We've all heard of New Year's Resolutions - our ideas, plans, dreams, and goals we want to achieve to help us in becoming the happiest, healthiest version of ourselves. Just as much as your health or finances can benefit from having a few resolutions, so too, can your relationship. Just like any new habits, it can be hard to get started, but if you stick to it, you're sure to see improvements that will help your relationship thrive. Let's take a closer look at a few relationship resolutions now.
Resolution #1: Improve intimacy It's not uncommon for long-term couples to report a lack of intimacy or a loss of "spark" within their relationship. This can lead to disconnect, as well as feelings of rejection for both partners.
How to make change: Set aside time to talk about intimacy - preferably not when you've both just got into bed after a long day. Start by telling your partner something they do that you like, then follow that up with a request. For example, "I love when you reach out and give me a cuddle and kiss when we get into bed. It helps me to feel close to you. Can we spend some more time doing that?"
Resolution #2: Have more/better sex
Would it help you to know that some of the most common issues couples face are around sex? Problems typically centre around the frequency, timing, and quality of sex. For a lot of women, the issue is that they don't enjoy the sex they're having. When it's not enjoyable, they are left feeling unsatisfied and might complain or avoid it altogether. For men, there is often masculinity and ego involved - men want to feel that they're good at pleasing and satisfying their partners in the bedroom. When this is not the case, it can lead to feelings of disappointment, anger and frustration. These things can result in a loss of desire for both partners.
How to make change: Get comfy talking about sex with your partner. Start by discussing your ideals and expectations around frequency, your favourite positions, your turn ons and turn offs, and the types of sexual activities you most enjoy. Talk about your sexual desires, get curious and be open to exploring them together. It also helps to be vocal during sex. Gently guiding your partner and then letting them know when they say or do something that you like is a good way to let them know you want more of that. When you get comfy talking about sex, you open the doors to a more active and satisfying sex life.
Resolution #3: Make time for "me"
This might sound like a personal resolution but making time for yourself can actually be beneficial to your relationship, too. Having your own identity outside of being a couple can help you to feel good and confident, which can do wonders for your connection with your partner.
How to make change: Think of things that you used to enjoy doing that you maybe don't do as often, or at all anymore - reading a good book, taking art lessons, going to a yoga class, spending time with friends and family, getting outdoors - whatever it may be for you. Having interests and experiences that have nothing to do with each other means you have more to bring back to the relationship, and it also gives you more ways to share in each other's worlds.
Resolution #4: Share love and appreciation
Research has shown that one of the big differences between happy and unhappy couples is that the happy pairs express gratitude and appreciation for each other frequently. Expressing appreciation creates a positive feedback loop: your partner feels good, which makes you feel good, and so on.
How to make change: Start by reflecting once a week on some things you've noticed your partner doing that you are grateful for, and then let them know. This might sound like "I noticed that you cooked dinner on the nights I was working late this week. I really appreciated that." Gratitude can also be expressed physically, too. If you noticed your partner got up and cleared the dinner dishes without a word, letting you sit and watch tv, why not give them a hug at the sink? Acknowledging your partner and all they do will help them to feel valued and appreciated.
Resolution #5: Improve communication and connection
Communcation and connection are two of the key elements of a long-lasting, successful relationship. When first dating, you spend a lot of time asking each other questions to help you get to know and understand each other. Many couples make the mistake of assuming that because they have been with their partner for 2, 5, or even 10 years, that they already know everything about them, but we all change over time.
How to make change: One of the best ways to ensure your communication and connection continues to thrive is to remain curious about your partner and continue to "date" each other even if you have been together long-term. Ask them about their goals, dreams, hobbies, interests, favourite foods and what's going on for them. Asking your partner about these things shows you care about them and are interested in their world.
Resolution #6: Lessen conflict
Did you know that happy couples don't necessarily fight less? The difference between happy and unhappy couples is often in how they communicate and repair in times of conflict. Conflict will never disappear, but good communication and successful repairs help to create an environment which fosters less conflict.
How to make change: Discuss your relationship frequently and work together to address any issues before they turn into bigger problems or resentments. A weekly relationship check-in is a great way to do this, as it creates space for you to discuss how the relationship is going and talk about any issues or concerns you might have. When conflict arises, instead of getting caught up in who is right verse who is wrong, remember that you are on the same team, and instead move your focus toward curiosity and reparative communication. For example, instead of saying "You always turn my concerns back on me", try saying something like "Help me to understand what happens for you when I bring up my concerns. It's important we both feel safe and heard." Instead of responding to your partners emotions with "You're so sensitive! You're always overreacting." try responding "I can see this means a lot to you. It makes sense you feel that way."
Resolution #6: Spend more time together
While quantity of time is important, the real issue for most couples is often more about the quality of time spent together, and how much attention they are paying to each other in the day-to-day. Something that often diminishes connection, is not spending enough one-on-one time together that is free from distractions and interruptions.
How to make change: Every couples idea of quality time looks different, and the rush and routine of life often affects how it plays out. If you find yourselves lacking in quality time together, try scheduling a monthly date night, eating dinner together once a week, or putting the phones away an hour before bed each night and spending time connecting with each other. Change won't happen unless you make it happen, so make it a non-negotiable priority, and commit to finding something that works for you both.
Making lasting change within your relationship is something that requires mutual effort, willingness and commitment from both partner's. If you are both wanting and willing, but are still finding you're getting stuck on how to make impactful changes, we can help. Our counsellors work with couples every day, helping them to overcome issues and make effective long-term changes.