As one year ends and another begins, it’s a good time to reflect on what went well and what you’d like to improve. That’s where relationship resolutions come in.
Relationships rarely thrive without some effort from both partners. That’s why we asked three relationship experts to offer their tips on setting resolutions that truly boost our romantic bonds. Here are 12 resolutions to help your relationship flourish in 2013.
1. Put your relationship first.
Clinical psychologist Meredith Hansen, Psy.D, suggested partners “Make each other a priority.” For instance, check in with each other during the day, spend quality time together during the week or go on a date at least once a month, she said.
2. Set tech-free zones.
For instance, have tech-free evenings from 8 to 10 p.m. or tech-free days like Sunday, said Silvina Irwin, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist who also leads workshops for couples. Or rather than checking email in the morning, connect over your cups of coffee, she said. This lets you give each other more attention and cultivates conversation, she said. “It also communicates to your partner ‘You are important to me and you are worthy of my undivided attention,’” she said.
3. Work on your communication.
“Communication is always the place I encourage folks to start out from as they set out to make new resolutions,” said Jeffrey Sumber, M.A., a therapist, author and professor. For instance, strive to be kind and respectful, he said. Create a set of rules both of you will follow during difficult conversations, he said. And try to listen more than you talk, he added.
4. Be more affectionate.
Be affectionate with each other, even if it’s brief, Irwin said. Hold hands, hug, cuddle before bed, kiss hello and goodbye and sit close together, according to Irwin and Hansen. “Research shows that people reap enormous benefits from hugs lasting as little as 20 seconds, including decreased blood pressure, decreased heart rate, decreased levels of stress, and increased release of oxytocin,” Irwin said.
5. Play together.
“Instead of turning on the TV and vegging out, dust off that old game of Monopoly or pull your cards out and have game night together once a week or once a month,” Irwin said.
6. Praise each other.
Acknowledge both the big and little things your partner does. Hansen gave the following examples: “Thank you for making the bed, I appreciate how hard you work for our family, I love when you make time for me during the week, Thanks for remembering to pick up your socks.”
7. Be kind.
Treat your spouse as kindly as you do others, Hansen said. Practice being more patient and tolerant, she said. And “Remind yourself daily that your partner is the most important person in your life and thus should be treated that way,” she said.
8. Try to see your blind spots.
“We all operate in daily life with certain places of denial or emotional disconnection,” Sumber said. And this can hurt our relationships. Usually a blind spot is something your partner picks up on, but you don’t.
As Sumber said, it might concern something you keep arguing about over and over. Or your partner might complain about your callous or uncompassionate reaction or tone with a certain issue, he said.
To identify blind spots, Sumber suggested asking yourself: “What makes me most uncomfortable in my interactions with my partner?” Or, “When was the last time I (or my partner, for that matter) rolled my eyes about something they did or said?”
9. Be adventurous.
The start of a relationship is exciting because of all the firsts and new things you try together. Recapture that novelty by switching things up. For instance, instead of eating at the same restaurant, try a new place in your area or a nearby town, Irwin said. Hike or bike a new trail, she said. Or check out what interesting activities are being offered by your community college or community center, she added.
Not surprisingly, couples who laugh and have fun together tend to rate their relationships as more satisfying, Irwin said. And these couples tend to stay together longer, she said. Irwin suggested going to a comedy club and watching funny films. “Walk down memory lane together and retell funny stories and moments in the relationship that made you laugh,” she added.
11. Share your feelings – not your thoughts.
“Couples tend to get stuck in the ‘right/wrong’ dance and both want their partner to hear, understand, and validate their perspective during an argument,” Hansen said. Unfortunately, this just boosts your bickering, she said.
Instead of shouting, name-calling or blaming your partner, she said, share your feelings. For instance, instead of saying, “You never remember anything, you’re such a jerk,” you might say “I feel hurt and disappointed that you forgot our anniversary,” Hansen noted.
12. Have more sex.
Sexual intimacy brings couples closer. According to Irwin, “the release of oxytocin through physical contact and orgasm promotes a feeling of love [and] bonding, increasing our attachment to our partners.” It also soothes the pain from headaches and PMS and helps us sleep better, she said.
Relationships take work. That’s why it’s helpful to reflect on the past year and consider how you’d like to grow your relationship in 2013. The above resolutions highlight many of the meaningful ways to do just that: Spend genuine quality time together, honor your partner, strengthen your intimacy and have fun.
Happy couple photo available from Shutterstock