Imagine yourself tired and stressed, and how does that compare to when you’re rested? Aren’t you usually more caring towards others? It’s a simple example, and clearly, there’s a balance to strike. The same can happen in relationships. Regardless, knowing how to put yourself first in a relationship helps both parties in the long run.
Wondering if it’s right to put yourself first in a relationship?
Most of us in Western societies are taught to put others’ needs ahead of our own. This is particularly true for women who are given the role of caretakers and mothers. While things are changing, many women develop people-pleasing tendencies.
It might all start relatively innocently by thinking that putting our partners first makes them feel special, so they stay committed. However, if you don’t love yourself while in a relationship, how can they possibly ever love you the way you deserve?
In fact, with time, their guard drops, the charm disappears, and they start walking all over you.
Taking care of yourself in a relationship is vital. This is partly so that you are at your best at all times to support your partner and others around you. Moreover, it shows that you respect yourself, and it sets a standard for your health and happiness.
Therefore, you absolutely should learn how to put yourself first in a relationship.
10 ways it’s important putting yourself first in a relationship
Do you remember ever being on a plane and listening to the instructions for an emergency landing? There’s a reason they tell you to put your oxygen mask on before helping anyone else, including your children. Only by putting your needs first can you truly be there for others.
Let’s see why it’s important to learn how to put yourself first in a relationship:
1. You can be more present for others
Being human means experiencing a range of pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral feelings. These can be so distracting and overwhelming that we get stuck in our endless loop of never-ending thoughts. Knowing how to put yourself first in a relationship can end that for you.
Can you imagine what being in a relationship with someone like that feels like? They can never listen to you without seeming to be somewhere else. Moreover, they’re probably anxious, which could mean being impatient with you.
On the flip side, taking care of yourself in a relationship means dealing with all those thoughts. That way, when you’re in a conversation with your partner, you are fully with them and experiencing everything there is about that relationship with them. Essentially, you’re not lost in your thoughts.
2. Health and mental wellbeing
It’s easy to get sucked up by a relationship. This is especially true if we’re constantly putting our partner’s needs first. That could mean doing overtime both for your job and for the home.
Over time, you’ll also become increasingly resentful because you never get time off for what you want to do. Resentment leads to anxiety and stress, not to mention a higher chance of a heart attack. That’s why being your person in a relationship is key to a healthy life.
3. Self-care and self-compassion
Learning how to put yourself first in a relationship might seem selfish at first. After all, we should be there for others. Then again, if you don’t know how to care for yourself, how can you even hope to care for someone else?
Do you even know what self-care means for you? How would you define it, and what do you need? Moreover, how can you have self-compassion? Don’t worry if you’ve never asked yourself these questions, though. It’s perfectly normal.
Many of us grow up developing a harsh internal critic. Although, in the long run, we know that logically the carrot usually motivates better than the stick.
That’s why taking care of yourself in a relationship is beneficial for all. You become happier, so you send out more positive vibes such that your partner also feels more at ease.
People-pleasing might seem significant on the surface, but deep down, we all know it hides low self-esteem and other issues. Ultimately, no one wants to be in a relationship with a broken soul who helplessly follows others.
On the contrary, we want to be in relationships with people who know their flaws, accept their vulnerabilities, and become a better version of themselves.
That’s why knowing how to put yourself first in a relationship is a sure way to build a long-term successful relationship. You’ll become the role model that your partner will admire.
5. Emotional regulation
Knowing how to put yourself first in a relationship means understanding your needs and your emotions. You’ll get a more profound knowledge of who you are, what stresses you, and what you need to stay balanced and healthy in your relationship.
That way, you’ll be able to navigate your emotions more wisely without lashing out needlessly.
When you focus on yourself in a relationship, you show others how you expect to be treated. It also sends a powerful message that you know that happiness comes from your internal mindset.
Contrary to what adverts tell us, it doesn’t come from the perfect partner, the most expensive clothes, or even the most expensive house.
7. Less controlling
When you don’t know how to put yourself first in a relationship, you run the danger of becoming so frustrated that you try to control your partner.
Unfortunately, you can’t force them to give you the time off you need. Instead, you have to understand what you need first so that you can communicate calmly and maturely. You won’t be able to do that if you don’t learn to put yourself first.
Knowing how to be yourself in a relationship also gives you more energy. After all, you understand your needs and know how to balance your routine. Most of all, you’re not constantly second-guessing your partner.
9. Avoid building up resentment
Resentment, frustration, and anger are all part of the scale of emotions that people face when they forget themselves.
No one can know yourself the way you do. So, don’t put the responsibility for happiness on others but instead on yourself. Essentially, putting your needs first means creating an internal balance of peace.
