How to Make (And Keep) New Year's Resolutions as a Couple

Your relationship can help or hinder your 2012 goals.

The moment the last bit of Christmas gift wrap flutters to the ground, the glitter and shine of the holiday season become claustrophobic to me. I itch to clean the house, to strip it of the fuss of the holidays. I want to organize our new toys, all while running around the park to undo the feelings of pre-diabetes that my holiday indulgences bring. These urges always lead me straight to the cliché of all clichés, the ill-fated New Year's resolutions.

"This will be the year," I think, "the year where my holiday recovery is going to land me directly into a year with better habits. This is the year I'm going to be the best me I can be."

Sometimes it works, but we all know sometimes it doesn't. Work and family schedules interfere, as do the tidal pull of the habits we hope to break in the first place. But when you're in a serious relationship, there's a whole other element to consider when trying to make a lifestyle change. These are choices that will affect your partner. Will your husband stubbornly stock the pantry with two packs of cookies for every bag of apples you buy? Will your efforts at bettering yourself cause tension in your relationship, as you suggest turning off the football game in order to talk more? Or will your partner be your biggest cheerleader, setting the alarm to hit the gym with you before work?

Studies show that a relationship can either hinder or enhance your success at hitting your 2012 goals, but those goals also have the same shot at enhancing your relationship-or causing a rift. How can you approach this year in a way that will bring positive change for you and your relationship? For tips, we talked to a YourTango relationship expert, Judith Joyce, a Certified Conscious Relationship and Body-Mind Vibrance Coach.

1. Hold a planning session. You and your significant other need to have a talk about your hopes for changes-both for yourself and as a couple-in the New Year. And don't have this conversation when you're both trying to get out the door to work, either. Set a time to talk, and come to the table prepared with your ideas, Joyce advises.

"It's important that you each come to this conversation with an open mind," she says. Joyce also recommends that you both have an idea of what the other wants to talk about pre-conversation; blindsiding your boyfriend with the fact that this is the year you intend to get married and have a baby probably won't end with him on one knee. "It's best to bring targets that have been discussed between you. Surprise targets can put your partner on the defensive, sending your whole process into choppy waters."

2. Focus on enhancing, not correcting. Go easy on yourself-and your partner. Think about things you want to bring into your life, rather than things you want to eliminate.

"Resolutions are really based on judgments of what you believe is wrong with you," says Joyce. Rather than thinking about eliminating weight, consider how to Usher in health and recreation. This shift in thinking will keep you positive, and prevent either you or your partner from thinking critical thoughts about the other one. Which sounds great to me, because the last thing I want my husband thinking about is the fact that I need to correct my jiggly parts.

3. Choose fun priorities. Often, I tend to tackle the biggest challenge just to prove I can. Just as often? I run out of steam really quickly, like that time I committed to becoming a vegan but was noshing on a cheese pizza by Valentine's Day.

"In our culture, experiences that are really hard and take much effort are highly valued as the path to success," says Joyce. "The real truth is that our talents and abilities come easily, are fun and engage us." Whether you're exploring goals for yourself or as a couple, your relationship is going to thrive when you're having fun and feeling fulfilled-and it's only going to suffer if you're feeling snippy because you miss cheese. "Approach the process as a fun adventure giving you both the opportunity to explore what would most enhance and contribute to your relationship and each other," she recommends.

3. Keep the communication going. If you're working towards a goal you set together, make sure you're keeping the dialogue going.

"Do a periodic check in to see how your agreement is working for each of you," suggests Joyce. "State what is working what isn't working and why. If change is necessary, brainstorm what shifts could create a smoother process." Chances are, you're both going to fall short of the high hopes you had at the beginning of the year, so make sure you leave all judgment at the door.

"An open and flexible discussion without judgment can bring new possibilities and strengthen communication," Joyce says. "Keep time frames flexible and engage in check-ins when needed, not firmly attached to a schedule. Address issues as they arise. If something isn't working, deal with it quickly. Letting it fester only makes everything worse." Be cautious not to let your efforts at being supportive make you sound like a cranky football coach, though - or worse, his mother. "Holding your partner accountable isn't your job," says Joyce.

4. Ask questions-without expecting a specific answer.
Both when setting goals and during your check-ins, be sure to ask your partner questions without anticipating a specific answer. Desperate for your man to quit smoking? Ask him how he feels about it. Be ready to hear his answer, and seriously consider his perspective before explaining why you're concerned about his health.

"Explaining how your changes will enhance your life and the relationship increases the chances of success on all levels," Joyce says. If you and your partner can't seem to win the other to your side of the argument, it's time to go back to the drawing board. "Keep asking, 'what other possibilities are there?'" advises Joyce. "Surprises abound when you release attachment to an answer or outcome."

5. Keep your eye on the prize. Remember that when it comes to New Year's resolutions, sometimes the worst-case scenario isn't that bad after all. I know my husband loves me, jiggly parts and all. I'm determined to do something about them this year-after we have a talk about how to tackle our health in a fun way, together, of course-but if Valentine's Day rolls around and we're both none the lighter and craving some chocolate cake, it's OK. We still get to be together, with the person we love, and that's something about our lifestyle I never want to change.

Written by Colleen Meeks for

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