After we got married and moved overseas five years ago, my husband, Mike, introduced a concept that initially horrified me. He suggested that every year around New Years we name one thing we’d like each other to work on in the upcoming year. In essence, he proposed that we assign each other a New Years resolution.
I spent weeks trying to decide what I would say to Mike that first year. I felt like I had to pick something serious. Momentous. Life changing. And I fretted about what he was going to say to me. What awful, embarrassing, character flaw was he going to spotlight and ask me to work on?
When the night finally came, this is what he said: “I would like you to please pay more attention to not scattering your stuff all over the place the minute you walk in the door.”
I was so relieved that this was what he picked, I laughed at him. But I now think his choice that first year was wise. He started small—a pet peeve that annoyed him out of all proportion to the actual offense, but something easy for me to agree to work on. And ever since then I have tried (with varying degrees of success) to be more mindful of keeping my clutter out of common areas.
Now that we’re several years down the track of our relationship, this little tradition has begun to serve an additional purpose—it reminds me that New Years resolutions shouldn’t just be about what I want to do (or not do) as an individual. As I take stock of my year in December, I should also be thinking about how my relationship with Mike is going and how we could improve it.
There are all sorts of things we can aim to do to build happier, healthier relationships. Here are just a couple:
- Practice kindness
- Laugh together more
- Say what’s on your mind
- Tell your partner what you want and need
- Ask questions
- Play together more
- Practice really listening
- Spend more time together
- Talk about tension points (like money, or sex)
- Give each other undivided attention (with no cell phones lying handy nearby!)
- Be quicker to apologize
- Practice forgiveness
The trick with setting resolutions, however, is to focus. If you try to do everything on this list you’ll probably end up accomplishing nothing new in the long run. So be strategic. Take stock of your year and your relationship, and then pick one or two things you really want to work on. Add this to the one thing your partner has asked of you and craft your New Year intentions around this trio of aspirations.
Ready to get started? Great. Here are some questions for you to think about and discuss this month in the lead up to Christmas and New Years.
Answer these questions for yourself, and then set aside some time to share some of your answers together.
- Pick three words that describe this year.
- What are four things from this year that you are grateful for?
- What is the habit you would most like to stop next year?
- What is one habit you would really like to start next year?
- What are two things you and your partner “did well” in your relationship this year?
- What is one thing you would like to do with your partner to improve your relationship next year?
- Pick three words you would like to describe next year.
Ask each other
Now, take some time to ask each other these questions and discuss the answers.
- What were some of your favorite moments this year?
- What is something you have really appreciated about me this year?
- What is something I could do to support you well in this upcoming year?
- What is one thing you would like me to work on this year?
- What is something you’d like us to work on together to improve our relationship?
Setting relationship resolutions
Congratulations!! If you’ve asked and answered all of the questions above, you’re ready to set some relationship resolutions for next year. Use these questions to help you:
- What are one or two things (not more!!) that I really want to work on this year in my relationship?
- What is one thing my partner would like me to work on?
- What might these things look like in action (e.g., if you want to practice kindness, what might that actually look like on a daily basis)?
Do you set New Years Resolutions? If not, what do you do to mark the turning of a new page in January?
Leave a comment and let us know, or share some of your answers to the questions above.