After plenty of December 31st’s spent drinking a bit more than you should to mitigate the inevitable lonely midnight, these NYE’s you and your partner are lucky if you stay awake past 10 p.m. It’s funny how quickly life shifts as we grow older and our relationship deepens. But even if you have exchanged the champagne and the cocktail dress for hot tea and pajamas, it’s still smart to take the start of a New Year as the opportunity to improve your life. While you have made the traditional ‘lose weight’, ‘travel more’ and ‘make more money’ goals in the past, now that you’re in a twosome, why not make a resolution for your relationship? Sex and relationship therapist Courtney Geter LMFT, CST explains creating a shared aspiration to enhance your connection and foster intimacy allows a couple to assess the needs of their relationship, and make plans for growth.
But as with any objective, how you approach your resolution makes a difference. Not only do you want to be mindful about what ambition you create for you and your number one—more on that later—but Geter shares you need to ensure your resolutions are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-sensitive. “These factors make it more possible to meet a goal or resolution instead of committing to something that may not have a reasonable outcome and then leave the couple feeling defeated,” she continues.
So what resolutions should you make? And which ones would you avoid? Here, experts make their most effective resolutions for 2019:
Do: set time to talk about your relationship throughout the year.
With any resolution, the hard work isn’t necessary only in January, but required throughout the year if you seek to see a true transformation. Geter shares too often couples will jump on the New Year bandwagon, but lose steam by June. To ensure you stay the course and remain focused, she suggests setting a monthly reminder to sit down and talk shop. Or rather, whatever unfinished business is brewing between the two of you, including lingering arguments, frustrations or topics you need to chat about. “You can also explore new concerns, as well as look at the change and growth in the relationship since the last check-in,” she explains. And in December, have an annual review like you would at your job. Though it might feel a bit clinical, it gives you the chance to be analytical and strategic about your relationship, which could result in the type of changes you both desire.
Another idea? Let this coincide with a date night! Whether you go to the movies, have dinner outside of the house, see a show or even have a long weekend staycation every once in a while, it’s nice to follow-up these ‘meetings’ with a bit of romance.
Don’t: copy another couple’s resolution.
So your best friend and his partner seem to have this whole ‘madly in love’ bit down to a science. They have the date nights, they post the ridiculous odes of affection to one another on social media and you rarely hear about their arguments. Nothing is ever as peachy on the outside as it is behind closed doors, and that’s why Geter warns against comparing yourself to other couples. Or stealing their goals, since innately, all relationship are different. “Just because it worked for another person’s relationship, does not mean it will work for your relationship. When you go in expecting this to happen, you may feel much disappointment when change does not occur,” she continues. While it could be beneficial to chat with a pal about how they improved their dynamic, take the info and craft it to meet your own needs.
Do: employ an attitude of gratitude.
It isn’t just trendy or gimmicky—showing thanksgiving for your partner goes a long way in making her or she feel cherished, valued and adored. As relationship psychologist Sarah Schewitz, Psy. D., explains, all kinds of research shows that being grateful for your partner helps to improve your relationship. “If you think about it, this makes total sense. Of course, you will feel better about your spouse if you focus on what you appreciate about him,” she explains. “In turn, it will also make him happier with you, and it will make it easier for him to accept constructive criticism if you’ve already showered him with the good stuff.”
Do: figure out where communication is working—and failing.
Of all the people in your life you’re transparent with, your partner should easily rise to the top. Building—and sharing—a life with someone isn’t easy, and it requires plenty of heated battles throughout the years. At the start of the next lap around the sun, psychologist Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., recommends setting a resolution to say exactly what you mean and how you feel… in the moment. This makes it more likely you’ll immediately catch and misinterpretations or misunderstandings, which are the cause for plenty of relationship troubles. “If there is any confusion, the partner can restate his or her words in a clearer way and then have the significant other reflect that back to verify he or she is hearing the right message from the other,” she continues.
Don’t: make resolutions only because your partner wants you to.
Perhaps you see holes in your relationship and places where you wish you could better interact together. Or there’s something lacking from your duo that you need your other half to provide. But the hard truth of any type of two-party agreement is both need to be fully dedicated for a goal to be worth it. “Resolutions are commitments to change and both need to have a similar level of commitment in order to see progress and change. If one person is half-heartedly committed and the other person is putting 110 percent effort, then the more invested partner may begin to feel burn out or as if they are doing more work than the other,” Geter explains. Make sure whatever you decide to work on, you’re both in agreement—and prepared to roll up your sleeves and dive in.
Do: decide to limit screen time together.
Think about last night’s bedtime routine: you and your partner washed and brushed up, turned down the lights, climbed into bed and turned to… look at your iPhones. We’re all guilty of being forever plugged-in, 24/7, especially with a professional landscape that’s more digital than ever. However, all of these thumb action can make it less likely you participate in R-rated action with your number one, or be vulnerable with your discussions. “Limit screen time when spending time with each other, and especially at bedtime and when waking in the morning,” she recommends. “One of the top complaints I hear from couples is how much time the other spends on the phone, tablet, or computer. I also hear how these devices enter the bed disrupting much needed bonding time.”
Don’t: resolve to do something that doesn’t makes sense.
Or as Dr. Thomas puts it, anything that may sound like it’s emotionally healthy, but in reality, isn’t. One example might be ‘We will never argue with one another again.” Are you laughing like we are? “Not only is this type of agreement probably unrealistic, it actually isn’t healthy because significant others should be able to voice differing opinions and feelings to each other and not repress their real selves. Otherwise, they are not participating in a real relationship with each other,” Dr. Thomas explains.
Do: improve how you compromise.
No matter how well you get along, how many interests you share, or how similar you are in personality, appetite, drive and preferences, no two people will agree on everything. However, how you handle these differences speaks volumes for the vitality of your relationship. That’s why Dr. Thomas suggests incorporating compromise into your 2019 resolution. “Compromise is a necessary element in a healthy relationship because it means that both parties are getting some of their needs met within their union and that the relationship is one of respect and fairness,” she explains. “Be aware that with compromise, no one gets all his or her needs met, but there’s more or less a ‘meeting in the middle’ where both parties are represented.”