I’ll confess, I really don’t like New Years resolutions. They’re usually overly ambitious, generally not very creative, and they never seem to stick.
No one loses 30 pounds in January or goes from sedentary to 5K by February 1st. And your resolution to be more productive and get to bed by 9pm every night – well, perhaps starting with simply being more organized and disciplined would be a more effective first step.
This isn’t to say that goals aren’t important – they are. Very important in fact. And there’s nothing wrong with choosing the start of the year for setting those goals.
If one of your goals is a happier, more satisfying life, then I’d recommend taking a look at your relationship(s) and determining where improvements can be made. That would help.
Why Your Relationship(s) Needs Goals
Most of the things we consider changing for the New Year or any other time are the tangible, clearly obvious things that need changing.
- Work product/general productivity
- Bad habits
And, yes, if there are issues in those areas they should be addressed.
But, while those things take your attention and energy, your relationship is quietly humming along in the background. Sure, it might sputter, threaten to quit, and clearly need a tune up, but in the end it just keeps going. Until it doesn’t.
Relationships lose our over time. And it’s easy to put them in a corner and simply assume they’ll stay there, mostly strong, and relatively steady.
As a relationship counselor, I can tell you that’s not the way it works.
A relationship is a living thing that needs attention in order to survive. It can go for spans of time on autopilot, but the longer that happens the more likely it will breakdown or die altogether.
Your relationship should be more than just an unattended constant in your life. It should be fun, fulfilling, and happy. Perhaps not 100% of time, but definitely more often than not.
One of the best ways to keep your relationship happy, healthy, and strong is to create relationship goals together with your partner.
I’m referring primarily to romantic relationships, but any of this can be applied to relationships with friends and family as well.
What The Goals For Your Relationship In The New Year Should Include
So, what do relationship goals look like? And how do you keep them from going the way of your 5K by February aspirations?
Consider the following ideas and suggestions for staying on track.
- Creating time every day for talking. “Wait, we talk every day. Check!” Maybe you do, but probably not in the way I mean.
Communication is crucial for maintaining a connection to each other, and it’s very, very easy to do poorly – especially when you’ve been together a long time. Agree to take 10 minutes before dinner, before work, or whenever you each have free time, and talk. Talk about your days, people you know, fun things coming up, world concerns – whatever.
The key here is to do this consistently, and preferably at the same time each day, so it becomes a habit.
- Agree to use kindness in your communication daily. I know, you’re thinking, “I’m already nice. Never mind on this one.”
Nice, however, isn’t the same as kind, and it’s possible you’re not nearly as nice as you think you are.
When a relationship has gone on for some time, it’s very easy to lose the kindness in your communication and take your partner for granted.
Kind words, encouragement, thoughtfulness, and compliments can make a big, big difference in your partner’s day and create warm, affectionate feelings – along with strengthening that connection.
- Discuss one difficult topic per month. We all have topics we’d rather avoid. Finances, family, issues with children, and so many more.
Avoiding these topics only makes them worse. So, rather than tap dancing around them, agree to one day a month when you have a frank conversation about a difficult topic. Call it, no-more-avoidance-Thursdays (or not) and put it on the calendar.
- Address your individual communication deficits. In order to improve your communication practices, you need to know what works and doesn’t work for each of you.
As one of your resolutions, make a point to find out what works best for your partner, what they don’t like, and what they’d like to see more of from you in the communication department. Then provide them with the same information.
- Create more individuality and share it with one another. Something that keeps a relationship interesting and keeps partners satisfied is having their own activities and hobbies. Not so much that you never spend time together, but enough so that you each have some things that are just yours.
This autonomy helps to maintain individuality, and well-rounded individuals are the ones that make healthy partners. Remember, a good relationship is 1 + 1= 2 and not ½ + ½ = 1.
- Practice intimacy without sex. “Wait! But I like sex and we don’t have enough of it already!” Believe it or not, being intimate without sex can actually rev up your sex life.
Intimacy doesn’t only happen between the sheets. Emotional (being vulnerable) and physical (hand holding, kissing, just touching) are also forms of intimacy that need attention. Boosting efforts in these areas can create closeness that can make the prospect of sex even more desirable and fun.
Just the practice of creating intimacy without sex can build anticipation and heighten the desire you feel for each other.
- Purposely find ways to laugh together. Laughter is both a personal release and a bonding agent. Think about it – you can’t stay mad if you’re laughing, and laughing together makes you feel closer.
I recommend doing this several times a week or as often as you can.
- Get out of the house together at least once a month. No, not to the grocery store or the kid’s soccer games. Go somewhere just the two of you and for something enjoyable or relaxing.
I’m not going to call it date night because that tends to put pressure on a couple to do something that feels like “date.”
Just grabbing a cup of coffee, going for a walk, or window shopping can work.
- Have a monthly adventure. This is a bit more ambitious but finding a way to take on something new and be adventurous together is a great way to keep your bond strong. A Sunday afternoon drive to somewhere new, tackling a house project that requires learning something new, or checking out a possible new hobby are all possibilities.
- Start a contest to see who can learn to say “I love you” in the most languages. Sound silly? Rolling your eyes? There are over 7000 languages in the world as of last count and if you’re a competitive couple this is probably one of the easiest and most romantic competitions you can have.
So, set an end date, keep a tally, and determine a fun prize for the winner.
As for the standard lose weight, run a 5K, or save more money resolutions, you don’t have to give those up. Just try making them something you do together.
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Author: Dr. Kurt Smith
Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching, a Northern California counseling practice that specializes in helping men and the women who love them. His expertise is in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today. Dr. Kurt is a lover of dogs, sarcasm, everything outdoors, and helping those seeking to make their relationships better.