Now that the New Year is here, put aside your personal resolutions for a moment to focus on your relationship. Yes, we know you want to improve yourself-get more exercise, learn to knit, read the great works of literature, etc. But couldn't your partnership, as much as your health or finances, benefit from a few resolutions? Just like any new habits, it may be hard to get started, but soon you'll see improvements. "The great thing about relationship resolutions is that once you see a result, you activate reward centers in your brain, and you'll naturally want to continue," says Deborah Anapol, PhD, relationship coach and author of The Seven Natural Laws of Love. Here, seven relationship resolutions-and how to make them stick. Photo: Thinkstock
Resolution #1: Be more understanding of my partner's faults.
So, you'd like to switch off that nagging gene and let the little things slide (such as socks on the floor)? Good idea! "No man wants a partner who nags him, and no woman wants to be that type of woman," says Julie Spira, dating/romance coach and author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating: Confessions of a Hopeful Romantic Looking for Love Online.
How to make it stick: Every time you're about to let loose with a "You always/You never [fill in the blank]," stop yourself and ask, is it worth the argument? Instead, sit down with your partner and make a list of things that you'll agree to nudge each other about, like paying bills on time or getting the car inspected, and agree to let the rest go.Check out 10 marriage rules you should break.
Resolution #2: Have more/better sex.
Would it help you to know that virtually all couples want this? "For a lot of women, the problem is they're not satisfied with the sex they're having, and they either complain about it or avoid it altogether," says Dr. Anapol. For men, there's often ego involved-men want to feel they're good at pleasing their partners.
How to make it stick: The key to a more active, satisfying sex life is to make it a priority, says Dr. Anapol. Set aside time to talk about how you can improve the situation-preferably not when you're in bed after a long, tiring day. "Find something you like and appreciate about what your partner does, and tell him what that is. Then follow that up with a request." For example: "I love when you reach out to cuddle me when we get into bed. Can we spend more time doing that before we move on to sex?"Discover how to talk to your husband about sex.
Resolution #3: Find happiness outside of my relationship.
Sure, you want to lean on your lover when times are tough, but when you're too needy, it can be a turnoff. "We're all more appealing when we have our own lives and are confident and feeling good about ourselves," says Spira.
How to make it stick: Think of things that used to make you happy that you don't do as much anymore, such as taking art lessons, practicing piano or even just seeing movies your partner doesn't enjoy-and do them. Make dates with your girlfriends, join the softball team at work, whatever. "Live your life as though it's not wrapped around his," suggests Spira. Having interests and experiences that have nothing to do with each other means you have more to bring to the relationship.
Resolution #4: Increase my gratitude for my partner.
There has been research that shows that the biggest difference between happy and unhappy couples is that the happy pairs express gratitude for each other, says Dr. Anapol. Expressing thanks creates a feedback loop: Your partner feels good, which makes you feel good, and so on…
How to make it stick: You've heard of keeping a gratitude journal for yourself, so why not create one for your relationship? "It doesn't need to be a daily thing, but maybe once a week each of you can write down a few things you're pleased about and want to thank your partner for," says Spira. Like, "I'm grateful that you took the dog for a walk on three early mornings," or "I'm grateful that you didn't say anything about how much time I spent on the phone with my sister." Then share it with each other. You can express gratitude physically, too. Did he get up and clear the dinner dishes without a word, letting you sit and read a magazine? Give him a hug at the sink.See 10 things women can learn from men.
Resolution #5: Be a better listener.
Here's a perennial female complaint: The men in their lives have what they call "selective hearing." But being a good listener has to be mutual-maybe he didn't "hear" you when you asked him to get the laundry out of the dryer, but you didn't listen to him when he wanted to vent about his boss.
How to make it stick: When there's something you want your partner to hear, ask him if he has 5 minutes to talk so you both can focus on the subject at hand. Shouting "Listen to me!" is sure to get the other person to shut down, but sharing a few minutes of mutual active listening gets results, says Spira.
Resolution #6: Show more interest in my partner's life, work and interests.
Are you feeling guilty because you've been doing a lot of nodding and smiling as your partner tells you about his favorite sports team or latest work project? "It's easy to fall into a rut," notes Dr. Anapol. Why? We assume, wrongly, that the people we love stay the same, but they don't. No one does; what we enjoy, what we think about and what makes us tick changes all the time.
How to make it stick: "Try to notice things your partner is doing, and comment on them," suggests Dr. Anapol. For example, "I see you were reading that finance magazine; I didn't know you were interested in that. Tell me about it."Learn 8 marriage lessons from surprising sources.
Resolution #7: Institute a date night.
Busy couples, especially those with young children, always say that they'd like to make their going-out habit more regular, but too many keep it at the bottom of their to-do list. Date nights (or date afternoons or stay-at-home dates after the kids are in bed) are important, not so much for what you do, but for the ritual. By making dates regularly, you acknowledge that your romantic life is just as important as your job, parenting, household responsibilities, and so on.
How to make it stick: This may seem like a no-brainer, but the way to keep this resolution is to…just do it. "You have to create a day per week or every couple of weeks, and honor it," says Spira. "Take turns choosing an activity. Try some date-night foreplay, like sending an email or leaving a note for your partner saying how much you're looking forward to it." And though regular dates, especially when they require a babysitter, can get expensive, you can find ways to cut costs. "Look for local listings of free or low-cost events, like an art opening or free concert, so you can spend your date-night budget on the sitter," suggests Spira.
Article originally appeared on WomansDay.com.
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