After New Year's and all through January we get that itch to practice better self-care, become healthier and focus on positive changes we can make in the year ahead. By February most of us have lost our New Year’s mojo. But wait! Here comes Valentine's Day, filling every grocery store with red hearts and symbols of love. Why not use this loving reminder to trigger actions that fall under the category of “relationship care?”
Many of us get so wrapped up in the details and stresses of our daily lives that we do not take time out to truly focus our time and energy on our intimate relationships. It does not matter if you believe in the calendar holiday of Valentine's Day, or if you and your partner even trade gifts or cards. The important thing is to take time out to put some emotional and romantic focus on your relationship by stopping to create some relationship resolutions.
1. Have fun together
Do you ever find yourself wrapped up in the logistics and monotony of life to the point that you are too busy to have fun? Are fun experiences few and far between in your relationship these days? It doesn’t matter if it’s just the two of you, the entire family or a large group, finding time to laugh and be joyful together is important in every intimate relationship.
Take time out to explore ideas that will infuse some happiness into your relationship. Start up a new hobby or activity together, or go back to doing something fun that the two of you have not done together in years. If you don’t have the time or money for a vacation, have a snowball fight, tickle each other until you laugh so hard it hurts or take part in a new adventure. Try that new Moroccan restaurant where you sit on the floor. Go bowling!
2. Use technology to connect instead of disconnect
We are all distracted by and sometimes addicted to our phones, computers and social media. We get so drawn into technology that it pulls us out of the present, where we could be interacting with the people we love.
Instead of using your devices to disconnect, use them to connect. Do you find yourself on your phone when you are at dinner with your mate or next to one another in bed? Are you more likely to read a story on Facebook than to tell your partner something that happened that day? Are there moments when you are both sitting on the couch staring at your devices instead of looking into each other’s eyes?
Instead, pick up your phone and send your partner a romantic text message. Text him or her a photo from the past of the two of you enjoying yourselves. Post a gushing shout-out on Facebook for the world to see how much you appreciate the amazing dinner he or she cooked, or for the fact that your lawn is always mowed or that you are married to someone who's a terrific parent.
3. Put quality time on the schedule
It is very easy for us to get caught up in your jobs, household chores, children, etc. Often it’s your primary relationship that takes the hit in all this overwhelm. Do you ever find yourself so busy after dinner that you fall into bed without even having a conversation? Have you realized that the two of you have not talked about how much you love or adore one another in a long time?
While these things can be common in relationships, they do not allow for the type of quality time that couples need to feel truly connected. Plan a weekly or monthly date night for the two of you. Schedule an annual or biannual getaway or stay-cation (where the kids leave and you stay home) so you can have an extended period of time together - alone.
4. Evaluate, adjust and improve
When you build a business, you stop frequently to evaluate progress and makes changes accordingly. Relationships work in very much the same way. It is important to take stock of how your relationship is doing. Are you happy with the level of intimacy and time spent together? Do you feel like you handle conflict efficiently? Are you managing your finances as a couple in a way that is working for you? Make a resolution to assess these things and more, make adjustments and improvements as needed. Learn from your past, so you can make your future better.
5. Resolve to watch your tone and language
We should be making the greatest effort to be kind and loving to our intimate partners, and yet for a variety of reasons, they often get the business end of our abuse, contempt or anger. Do you find yourself asking your partner to help you with something without saying please or thank you? Do you have a tendency to raise your voice when a kinder, softer tone could be better? Do you verbally express how much you love and appreciate your partner more often than not?
Make a commitment to yourself and your partner to be mindful of how you speak and what you say, and make a greater effort to have the majority of what comes out of your mouth be kinder and more loving. Spend more time saying things like “I am so lucky to have you” and “You are the best!” instead of things like “It’s so annoying when you leave your towel on the bathroom floor” or “Move over, you are hogging the bed.” Walk in with a smile, or laugh off what might be a slightly irritating situation instead of rolling your eyes or mumbling under your breath.
6. Make an effort to focus on the little things
While everyone loves a grand gesture of love and adoration, most couples I talk to are grateful if some of the little things are attended to in the relationship. Does your partner like a back rub? Wish you would wash the dishes as soon as you use them? Want you to send a text message to check in at some point in the day? Ask yourself if you have taken the time out to truly listen to some of the smaller things that your partner desires.
While big issues can create conflict and distance in relationships, often a big list of little problems can do just as much damage. Show your partner that he or she is important by making an effort to listen and respond to some of the smaller things that may take less time and energy but will send a big message of love.
We all know that most New Year’s resolutions fizzle out because people overreach. They want to lose 30 pounds or overhaul their career all at once. Relationship resolutions are not all-or-nothing propositions. Pick the ones you think you can achieve; have fun with them; resolve to try harder, do better and be closer. Invest time and energy into your partnership and you will be rewarded 10-fold.
Stacy Kaiser is a licensed psychotherapist, author, relationship expert and media personality. She is also the author of the best-selling book, How to Be a Grown Up: The Ten Secret Skills Everyone Needs to Know, and an editor-at-large for Live Happy. Stacy is a frequent guest on television programs such as Today and Good Morning America.