As a couple, you might be interested in creating New Year’s resolutions to improve your relationship. But you might be stumped about where to start – especially since resolutions tend to get a bad rap.
The reason? We usually don’t follow our hearts or our values.
We asked three relationship experts for their suggestions on setting meaningful resolutions for 2013. Below you’ll find specific steps for creating goals that truly help you cultivate your connection and boost your relationship.
Focusing on Your Identity as a Couple
Jeffrey Sumber, M.A., a therapist, author and professor, suggested couples ask themselves these three questions when crafting their resolutions:
- “Who are we as a couple?”
- “What do we want to create in the next year in our relationship?”
- “What are we willing to contribute to the process moving forward?”
Clinical psychologist Meredith Hansen, Psy.D, suggested couples first discuss 2012, specifically focusing on the positive aspects of your relationship.
Next, consider how you’d like to “grow” your relationship in the New Year, she said. “Pinpoint aspects of the relationship that you would both like to improve and jointly identify steps you can take to initiate that change,” she said.
For instance, according to Hansen, if your goal is to be more respectful to each other, one partner might say, “I will work to improve the words and tone of voice I use during our interactions.” The other partner might say, “I will work on stopping what I’m doing in order to make eye contact with you when you’re talking to me.”
Record your resolutions, and re-examine them every month, Hansen said. “Go on a date at the end of the month, take a walk, or find a quiet moment on a weekend to review your goals.”
Setting SMART Resolutions
Clinical psychologist Silvina Irwin, Ph.D, stressed the importance of setting SMART goals.
- Specific. Instead of saying that you’d like to spend more time together, designate one night a week as date night, she said. Then identify the details to make that happen, such as securing a babysitter, figuring out what you’ll do or buying theater tickets right now, Irwin said. Or instead of saying that you’ll save more money in 2013, set up automatic transfers for five percent of every paycheck to go into your savings account, she said.
- Meaningful. To pick resolutions that truly matter to you, have each partner figure out what they’d like to work on, said Irwin, who also leads workshops for couples. Jot down your priorities using positive terms, she said. In other words, instead of writing, “stop yelling at each other,” write, “touch each other at least once a day.” Next, rank your list from 1 to 5 based on importance. Then compare and compile your lists, she said. Finally, pick the top three goals you’d like to address in 2013, she said.
- Attainable. Make your goals as easy as possible to accomplish. That includes being explicit about how you’re going to attain your resolutions, Irwin said.
- Relevant. Review your list, and discuss why you’re choosing these goals, Irwin said. The best goals are connected to your values.
- Time-sensitive. “Open-ended goals quickly get back-burnered and overshadowed by the immediacy of here and now needs,” Irwin said. She suggested setting specific time frames. For instance, if you’d like to spend more time together, mark down date nights or weekend getaways on the calendar, right now, she said. “Otherwise other events and commitments will fill up that precious time, and before you know it, your potential getaway weekends have all been gobbled up.”
When mapping out your goals as a couple, avoid complaining, blaming or criticizing each other, Hansen said. “Instead, take a proactive approach and focus on what will make your relationship stronger, happier, healthier, and more satisfying in 2013.”
Couple making resolutions photo available from Shutterstock