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Homework Assignment: Improve Your Relationship By Focusing on You

Can meeting your needs help you be a better friend and lover?

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When you can’t stay sane, your relationship can’t either. 

When you become so agitated that you fear you’ll become unhinged, your relationship is likely to slip off the tracks.

Because of this, Dr. Gottman recommends that you take some time to be “selfish.” Take care of yourself, and your relationship will grow stronger. Both you and your partner will benefit from a release of tension. Here are a few ideas you can start with:

Filled with nervous energy or frustration? Take some time to engage in physical activity and work it off, simultaneously staying fit and healthy! If it helps to diminish stress, bring your favorite music along. The relief you gain from spending an hour or two exercising will diminish your likelihood to snap at your partner.

Love reading? Dive into a book. Let yourself fall into the world of fiction or, if you prefer to fill your head with facts, explore a book on your favorite academic subject.

Miss your friends? Skip over to your favorite coffee shop with a few close friends. Taking the time to reconnect with those who feel like your home away from home will leave you all feeling rejuvenated. Also, you can get things off your chest that have been weighing you down.

Play an instrument? Want to learn? Take a trip into the land of music and experience its incredibly cathartic escape. It will likely provide you the sense of satisfaction and freedom that leaves you ready to face the real world.

Remember that you can enjoy any of these stress-free activities with your partner! Here are a few more ideas for relaxing together:

  • Watch your favorite show together.
  • Go on a jaunt through the neighborhood.
  • Explore a beautiful park.
  • Watch a sunset.
  • Go on a date.
  • Take the kids to get ice cream.

Do whatever pleases you. You may learn more about each other in the process and strengthen your bond.

Heed the wisdom of the Dalai Lama:

In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.

Try some of these ideas out. We hope that they will leave you feeling less stressed-out about your own life and about the life that you and your partner share.

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Ellie Lisitsa is a former staff writer at The Gottman Institute. She holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

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