IMHO, the time in your relationship when self-care is the most paramount is when you and your partner are going through a rough patch. To be clear, self-care is something you should aim to practice at all times, no matter how well things are going. But when you’re at odds with your partner, you may require even more TLC to get you through. Not only that, but there are specific kinds of self-care tips for when you're fighting with your partner that may benefit you more when you and bae aren’t getting along.
Fighting with your partner can bring up all kinds of negative, but totally normal feelings. You may feel sad or even a tad anxious that you don't see eye to eye, angry about things they said, guilty about how you behaved, ashamed about things you’ve said or done, or resentful that you partner hasn’t responded in the way you hoped or expected. And while you’re dealing with all of those complex emotions, it’s critical to take care of yourself.
One of the most difficult things to accept when you’re fighting with your partner is that you can’t always control the outcome — the only thing you have control over is yourself. Self-care allows you to take charge of your own well-being, thus making it easier for you to cope and, moreover, to move forward. So, try incorporating these acts into your everyday life. You may be surprised at how these simple practices help you to self-soothe during such an emotionally trying time.
Try journaling about your feelings.
Sometimes, the best way to grapple with your feelings is to get them down on paper. So, bust out a journal and get writing. Whether it's a straightforward entry about what's frustrating you in your relationship, a poem about how you feel when you fight, or a letter to your partner explaining what changes you're seeking from them, you're bound to feel better after you finish. Particularly if you find that old issues are coming to the surface when you get in new fights, this can be a powerful way to get to the root of what's really bothering you.
Say a few mind-altering affirmations.
Fighting with your partner can take a serious toll on your mental state. It's so easy to blow things out of proportion and resort to a "worst-case scenario" line of thinking. But fortunately, saying the right affirmations is an effective way to achieve a balanced perspective.
Look for mantras that are reassuring and grounded in reality, so that you can take a deep breath and remember this: It's only a fight, and as the Persian adage goes, this too shall pass.
Here are a few fitting affirmations to get you started:
"I am loved, regardless of the circumstances."
"My feelings are always valid."
"Arguments are temporary, but love is lasting."
"I accept my partner’s flaws, as well as my own."
"My love is unconditional."
"I treat my partner the way I want to be treated."
"I listen with an open heart and ear."
"The power to heal old wounds lies within me."
According to couples’ therapist and researcher Dr. John Gottman, the best way to positively alter your experience of conflict is to engage empathetically with yourself, and your own thoughts and feelings. This can be easier said than done, however. When you’re right in the middle of a hurricane of emotions, your self-awareness often goes right out the window. That’s why you may say things you don’t mean or do things completely out of character (like yell, slam a door, or assign blame) during a fight.
Fortunately, you can hone this skill by practicing mindfulness, which teaches self-awareness. It not only enables you to better recognize the messages that your body is trying to tell you before, during, and after a relationship conflict but also helps you to stay present during a fight so that you can work more quickly and effectively toward a solution.
So, how do you practice mindfulness? The good news is, you don’t have to dedicate a particular time of day for it — in fact, you can practice being mindful all day long. When you first wake up in the morning, pay attention to your breathing for a few minutes. On your commute to work, notice how your clothes feel against your body. While you walk to the grocery store, observe how your feet feel as they touch the ground. And as you eat dinner, fully immerse yourself in the experience with no multitasking or distractions.
If you need some extra guidance, Mindful Magazine has a step-by-step guide on meditating for mindfulness, but you can also look for guided mindfulness meditations on apps like InsightTimer and Headspace.
Express gratitude daily.
When you’re fighting with bae, it's easy to start focusing on everything that's going wrong. But when you express gratitude for all that's going right, you don't have much mental space for negative things.
Every morning or evening, consider writing down a list of all the things you're grateful for. They don't all have to involve your partner, of course — It's great if you can think of a few wonderful things you have going for that have nothing to do with your love life. But if you can think of a few gratitude-worthy items that do relate to your SO, that can be a spectacular way to remind yourself that there's a lot to appreciate about your relationship, regardless of the current fighting.
Read something totally consuming.
Never underestimate the power of a distraction when you're having a tough time. It doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, a nonfiction how-to book, a fashion mag, or an online personal essay. Reading something that really sucks you in is a wonderful way to get your mind off your fight, especially when you find that you're trapped in negative thought patterns.
So, during your lunch break or at the end of a long workday, find a quiet place where you can fully concentrate on your reading material of choice, and allow yourself to take a mental break from those all-consuming ruminations about your relationship.
Take a social media break.
Social media can be a real downer when you're dealing with the aftermath of relationship conflict. While scrolling through all of those carefully curated feeds and humblebrag posts, it's only natural to start comparing your life to everyone else's, and when things aren't going well in your relationship, that's dangerous territory. Remember: Someone's Insta feed is just a tiny slice of their actual life, and just because they don't post about the fights that they're having with their SO doesn't mean they aren't likely having them.
One way to practice self-care is to try a short social media cleanse. Even if it's just for a week, or a couple of days, you may be surprised at how much eliminating those highlight reels from your life has a positive impact on your mental and emotional well-being as you work through this challenging time with your partner.