When you think back on your past few New Year’s resolutions, what have they been? Most people typically focus on self improvements: losing weight, time management, quitting bad habits, etc. While these are important, don’t forget to put some thought into positive change for your relationship. When things are good in our relationship we generally feel more confident, relaxed and secure. In other words, a healthy relationship gives us the strength to go out and conquer our goals in the world and stick to those resolutions. So for this New Year, focus some of your efforts on your relationship and check out the difference it makes.
Here are four examples of relationship resolutions you can incorporate in 2012:
1. "I will listen for the emotion in my partner’s words." Too often couples focus on the content of what is being said. When that happens, we get into the never-ending cycle of correcting and dismissing. For example, your partner might say "I have washed the dishes five times this week, walked the dog every day and washed all of the laundry." You may be tempted to defend and say "No, I walked the dog on Tuesday and put my own laundry away," but you would be missing the point. It’s not really the words themselves that matter. It’s the emotion. Try to identify what your partner is trying to communicate and let them know, for example "It sounds like you’re feeling overwhelmed.” Doing this will keep everyone calm, de-escalate the situation and set the stage for a productive, connecting conversation.
Personal Goal Bonus —You'll have a partner to go to the gym with you vs. arguing all day.
2. "I will communicate my needs better." Yes, it would be nice if your partner "just knew" what you were thinking, but unless you’re dating or married to a psychic, that’s an unrealistic expectation. Remember that just because they can’t read your mind doesn’t mean they don’t love you or you don’t matter to them. The real test is to put your needs out there in a straightforward, verbal manner. This puts you in a more vulnerable position than if you just sat back and waited for him/her to have an epiphany, but when you take that risk, you are giving your partner a chance to succeed. You are also giving them a chance to respond to your needs — when that happens, your bond gets stronger. Relationships: Communication Requires Understanding Part One
Personal Goal Bonus — No need mask your feelings with comfort eating.
3. "I will be more generous." Researchers from the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project recently studied the role of generosity in the marriages of 2,870 men and women. They found a direct correlation between the men and women who had the highest generosity scores and were "very happy" in their marriages. Generosity means that you will go above and beyond the usual routine. It can be tough to break out of the norm, but think of some small gestures that will mean a lot: make your partner coffee in the morning, write a "just because" note, offer to do an extra errand or, just ask "Is there anything I can do for you?" The simple act of asking goes a long way.
Personal Goal Bonus – Your partner is likely to mirror your actions with increased support.
4. "I will be more spontaneous." You’ve been together for awhile and have your routine down to a science. While structure is often efficient and comforting, the cost is a loss of spontaneity. What’s so good about doing the unexpected? Well, it triggers the excitement hormones in your brain: dopamine, pheromones and serotonin. These are the chemicals responsible for the "falling in love" feeling. To release a torrent of those hormones, shake things up a bit. Plan a surprise. Pick an activity neither one of you has done before. This will inject some excitement and freshness into your relationship, stirring up interest for both of you.
Personal Goal Bonus — Well, let's just say these excitement hormones translate to the bedroom. Bored In Bed? 3 Ways To Spice Up Your Relationship
Doing these things will not only ensure that your relationship is strong, but that you'll also have a cheerleader in your corner, making it easier to go after your personal goals.
If you are in the San Diego area and would like additional support in maintaining or building your relationship connection, contact a San Diego Couples Counselor or San Diego Marriage Therapist.