Happy New Year! It’s the time when people make resolutions for ways they are going to improve themselves or their lives for the new year. Now, I’m not knocking the decision to get in shape but wouldn’t it make a whole lot of sense to prioritize a New Years Resolution for your relationship first? Instead, January appears to be when people start thinking about divorce.
In my therapy practice, most of the spouses who are strongly considering divorce or who have recently decided upon divorce are what I would call a “burned out pursuer”. That’s psychology talk for someone who has been pushing his or her spouse to have more connection and engagement in the relationship for such a long time without success that the person gives up on the relationship. Unfortunately there’s a gender difference here. Two thirds of all divorces are initiated by women and more “pursuers” in the relationship tend to be women as well.
Given that most couples in therapy have been having noticeable problems for 6 years on average before seeking help, I’d like to encourage everyone to head that off at the pass this year with a Relationship New Years Resolution. Here are some ways you can do that:
Resolve to make time every single week to focus on the relationship and your partner. Weekly date nights are great and I encourage them whenever it’s realistically possible. In addition, though, make time to just connect emotionally.
Resolve to attend to your partner at least as closely as you listen to your most important meetings, friends or playoff games. Are you really listening as closely as you could? Are you giving the non-verbals that show you are interested or are they saying you are too busy or bored? Are you noticing small details and remembering important events to follow up on when they happen?
Resolve to do something kind or loving every single day. It really is the small things often that make all the difference. Make sure the small things you are putting out there often are positive instead of those that hurt your relationship.
Resolve to say thank you and show appreciation for all that your partner does for you, your family and your home. Sometimes getting up and going to work every day feels like a thankless task. Ditto with getting up in the night with sick kids or making the meals every day. Recent research suggests that saying “thank you” regularly can be highly protective for your relationship and is an important characteristic of relationship satisfaction.
Resolve to remind yourself daily all the things you like and love about your partner. It’s true that whatever you focus your attention on is what you will notice the most. Make sure that you are intentionally focusing on the positive qualities in your partner as opposed to the things that bug you. Focus on what you appreciate not what drives you bonkers. Not only will it make you see your partner in a more positive light, it will likely influence your behavior towards your partner in a more positive direction.
There are so many benefits to the relationship resolution, not the least of which is that these often don’t take a lot of time or significant effort but produce big results. Go ahead, get healthier in 2016. Just make sure that you are making your primary relationship healthier and happier too. The ripple effect on everything else is a good one. Here’s to your love!
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