Creative ways to conduct relationship maintenance under the guise of New Year's resolutions.
January 1st is one of the few times of the year that truly feels like the first day of the rest of your life. It is also a great excuse to do a little relationship maintenance, under the guide of New Year's resolutions.
This year we recruited a team of experts, including Mars Venus Success Coach Melodie Tucker, Dating Coach Evan Marc Katz, psychotherapist and author Elisabeth LaMotte, Dating Makeover Coach Kira Sabin, and Dr. Diana Kirschner, author of Love in 90 Days: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Own True Love to advise couples on how to make 2010 their best year yet. Use these five tips as a guide, but make the process your own.
1. Take inventory.
"It can be a fun and great conversation to sit down and ask each other 'What do you want the next year to look like? How do we get there together?'" Kira Sabin says. The more specific the goal, the better. "Many times people are very certain of what they don't want, but aren't really sure of what they do want. And often, men and women want and different things. A good starting point is for each person to define what their 'perfect' relationship looks and feels like, then compare notes with their partner so they can, as a couple, come to a consensus on what they want to change and in what order," says Melodie Tucker.
2. Lay it all out there.
Making a clean start involves releasing the grievances that have been eating away at your relationship throughout the year and moving forward unencumbered. "A New Year always represents the chance for a fresh beginning. Yet because we all tend to drag our past baggage with us, it can be helpful to address some of the hurt feelings and resentment, so we can let go of those emotions instead of dumping them on our partners," Tucker says. To avoid bombarding your partner with negativity and criticism, she recommends journaling. Writing down feelings of hurt or resentment on paper will liberate you from that negativity and allow you to focus on positive change. SpatSolver—The Ultimate Argument Resolution Device
3. Mind your tone.
When opening up to your partner about things that bother you, make sure not to say, "You're doing this wrong," and instead say, "This is how I feel," Evan Marc Katz cautions. If you start by asking how you can improve, you set the tone for open dialogue and constructive criticism on both ends. Katz encourages being sympathetic to your partner's point of view: "So much of what goes wrong in relationship discussions has to do with the tone. It's not the content that's incorrect, it's the fact that it sounds like an accusation. And nobody wants to be told to change." 9 Things To Say During A Fight
4. Create a road map.
The most effective way to realize your goals is to make a plan. "Imagine taking a road trip without knowing which direction you were going or which routes to take to get there. It would take a very long time and be extremely difficult to find your way," Tucker says. Instead of expecting your partner to do all the work, take the lead in initiating change. "This should be a time to focus on yourself and how you can contribute in a more positive way to your relationship. Remember, this should not be a time to focus on what you want your boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife to change so that you will be happier," says Elisabeth LaMotte. Beware The Man With an Exit Plan
5. Have a regular "state of the union."
Try to set a regular meeting, be it weekly or monthly, to discuss the state of the relationship. "An interesting thing to do for the New Year is to set up 10 minute listening sessions. Everyone is so busy and the pace [of life] is so rapid, it's rare to actually just sit together and have one person talk while the other one listens with full attention. And it's amazing what actually comes out when you do [that]. You get closer. You find out about your partner," Dr. Diana Kirschner says. She also recommends going on walks because men tend to open up more when they're not face-to-face.
Although the New Year can be an ideal time for resolutions, you should gage the psychological mindset of your partner before diving into a relationship conversation. "What's the difference between having a relationship discussion in July and a relationship discussion on January 1st?" Katz asks. "There is none." So make sure the timing of resolution setting is good for your partner. "The same way that the time to ask your boss for a raise is not when your boss just got divorced from his wife and is in a bad mood," Katz says. "You really want to find a good time when you're connected to talk about ways of improving, instead of sitting down at 12:01 on January 1st and saying, 'We need to talk.'" How To Communicate Effectively
And remember to keep expectations realistic. "Actually changing behavior is a pretty big undertaking so remember to always start with very small, consistent, long-term steps," Sabin says, "Small enough that you can achieve them and want to keep going." She mentions a friend who is trying to lose weight and decided with her husband to have sex instead of dessert. "What a win/win!" Sabin says. "It's also important to recognize that it takes time and serious commitment to change your situation, your relationship, or your life," Tucker says. "Be kind to yourself and to one another and celebrate the little victories along the way." Major resolutions often involve minor progress one day at a time. Relationship Resolutions That Don't Work