“I will workout 5 x a week and finally run the marathon.”
“I will eat healthier, more unprocessed whole foods and less sweets and snacks.”
“I will use less social media and spend more time reading and pursuing creative hobbies.”
And so we make our New Year’s resolutions to nourish our mind and strengthen our body. But we don’t as often think about making relationship resolutions, perhaps because we don’t think of relationships as being controlled by our habits, which can then be changed by conscious effort. We think of our relationship behaviors and situations as simply unfolding and happening, almost as if we lack control over them. Your bitter argument, for instance, seems inevitable because your partner always talks in that tone. And so you head into another conflict, not mindful of the fact that you also react to the tone in the same way each time. Over time, this becomes a negative habit much like anything we put our bodies through–and in the same way, you can choose positive resolutions to change your relationship behaviors, and end up much more satisfied.
Here are some of my relationship resolutions for the New Year, for both singles and couples.
1. I will…be more open-hearted.
A thirty-something acquaintance recently told me about her best friends back in London, who are definitely looking for relationships but haven’t had stable ones in several years. When asked why, she said, “they’re too picky. One of my friends met a guy who was handsome, had a great job, nice, and yet she turned him down because he did yoga and she thought it was too hokey.”
Of course, you reserve the right to your non-negotiables. If a man who can bend it like Beckham somehow turns you off, so be it. But, it’s always worth remaining open-hearted about potential love interests. You learn something new from people who are different from you. You might have great chemistry with someone who isn’t the Mr. Right you thought of in your head. Follow your heart, not your head, when it comes to love.
2. I will…step outside my comfort zone.
If you are single and wanting to mingle, but haven’t seen an interesting candidate in a long while, it’s time to try some new approach. If you’re dead stuck in online dating rut, try logging off (and erasing that app, you know) and meeting people in person. Conversely, if you keep going to your co-ed book club and not see any eligible people, try meditation class, running group, or even…online dating. It’s all about mixing things up, putting yourself in new situations–and smiling and remaining open-hearted.
3. I will…clean up my relationship boundaries.
If you’re “complicated” right now, that’s fine–but are you really fine? If you’re comfortable with ambiguities of modern relationship status (“friend/lover,” “on-again/off-again” etc), then all power to you. But if you feel drained from the not knowing, it’s time for more clarity.
Speak up about where you think your relationship is headed. If you don’t see eye-to-eye, it might be time to move on.
4. I will…not take work home.
One of the biggest sources of tension I’ve experienced in my own relationship was bringing work stress home. Granted, your partner should always be the safest, most supportive person to whom you can vent your office drama–but coming home with a dark cloud overhead every single day can strain your relationship to breaking point. Try to leave your work stress when you leave the office and feel calm when you enter home so you can bring your best to your partner/family–after all, that is the point, isn’t it?
5. I will…see things from my partner’s point of view.
When you argue, you get angry and your judgment gets cloudy–and all you can think about is how your partner has wronged you. Turn it around and think about how your partner might feel–has s/he done anything *right* or have you done anything that might hurt them? Let go of the need to be right all the time. After all you are both playing for the same team, the team of US. (So cheesy I know).
Both singles and couples
6. I will…stop comparing my love life to others’.
You compare how you met, when you said the L-word, when you moved in together, when you got engaged…It’s enough to suck joy out of your relationship. Whether you’re single wistful of happy couples, or in a relationship and wishing you were married, or married and wondering what it’s like to be single–understand that your love life is fine the way it is. It’s actually pretty good, thankyouverymuch.
7. Know what I really want.
“Knowing what you want”–it all sounds so simple, but all too often we really *don’t* know what we want. Do you really like that guy you met on OkCupid? Would you like to keep seeing him? How do you feel about “being friends” with your ex? Do you act indifferent but actually wish you *were* exclusive? Do you really love this person or are you just saying it? Should you break up or give your relationship another shot?
It might be overwhelming to actually accept what you really want. You might have an averse reaction to it, once you acknowledge it–but stay true to your gut feeling and make this year be the chance to stick with it.
What are your relationship resolutions for the New Year?
Also see: 5 Simple Resolutions with Maximum Impact
Photo: Joe St.Pierre via Flickr