The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Relationships? Put Yourself First

Posted by Sara Dobish on September 14, 2022

Sara Dobish 254Recently, I was sitting with my therapist and complaining, AGAIN, that I am in a rut, unhappy, and not sure why my relationships were still complicated after doing all the things she told me to do. “Why am I still struggling to see a future for myself that I am content with? Why am I still hinging my happiness on finding a partner and fixing everything in my family?” I asked plaintively.

My wonderful, patient, and appropriately challenging therapist, Theresa, looked at me and asked for the thousandth time, “When are you going to put yourself first?”

I argued back, in our typical banter, “Theresa, I am. I know you think I am waiting for things outside my control to make me happy, but I am not. I’m actively trying to fix my relationships, go on dates, think up life goals. I’m trying and it’s not working.”

She took a deep breath. “What I’m trying to ask is, when are you going to do something for you, something that makes you happy? You have to be able to fill your own cup, on your own, by yourself, then the rest of what you are trying to control will just fall into place.” I sat there defeated, trying to hear what she was saying and understand how to do it.

After a few beats, I replied with what we enlightened, therapeutically savvy people say, “I hear you, Theresa. I hear you.” And while, it was true, I did hear her, I still am not sure that I internalized it and understood it.

A few days later however, I was presented with an opportunity that would very quickly put Theresa’s wisdom into practice and hit home for me in a way it hadn’t in a long time. A friend of mine connected me with a friend of hers who had a cute, talented, young horse that she didn’t have time for right now and that friend asked if I would be interested in working with him.


So I went out to the farm where she was keeping this adorable, 1,200-pound, grey, cookie monster and immediately fell in love. His name is Finn and he is everything I didn’t know was missing from my cup. All of a sudden, something that I thoroughly loved was making me excited to jump out of bed every morning. And if you know how much I like to sleep, you’d know this is no easy task. I was in love, with Finn, yes, but also with life now. I had filled my cup, and it made everything else in life just simply easier to deal with.

Two weeks later, I am back at Theresa’s office, grinning from ear to ear, telling her about Finn.

She listened enthusiastically and said, “See how it feels? You finally put yourself first.” I sat there and thought about that for a minute, realizing that she was right--this is what she had been trying to help get me to do for months now.

I replied, in my typically sarcastic way that she has grown accustomed to, “Gosh Theresa, why didn’t you tell me to do this sooner?? It could’ve saved us both months of frustration.”

To which she also sarcastically replied back, “You’re telling me. But you therapy people think you know better.”

Fast forward to today: It’s been about two months since Finn entered my life, and all those relationships I had been trying to control have started to fall into place. Theresa really was right. But I have been wondering….How did a horse make my family, friendships, and romantic relationships seem to become a breeze?


The answer I immediately thought of was the preflight safety lecture that the flight attendants give. You know the part where they say, “Please put on your oxygen mask first before assisting those around you?” That always made sense to me on the plane. Obviously if you can’t breathe, you can’t help those around you; so it makes sense that you will be a greater asset to the masses if you take care of yourself first. That logic feels harder to apply in real life to emotional relationships, but it’s still true. The more I have focused on taking care of myself and putting my happiness first, the more patience, love, and abundance I have to give to those around me and the more I am able to let go of outcomes and just let them unfold naturally and take their course.

I guess that thing Dr. Brad Reedy, one of the owners and founders of Evoke Therapy Programs preaches as a tenet of healing is true: “The best thing you can do for those you love, is to do your own work.” I believe doing your own work includes not only healing through therapy, but also self-care and filling your cup. So, make sure you are filling your cup with whatever lemonade, activity, or 1,200-pound fuzzy animal makes your heart happy. Everyone will reap the rewards!


Beautiful Sara! Loved this story!

Posted by Beth Utley

Good for you, buddy! Glad to hear that you’re doing so well!

Posted by Michael McBride

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