A new year signals a fresh start—an opportunity to reflect on the past year of your relationship and explore your future together. New Year’s relationship resolutions may be just the spark you need.
Remember that your relationship is constantly evolving as you and your partner spend more time together. Reassess the state of your relationship, paying particular attention to how you both felt about your relationship over the past year. What aspect of your relationship was most satisfying? Most frustrating? Were you sexually satisfied last year? If not, what would you like to see changed? Where would you like to see progress?
Communication is essential when discussing these topics, as feelings of discontent may elicit a defensive response. Take turns letting each other speak. Don’t interrupt. Once you have each had a chance to voice your opinions, respond to each other’s comments. Avoid targeted suggestive attacks like “I don’t like the way you…” or “You need to…” Instead, make the conversation about your relationship as a whole by using positive statements like “I think we could…” or “We need to…” When “you” is changed to “we,” the conversation involves both parties. You become a team! Before making resolutions for your relationship, here are three tips to consider:
Set Realistic Expectations
Do your best to think about the things you’d like to change as well as what a realistic change would look like. If you and your partner have been struggling, don’t expect change to happen overnight. However, making a long-term commitment to each other is the first step in getting your relationship to where you want it to be. Dialogue about where you want your relationship to be in two months, six months, a year….
Break Down your Goals
Good resolutions include specific details and the bigger picture. While having a stronger relationship may be your ultimate goal, improving your communication about small, everyday topics (like your day at work) or the way you decide which show to watch together make for specific, attainable goals. Breaking your resolutions into smaller goals makes them less daunting.
Embrace the Process
Focus on the means of getting to where you want to be, not just the end goal. Improving your relationship is a process. Enjoy the opportunity to know your partner on a deeper, more intimate level.
Now that you’re prepared to make resolutions for your relationship, ask yourself what exactly you want to change. What’s most important here is that you both are equally committed to achieving the same goal. Shared goals can be the bedrock for relationships; they can give us a purposeful pathway that enriches our lives with meaning. To find out if you and your partner are on the same page, sit down together and answer the following questions:
- How can we keep (or bring back) the fun in our relationship?
- How can we spend more quality time together?
- How can we build intimacy, both sexually and emotionally?
- What is something we can both do to improve our friendship?
- How will we let each other know about our physical and emotional needs?
- How will we handle jealousy, resentment, or competition toward one another?
- How will we handle fights and bring them to a healthy resolution?
- How will we communicate and “check-in” with each other daily?
- What is the most important thing to us about our relationship?
If less than half of your answers match your partner’s, you could use more dialogue. Where do you agree and disagree? Where can you compromise? Find one aspect of your relationship where you share similar goals, and discuss how you can both work toward it this year.
As Dr. Stephen Covey once said, “If you don’t know where you’re headed, it doesn’t help to try to go there any faster.” Before embarking on this year-long journey to a better relationship, make sure you and your partner agree on the same course. Relationship resolutions only succeed through mutual effort and communication. We wish you a New Year filled with love!
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The Gottman Institute’s Editorial Team is composed of staff members who contribute to the Institute’s overall message. It is our mission to reach out to individuals, couples, and families in order to help create and maintain greater love and health in relationships.