Trina Dolenz, relationship therapist and author of Retool Your Relationship (Wiley, 2010), admits that January is often when she gets the most amount of traffic through her door. Dolenz is realistic about relationship ups and downs. Her mantra is: You're not in a relationship unless you're in a struggle. But, she maintains there are resolutions that you and your partner can make to have a more fulfilling and successful partnership.
1. Communicate clearly
One of the biggest relationship problems is communication. Check in with yourself at this time. Are you making your thoughts and wishes clear? Are you getting through to your partner about what you want or what you need? "People often speak the wrong language to each other and think they are understood," says Dolenz.
You need to clearly, and regularly, communicate your needs, dreams and goals. For instance, let your partner know that you want to move into a house, own a vacation home or have children. With clarity comes understanding, which ensures you are both on the same page and don't resent each other.
2. It's OK to be selfish
"Compromise can be a dirty word," says Dolenz. Compromise suggests that one person in the relationship is not getting their wants and needs met completely. According to the therapist, couples tend to compromise too much. Her suggestion? "It's counterintuitive, but if you become more selfish and more self-aware, you will actually strengthen the relationship, because you recognize and value your own goals and needs. Once you are fulfilled and happy, you can give more to your partner."
3. Be realistic about your goals
We often make goals that are too lofty, or alternately, too vague. Instead, they should be realistic and strategic. "The goals have to be achievable, but once you've voiced them and got them out in the open with your partner, you have a partner in crime. It's someone who can observe the success," says Dolenz. "Once something is voiced and shared, it becomes reality. It's a real way of making something happen."
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4. Have a satisfying amount of sex
Are you having enough sex to satisfy you? If not, why not? The new year is the perfect time to evaluate how satisfied you are with your sex life and to resolve to make it better. "There is absolutely no norm, but from a therapeutic point of view, as long as you feel it's enough, then it's enough. The right amount is when you both can agree you are getting enough," says Dolenz.
She suggests putting sex in your calendar this new year to ensure you both maintain this resolution. "People think after 10, 20 years of marriage it should be spontaneous. But couples that plan ahead maintain it," says Dolenz.
5. Figure out your finances
"Money -- it's huge for some people," says Dolenz. She suggests you sit down and talk with your partner about money and work out a yearly budget, openly dealing with income, debt and spending habits. "Make an appointment with them, sit down at the dining room table, get your bills, write a list of outgoing and incoming finances, and share your budget ideas on how you plan on using your money," she says, adding, "Have an achievable goal between the two of you."
6. Make a schedule
It's important to set time in your schedule to have sex, to figure out the finances and deal with all of your other priorities. If you're thinking, I shouldn't have to schedule in time to sleep with my own husband, think again. "When you first dated your husband, he didn't just show up at the door. You made a date, and you knew he was going to pick you up on a specific night, at a specific time, and that builds excitement and fun and anticipation," says Dolenz.
By making a schedule, you're bringing yourselves back to those days, giving you a chance to plan and anticipate. "It's a complete fantasy to think everything will fall into place. A schedule puts excitement back into what otherwise can seem like a chore," says Dolenz.
It's important to be self-aware about your needs, wants and level of happiness within the relationship. Then you can work together as a team to ensure that you commit to your resolutions.
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