How to be a better lover
It’s hard to be a loving person when you’re in pain.
We tend to think mostly about the physical limitations that arise from pain — the ankle that hurts to run on, the low back pain that kicks in when we try to pick up our (grand)child, or the tension headache that’s keeping us from finishing up our looming work assignment.
But being in pain brings social limitations as well. Being present, loving, and compassionate toward a crying child, stressed-out partner, or demanding boss or colleague can feel downright impossible when all of our attention keeps getting dragged back to our pain experience. Stress in our environment amplifies our pain, and our pain causes us to amplify the stress in our environment. We find ourselves stuck in an overwhelming feedback loop that perpetuates our suffering and spreads it to those around us, even dearly loved ones.
It’s easy to fall into unhealthy habits when we’re in pain and overwhelmed. We try to ignore the pain by distracting ourselves with addictive or avoidant behaviors We bing and disengage. We get prickly, and defensive, and find ourselves easily offended. We pick fights and lash out at our loved ones, or simply shut down. None of this helps of course.
Luckily, once we see this cycle of suffering, we can learn to break out of it. We can learn to manage and reduce our pain and increase our sense of peace and presence. We can learn to be comfortable in our own skin again. We can spread love and compassion rather than stress and anxiety. All we have to do to get started is to start taking care of ourselves.
It can be hard to set aside the time and energy to take care of ourselves, especially when the external demands of life seem urgent and overwhelmingly complex. Our cultural conditioning often tells us that we should ignore our own pain, that self-care is selfish, that there isn’t enough time or money, or that it is a luxury to feel good in our own body.
It’s all lies.
If a loved one told you they were in pain, would you tell them to just ignore it? To just work through it? To stop wasting their time and money on the things that make them feel better? To take care of everyone else’s needs first, even at the expense of their own well-being?
Of course not.
You’d compassionately tell them to stop abandoning themselves. You’d tell them that they’re worth it. You’d remind them to do the things that make them feel better: Take a nap, take a walk, find a quiet place to stretch, go to the gym, get a massage. Take care of yourself.
This Valentine’s season, show yourself that same compassion, and give yourself that same advice. Your relationship with you is the longest long-term relationship of your life! Treat it with the respect it deserves. Show yourself how much you love you. And then notice how much much easier it is to spread that love to those around you.