Everyone wants to be treated equally and with respect. If you don’t do that and don’t know how to put yourself first in a relationship, it’s tough for others to do that for you. If you don’t have any boundaries, they’ll assume that they can take advantage of you.
How dynamics shift when putting yourself first in a relationship
When you change, people necessarily change around you. Alternatively, they fall off your list of friends because you choose who to hang out with. Furthermore, as you become more confident in how to put yourself first in a relationship, you’ll find yourself experiencing a more fulfilled partnership with these common traits:
1. Removes unhealthy habits
Taking time for yourself means giving yourself the rest and care that you need. That way, you reduce your stress and anxiety such that you also decrease your unhealthy habits.
We all have them, and deep down, you’ll know yours. Nevertheless, these include everything from unhealthy eating to nit-picking and snapping at your partner.
Knowing how to put yourself first in a relationship helps you develop a positive cycle. First, you know your needs; then, you establish your boundaries and life goals.
Consequently, your partner knows where they stand, and they respect you for knowing who you are.
3. Assertive communication becomes the norm
Miscommunication and misunderstandings are at the root of all relationship issues. This usually comes from insecurities or not knowing what we want in life.
By taking time for yourself in a relationship, you learn about your emotions to manage them better. You give yourself space and self-care so that you can be fully present for your partner. Therefore, with practice, you learn to communicate maturely without reacting blindly.
10 ways for how to put yourself first in a relationship confidently
Putting your needs first and learning to love yourself while in a relationship comes with practice and patience. If you’re interested in learning more about why self-love is critical, then check out this fun and easy to watch the video:
Don’t be afraid to be yourself in a relationship by starting with the tips that seem easier for you to apply:
1. Know your needs
As mentioned, knowing how to put yourself first in a relationship means understanding your needs and how you prioritize them. Is security more important than intimacy or vice versa, for instance? If you’re not sure where to start, though, check out this quiz.
2. List your priorities
Being in a relationship means agreeing on major life decisions such as kids, lifestyle, and hobbies. Do you know what’s more important to you? How does your career fit into that list, and what’s non-negotiable for you?
3. Understand your limiting beliefs
We all grew up with beliefs about our roles in a relationship. This is often based on what we learned from our parents and friends and the rest of our culture and society. Do you know how you value yourself within a relationship?
If, on the contrary, your internal critic tells you that you’re not good enough, then you’ll forever be stuck in unfulfilling relationships. A good way to identify and work through your beliefs is to write them down on a piece of paper. Then, next to them, write down all the times you disproved that statement.
Remember, we’re not perfect and only human. Regardless, we all have great things that we do and offer our partners and families.
4. Say goodbye to guilt
Perhaps you’re still wondering how to avoid feeling guilty when you focus on yourself in a relationship? This one takes a bit of time and patience.
A good tip for putting yourself first in a relationship is to write down what others will gain from you, being more rested and content.
Make your list, but examples could be that you’ll listen to them properly, you’ll have more time to help them, or simply that you’ll be a better role model. With time, you’ll see that being your person in a relationship is something to be proud of.
5. Set your boundaries
Putting yourself first in a relationship involves setting boundaries. These could be how and when you need some alone time. There are many different types of boundaries, and you’ll need to decide which ones work for you.
At some point, knowing how to put yourself first in a relationship involves collaborating with your partner to find your mutual balance. Yes, you can share your boundaries and needs, but you’ll need to make them work together. This also naturally includes time on hobbies, with friends and alone.
8. Stick to your plans
It might sound obvious to stick to your plans. Nevertheless, many of us don’t realize our blind spots. Therefore, you might have the best intentions for putting yourself first in a relationship, and on paper, it all looks great. In reality, though, you’re constantly changing your plans with nothing in return.
9. Compromise without sacrifice
Let’s not forget that there’s a balance to strike. For example, don’t set boundaries that are so rigid that you exclude your partner completely.
Remember that they also have their needs and boundaries, and you might sometimes have to compromise and negotiate. The key, though, is to know when that compromise becomes a sacrifice.
Last but not least, keep checking in on your passions. Many of us get to a certain age and nostalgically remember when we loved dancing, reading, or whatever it was when we were younger. Taking time for yourself in a relationship means keeping your passions alive.
Key takeaway on how to put yourself first in a relationship
Learning to love yourself while in a relationship might sound strange and even selfish at first. Nevertheless, it’s a proven way to show how others can love you and respect you.
Moreover, knowing how to put yourself first in a relationship allows you to have more time for your partner because you’ll be more present and less anxious or frustrated.
So, learn to put yourself first, and you’ll pave the way for mature and assertive communication in the journey of mutual growth. Ultimately, the most successful relationships are those where partners grow and evolve together.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.