It’s days from the New Year and resolutions are on the horizon. Typical resolution choices involve exercise, diet and overall physical health. Don’t get me wrong, these are great things to do. How about making a relationship resolution and actually KEEPING it this year? Often, our primary relationships take a big back seat during the holiday season. Not only that but focusing your attention on your health resolutions makes it more likely your partner gets pushed even further to the back of the line.
Here’s the deal–most people KNOW they have to put time and effort into the things that are important. We put lots of time into our jobs, seemingly more every year. From what I see in my practice and in life, we are putting tons of time into our kids and their activities. We try to put time into our friendships and can sometimes feel guilty if we aren’t seeing them often enough. What about our partners or spouses?
For some reason, people seem to think relationships “shouldn’t” need a lot of time and attention if they are “good”. In reality, relationships that don’t get attention on a regular basis aren’t very likely to be good at all. Sometimes people don’t recognize this until it feels really bad but it’s a long process that happens over time. This New Year, I encourage all couples to resolve to turn that around. Just like those other resolutions around health, you will need to make this a habit. This kind of habit needs to be intentional until it’s solid.
How to start:
- Weekly schedule meeting. Sometime in the beginning of the week, both partners need to sit down with their calendars to see what time is available. Ideally, you’d have a set day each week for each of these times together. That way you can build the habit more easily.
- Weekly date night. I’ve written about date nights before. They don’t have to be fancy or even outside of the house if child care is an issue. Dates need to be just the two of you. You need to be focusing on each other–or at least a shared activity. No kid or work talk. Have fun. Be creative!
- Weekly relationship time. This is the part people dread but it’s a super important part. This is where you talk about what’s working and what needs attention. Maybe you are taking time to update your Love Maps. Maybe you have a “state of the union”. Just like the Presidential State of the Union, you start with what’s working, talk about some of the challenges and then finish with a positive, hopeful message. You can use the time to talk about something on your mind that you’d like to change. Just be sure to be soft in the start up and try to manage defensiveness on both sides.
- Daily check ins. Last month, I talked about rituals . Having a ritual for comings and goings is important. Is there a kiss hello and goodbye? Do you take a minute to see how your partner’s day went? Is there a goodnight and good morning? Small things often in a positive direction makes a big difference.
- Stress reducing conversations. Although John Gottman recommends these daily, I realize that time can make that hard. Have this kind of chat as often as you can. Each of you take a turn talking about what’s stressful. The listener needs to make sure not to jump into problem solving. Understanding the other person comes before advice! Never side with “the enemy”. Even if you do understand the side of whomever is stressing out your partner, now is not the time to say so.
Remember, you would NEVER think about not putting time into your job or kids. Your relationship needs the same kind of TLC and time. For a healthier you and relationship, put your focus and time there in the New Year. It’s the best resolution you can make.