It’s that time of the year again. A few days into the New Year when we often struggle to make resolutions to become better in the next year than we were before.
We previously shared with you a Couple's New Year's Resolutions Worksheet to help you work on those goals for the new year, and gave you 9 ideas to get started. Now here are 9 more ideas for resolutions to put into practice in your marriage this year.
If you are looking for some actionable ideas to make your intimate relationship better, I humbly offer you these 9 New Year resolution ideas. These resolutions that are grounded in the science of evidence-based couples therapy:
1. Resolve to Love Better. Listen… I Mean Really, Really Listen to Your Partner
The opposite of speaking isn’t listening. The opposite of speaking is waiting.
This is why intensive couples retreats are so profoundly useful. Make the time to listen. Resolve to love better by sharpening your listening skills. Don’t zone out and nod meaningfully when your spouse is talking to you. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. Go eyeball to eyeball. Sit down, look them right in the eye. Summarize what you heard. Ask if you got it right. Remember to ask follow-up questions for clarity. This is ground zero for intimacy.
There is no more precious or priceless quality on the face of the earth than sincere, undiluted human attention.
This is the Mount Everest of your relational skills. This is Job 1! Couple retreats help you to profoundly listen. This one New Year resolution idea can make a huge difference in your relationship.
2. Be Emotionally Honest…but Gentle. Tame Your Blame Reflex
It’s hard enough to share intimate feelings with your spouse. Especially when what you’re feeling doesn’t even make sense to you. Say “I feel” instead of “you always “or “you never.”
You can get clarity and move through negative feelings if you can take responsibility for what you feel.
It helps to think of negative feelings as unwelcome visitors, and not allies in beating up your partner. Another great New Year resolution idea is to tame your blaming. It might help you get out of emotional gridlock.
3. Catch Your Partner Doing Something Right…and Praise Them
Long-time couples sometimes have too high a focus on the negative. They may take each other’s strengths for granted, while hyper-focusing on familiar disappointments and less-than-perfect partner’s deficits. They forget to compliment.
Check your relational math. Resolve to offer 5 compliments for every criticism. You might find that your spouse starts doing this too. You don’t have to be Chip and Dale. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a virtuous circle of praise and appreciation?
Here’s a Useful New Year Resolution Idea…Resolve to Fight Better!
4. If You Must Fight, Fight Fair
Resolve to love better by not letting snide remarks, all-purpose snarkiness, or irritability chip away at the foundation of your relationship. A great New Years resolution idea is to fight fair in the future.
Pick your battles carefully.
Is this issue important to you? Then describe your emotions, the situation you want to improve and enlist your spouse as part of the solution.
5. Your Spouse is Your Best Friend. Why Not Treat Them That Way?
Do you speak to friends or even strangers with courtesy and kindness? Your partner deserves that too.
During a calm moment, open up a discussion with your partner about the way you speak to them.
You might be surprised to learn that you might often be hurting their feelings in little ways that you were not even aware of.
Ask for specifics.
And work on your less-than-helpful communication habits. If you choose this New Year resolution idea, ask for feedback. After six weeks of focus, ask your partner for a report card on your recent efforts.
6. Be A Team… Think Like a Team… Act Like a Team
When you are in a committed relationship, your attitude should be “It’s you and me against the world.”
Your spouse’s obstacles are your obstacles too. You fight the good fight side-by-side. You stand by each other during tough times. And when you have issues between you, you do your best to be open, honest and work through the problem together.
7. Resolve to Improve Rituals of Connection
Check your morning routine. Are you both sleepwalking through breakfast and leave-taking?
Resolve to make that all too brief time shared together each morning a little more special. Set your alarm 10 minutes earlier. Maybe take turns making each other coffee or breakfast.
While you’re cooking, your spouse could pop outside to warm up the cars or get your afternoon work-lunches prepared.
Put some music on. Maybe some Chet Baker or Chris Botti for a relaxing backdrop to an intimate conversation.
Here’s an Important New Year Resolution Idea…Tame Your Tech Toys!
8. Tame Your Tech Toys
Social media can often be an unwelcome visitor in your intimate relationship. Preoccupation with social media can provoke a feeling of being phubbed in your partner.
This can encourage feelings of annoyance, suspicion, etc. Ask your partner for an honest report card on your use of social media. If you both have an issue, resolve to love better by having some rituals of disconnection from social media.
If you and your partner have an issue with social media, share a New Years resolution idea for how to deal with it better.
I have a client who had a bad habit of whipping out his smartphone in front of his wife while they were on “Date Night.” They solved this by establishing a ritual where he wordlessly put his phone on silent mode and then handed it over to her before they entered the restaurant.
9. Allow Room for Personal Growth
We are talking about a value that is pretty widespread in Western Culture. International Couples often wrangle over this specific issue.
But in the West, differentiation can be healthy and sexy.
Struggles around differentiation often arise in the early years of a relationship. Don’t surrender personal goals and interests just because you are in a new relationship.
Strive to find a balance between your personal space and your couple’s space.
Don’t abandon your friends. Integrate old friendships into your new personal life. Your partner should be a vital part of your life, but not be your only 24/7 preoccupation.
Being fused at the hip isn’t healthy. If you are strong and independent, you will appreciate each other more. This might also be an interesting New Year resolution idea to explore with your partner.
Find Ways to Improve in the New Year!
Originally published December 31, 2016.