spend time with other people

You don't want to put everything on your partner all the time, and this is where friends and family time comes in handy. You and your partner surely share some acquaintances, but you should also both be able to have friends you sometimes hang out with without your partner. You don't have to have multiple nights a week unless you and your partner are fine with that much time apart, but there's nothing wrong with spending time with your friends sans partner. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, and even this one night a week or month with friends will give you and your partner some much-needed time apart. Per Mayo Clinic, strong friendships make you a happier, healthier person, which is a plus for your romantic relationship as well.


Friends and family give you someone else to vent to, gush to, and simply talk to; you may get a different opinion from them than from your partner. Or, spend that friend time just forgetting about everything else and losing yourself in the moment — which is good to do sometimes, too. And when you and your significant other reunite, you have more things to share with them, leading to an even stronger connection.