Relationship Resolutions for 2020
By: Risa Ganel, LCMFT Owner/Principle Therapist

New Year’s resolutions can be stressful.
We commit to big changes, and almost always experience equally big let-downs when we fail to follow through. 

Since none of us need more stress in our lives or in our relationships, here’s a podcast episode where I offer 6 brain-science-based strategies to keep your resolutions.

If you think about it rationally, there’s no difference between starting something on January 1st as opposed to, say, March 9th

The thing is, our brains are wired for stories. We like there to be a beginning, middle, and end. That makes New Year’s a perfect framework for marking an end to one chapter and the beginning of a new one. 

Thinking about your marriage, it’s an opportune time to reflect, and to outline your hopes and goals for strengthening your relationship.

You can certainly make relationship resolutions on your own, without discussing them with your partner. For example, if you know that it would really make his day if you hugged him more, you can resolve on your own to do it. If you know she really appreciates it when you put the toilet seat down, you can resolve to do that from now on.

But especially for more ambitious things, you’re much more likely to keep your resolutions if you share them and have accountability. You’re a team, and creating resolutions can be a great team-building activity. To set the stage, start with the following exercise. 

Sit with your partner in a quiet, distraction-free space (or as close to it as possible), and take turns finishing the sentence “Remember when…” 

It could go something like this:

You: Remember when we had our second date and we talked for so long that the restaurant staff started vacuuming around us?

Partner: Remember when we found a bat hanging from the fireplace inside the house and freaked out about how to get rid of it? 

You: Remember when we had that erotic night at the hotel at the National Harbor?

Partner: Remember when we spent the day at our favorite winery with a picnic basket and just chatted for hours?

Reflect on the memories you created, the activities and times that stand out to you, and share them with each other. Focus on times that brought you joy, connection, passion, and intimacy. 

However, true intimacy includes struggling in the mud together, not just moments of rainbows and unicorns. Thus, make sure to recall times when you struggled, but found your way through to each other. 

Next, focus on the future. 

Take turns finishing the sentences “I look forward to…” or “I dream of…” 

It could look something like this:

You: I look forward to finding our dream house together.

Partner: I dream of going together on vacation to the Finger Lakes.

You: I dream of going together for more walks outside.

Partner: I look forward to one day starting that business we talked about.

The dreams don’t have to be realistic. There should be no judgement about them or about each other for having them. It’s a time to dream, wish, hope, and be curious about one another.

From this frame of mind, after the exercise, brainstorm together about relationship resolutions you want to explore for the New Year. 

Here are a few examples to get you started, but choose things that will positively impact your unique relationship, that will support the two of you as a team:

  1. Have more fun – plan regular fun activities for the two of you. Don’t fill your calendar solely with activities that focus on the kids. Put your relationship on the schedule too.
  2. Unplug – commit to one or two nights a week without smart-phones or social media. Schedule these as times for you to be fully present, together and with the kids, without the distraction and overstimulation of technology. Your brains need a rest, and so do your relationships.
  3. Create a relationship ritual for arriving and leaving home each day – If you don’t do this already, these are crucial times to reconnect in small ways that have a big impact over time. Stop what you’re doing and kiss hello or goodbye, give a hug, help bring in the groceries, pour a cup of coffee into a travel mug for your partner, etc. Come up with the specifics that work for you, but make it something that connects you to each other when leaving or coming home.
  4. Show appreciation daily – Buy a pair of nice journals and commit to writing down daily 2-3 things you appreciate about the other person. It can be something they did for you that day, who they are as a person, or something they did in the past that you appreciate. At the end of the week, take a few minutes to share with one another what you wrote.

Small things repeated often have a powerful impact on improving long-term marital satisfaction.  So don’t ignore the little things you do each day.

To make it more likely that you’ll stick with it, choose only one or two ideas and hold yourself accountable for taking action to make them happen. 

You have the power to improve your relationship each day by the actions you choose to take.  Make 2020 your best year yet!

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