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Relationship resolutions are no different. Many couples resolve to change their bad habits but fail to keep promises to be more attentive toward or more intimate with each other. Nicole McCance, a registered psychologist in Toronto, offers her advice for approaching your relationship resolutions and coping with the pressure that January 1st brings.
1. Assess the past year.
Moving forward means acknowledging the past and coming to terms with it. A new year is the perfect time to think about the past 12 months and to assess what you want for the future. McCance has three questions that she tells couples to ask themselves at the start of a new year:
-What advice would you give yourself based on the past year?
-What are you willing to let go of?
-What are you willing to create?
Pondering these questions will give you a clearer idea of what needs to change. Once you assess your own frustrations and needs, you can approach your partner honestly about your expectations.
2. Be committed to the resolutions from the beginning.
Have a discussion about the resolutions you're making as a couple because you both need to be onboard in order for them to work. "Agree at the beginning and be on the same page," says McCance, "otherwise it will be easy for one person to drop or opt out of the resolution."
3. Start with a clean slate.
This can be hard for couples who have been together for a while. "The new year needs to be about letting go as much as it is about creating," says McCance. "You need to be able to forgive your partner. If you're fighting about the same things, you're not moving forward."
Try to note the positive changes that come from following through with a resolution and to praise your partner's progress. "People are more likely to continue an action if they know that it's making a positive difference."
4. Be very specific about what you want to achieve.
"Many people fail at keeping resolutions because they're too general," notes McCance. Broad lifestyle changes, such as becoming more intimate or going on a diet together, though admirable, can make it hard to know where to begin.
Being specific allows you to set achievable goals. Instead of promising to be less critical, McCance suggests picking something specific that you will be less critical about, such as how your partner cleans the house.
5. Make small but significant changes that are measurable.
Committing to overhaul your entire lifestyle is a recipe for disaster. If you and your partner resolve to break out of your regular routine, making small changes—for example, turning the TV off one night a week or planning a day trip once a month—helps shake things up without adding stress.
"Resolutions need to be small enough that you'll actually follow through," says McCance. "And you need to be able to effectively measure your progress."
6. Make sure there's equal accountability.
"The great thing about making resolutions with your partner is that you have double the chance of succeeding," says McCance. "Once you say something aloud to someone, it becomes real, and the fear of disappointing someone else sets in."
Being held accountable to a partner is a great motivator that will help you avoid becoming what McCance calls "closet goal setters," people who make resolutions to themselves and don't keep them. Having someone help motivate you—and motivating him or her in return—will ensure there's accountability.
7. Find the best way for you to keep your resolution.
Sometimes you need your own plan, even when you're working toward the same goal as your partner. For example, if you and your partner resolve to have more sex, it's often recommended that you create a schedule. However, many couples will find this repetitive and monotonous—more akin to going through the motions than to reigniting a flame.
If you know that you work better with a schedule but your partner prefers spontaneity, McCance recommends that you schedule sex in your calendar and don't tell your partner. "This way you know that you've set aside time for intimacy, while your partner thinks it's just a spontaneous surprise." The bonus of surprising your partner with a sexy secret makes the process fun for you, too!