The new year is at the door, and the world is still suffering from the pandemic. Despite its highs and lows, 2020 provided people with the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones. Many couples needed to work from home due to stay-at-home orders. That added closeness called for an extra dose of creativity, compromise, and (truly) patience.
Now you have a fresh opportunity in front of you and the two of you can make the coming year more exciting. This year more than ever we look forward to a fresh start and a change of pace as the new year approaches. Making up your mind for something better in 2021 is the first thing that will lead you to success. That is why we recommend using the couple’s New Year’s resolution worksheet.
When you sit down to write your couple’s New Year’s resolutions, challenge yourself to think about what your relationship can look like next year. You and your partner can strengthen your bond together and refresh your relationship in 2021. Our couple’s New Year’s resolution worksheet (download at the bottom) will take you one step closer.
We start the journey towards 2021 from different places. Perhaps this has been a challenging year for your marriage. Others have found more closeness as their schedules (and commutes) drastically shifted. Regardless of where you are, spend some time discussing what you want your “couple goals” to be for 2021.
There is a printable New Year’s resolution worksheet at the bottom of this article to walk you through that process.
We put together 9 excellent ideas to get you started. These couple’s New Year’s resolutions will help you and your significant other find a stronger bond and a better 2021.
1. Become a better listener
At the start of your relationship you were probably terrific listeners. You did not know your partner and so you hung onto every word. You were constantly gathering new and interesting information. Now you know each other pretty well and perhaps you’ve even listened to that one story at least ten times. Somewhere along the line couples forget to listen to each other
Resolve to become a better listener in this new year. Adopt an attitude of curiosity. Listen to understand and not to react.
What is good listening? Practice eye contact (maybe physical contact too) and make sure that distractions are silenced. If you have found yourselves drifting quite a bit, start with scheduling time to just listen. Set aside time on the couch (tv off, phones away) where the two of you can just talk.
Our relationship experts have great tips on keeping the conversation going. What are some of my favorites? Before you respond to your partner try asking “is there more?” Another tip is to summarize what your partner just told you as you heard it and check in; “did I understand that right?”
If becoming a better listener is your couple’s New Year’s resolution there are excellent books on the subject. Do a little research and see if you can make listening your super power in 2021. Being a better listener is likely to help in many different facets of your life, this is a New Year’s intention worth setting. As you walk through the exercises outlined in the couple’s New Year’s resolution worksheet you’ll have opportunities to practice listening right away.
2. Plan weekly dates
You can set aside time every week for a special time with your favorite person in the world. When you commit to this ritual, you are both lowering your stress from the hardships throughout the week. Dates help you bond even more as you put all the distractions aside and dedicate the time to your loved ones.
Date nights might pose a special challenge in the time of COVID restrictions but there are still plenty of ways to create memories together. Order takeout, spread a blanket on the floor, and have a picnic in. Go for a drive and check out holiday decorations (when the weather is nice, get some landscaping inspiration.)
If this seems like too much right away, set your New Year’s resolution for planning bi-weekly dates or even monthly dates. Consider alternating who is “responsible” for planning them. Perhaps your partner plans one first, then it’s your turn, and then you plan one together. Don’t let perfection get in the way of the good–there are weeks when binge-watching a show on Netflix is going to be just what the two of you need!
3. Express your feelings more often
Are you someone that struggles to express your feelings? Perhaps this is the year that you challenge yourself to more clearly communicate with your partner just how important they are to you. Get creative but challenge yourself to share affectionate, warm feelings every day.
You need to mean what you are saying. Tell them how you feel about them, how you love spending time with them. Describe how you feel when you talk to them. Write a poem and stick it on the refrigerator. Bring flowers when you come back home from work and discuss how you feel when you are not with each other. Send a short sweet text when you think of them even if you are in the other room.
4. Learn something new together
Learn something new about the world and each other. Shared activities require coordination, collaboration and teamwork. You’ll find out a lot about each other as you learn a new skill.
Set a challenge to cook a new meal together 2 times each week. You’ll increase your cooking skills and you will get to know your partner’s cooking skills. This combines nicely with New Year’s resolution number 2–date nights and cooking nights go well together.
If you love to read, read a book together. If it’s podcasts, listen to them separately and then discuss when you are together. Exploring new activities together will give you more things to talk about and will build upon your shared memories.
5. Discover each other’s goals and support them
This one might be the most important one on the list and it strays a bit from the theme of “couple’s New Year’s resolutions.” Each of you will sit down and write 2-3 goals that you have personally for the New Year. Now, write down some steps that you can take that will move you closer to these goals.
Here is the important part of this exercise–exchange lists with your partner. See if there are a couple of ways that you can support their goal. You might be able to help them to achieve their goal and even if you can’t, it’s important that you know what their highest goals are for this year. You will see this exercise outlined in the New Year’s resolution worksheet at the bottom.
A very important note–check-in with your partner before offering support. Let them know what you are thinking but see if they would find that helpful. My goal may be to “eat healthier” but that doesn’t mean that I want my husband’s opinion on what I eat (I am sure you can imagine how that might go terribly wrong.) However, I would love his help doing a little food prep on Sunday nights. We can play music, talk about the week to come and chop some veggies together!
6. Get intimate…for 6 seconds
Cuddling is great medicine Physical contact is important for our sense of connection and for our emotional bonds. As you and your partner go about your busy days try to replace the quick “hello” peck with a real kiss, or hug. Experts recommend six full seconds. A six-second kiss or embrace revs up intimacy and arousal.
Commit to this practice as much as possible–they may just be the best six seconds of your day. You can get creative when you incorporate this into the plan on your couple’s New Year’s resolution worksheet.
7. Learn about flooding and stay mindful
Self-care is more than just a buzzword, it is critical in uncertain times that call for flexibility and patience. If adopting self-care practices are not on your personal lists of New Year’s resolutions it should be. Take a moment to think about ways that you can take care of yourself this year.
What does this mean for your relationship’s New Year’s resolutions?
Think about ways that you and your partner can connect calmly. Notice the triggers and the signs that you are being overwhelmed. Read a bit more on our blog about flooding and take a time out when you feel yourself getting heated. On the couple’s New Year’s resolution worksheet, there is a space to note what kinds of things could get in your way–address these stumbling blocks here.
8. Have fun together
Another twist on the date night–make a commitment to play games together each week. My husband and I had a running Gin Rummy game that went on for months, we just kept tallying it up each time we played. Game nights can be a fun part of your rituals and a great way to connect without electronic distraction. Consider a date box subscription if you need some fresh ideas, there are many wonderful options out there.
9. Check in on your relationship
Even the strongest marriages need support at times, and our relationships have been through quite a lot in 2020. There are some relationship problems that can be particularly troubling for marriages. Commit to working on these issues and if you need to, get the support of one of our relationship experts. And make a plan (like the one we outline in the couple’s New Year’s resolution worksheet.)
Get started with your couple’s New Year’s resolution worksheet
Use the list above to get you started on your couple’s New Year’s resolutions and download the couple’s New Year’s resolution worksheet to work them out together. Taking some time to talk through these questions together is a lovely way to start a new year.
Enter this next year knowing that whatever 2021 has in store, you have your partner by your side.
Have a lovely holiday season and a Happy New Year from the team at Couples Therapy Inc.