By Adam D. Blum, MFT, Gay Therapy Center Founder and Director
Are you a good boyfriend? If you think this will be a blog post about remembering to bring flowers home and serving breakfast in bed, you are mistaken. Yes, doing nice things for your man can enhance the flow of goodwill in your relationship, but it is not the most important thing you can do.
Here's what I think is the most important thing you can do to for your relationship: take care of yourself.
If you really and truly took care of yourself you would be an amazing boyfriend.
If we are fully honest with ourselves we may find that the reason that we are sometimes mean, snippy, sarcastic, impatient, or uncompassionate is not because of his annoying behavior but because of something happening within ourselves.
We tend to be much meaner to ourselves than any boyfriend could be.
Are you calling him names because what he did was so egregious or because you are mad at yourself for making a mistake at work?
Are you being snarky because he forgot to do something he said he would do or because you have a headache from drinking too much last night?
Are you giving him the cold shoulder because he made a mess again or because you feel insecure about whether you are interesting enough or smart enough or cute enough or rich enough?
Just imagine how much your relationships could improve if you were 10% kinder to yourself. Imagine if your inner critic could soften by 10% and your self-care habits involving rest, food, stress, and exercise grew by 10%. Wouldn't you just naturally be more patient and friendly with your guy?
When you are feeling good about yourself then it is easy to be caring, thoughtful, and kind. It doesn't take any effort and doesn't feel like a burden.
However, when you are caught in a spiral of self-criticism it is very hard to be present to another person.
This doesn't mean that your partner gets a free pass for all his actions. If your partner lies to you or is consistently unkind then you will need to take significant action. In those situations self-care may look like setting limits or breaking up. You can read more about that in my blog post, What Gay Men Should Expect in a Relationship.
Taking care of yourself is not selfish. It is a gift that you give to the relationship. He reaps tremendous benefits when you are rested, relaxed, and feeling more self-acceptance.
Self-care is a life-long journey. It takes an ongoing commitment. It means respecting the longest relationship you will ever have: the relationship you have with yourself.
For more information about how we help LGBT individuals and couples please visit our website at www.thegaytherapycenter.com. We offer services in our San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles offices or by Skype or phone worldwide.