The holidays have come and gone and a number of couples have talked about how they went as we worked in couples therapy. Everyone seemed to try and talk about the good things that happened but there seemed to also be an underlying current of disappointment. In getting the couples to talk about that, it seemed that a theme was present in every case: taking care of others, which is not really a bad thing and is something that is a part of this holiday season, but there was also a denial of self and of immediate family. And this is an issue that I see causing a lot of folks in my practice problems—taking too much care of others to the exclusion of taking care of one’s own self. When that happens over a long enough period of time, things start to unravel, at least in my practice and with the people that come in and talk with me. They don’t always see it and they often don’t even understand that it is happening. Taking care of others is a good thing for them and for you; doing so to the exclusion of also taking care of yourself causes problems.
So what kinds of solutions did couples come to in the therapy to go about getting some lasting change? The couples that seemed to get the most out of this area of discussion began to realize that they needed to do both, that is, take care of themselves, the couple, and others. Next year they are carving out time at home, alone with just their family, to have the holiday they want. That thought, that plan seemed to make some sense to the couples that wanted that for their holiday.
And a couple where one is always taking care of others and not taking care of him or herself suffers, in the long run if not the short one. So when one party in the couple began to see that not only did he/she need to take care of her/himself better but to make sure that the other half of the couple needed to have some care of self as well, then things were really getting better for the couple. When both are doing better in caring for self and other, the couple often thrives.
Keep working on it, your self and your significant other.