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Relationship Resolutions: Create A New Spark for the New Year

The beginning of the year brings new and renewed resolutions and commitments to our professional careers, academic endeavors, family connections, and personal growth. Frequently, we wonder about what possibilities and opportunities will arise in 2024. As we reflect on our lives and our relationships, we consider new relationship resolutions for our ongoing journey of connection. 

What Is A Relationship Resolution?

Relationship resolutions can be an opportunity to strengthen, improve or fix your relationship. They can reignite long-held hopes and dreams. When people begin planning their new resolutions and new beginnings, they start believing that this is the year when things can and will be different.

Some people begin the new year with a new attitude of hope: “Today’s a new day. I am not letting the past hold us back. This year we don’t need to keep repeating all of the old patterns. We don’t need to keep waiting for something to change; something can change.” 

In the beginning of 2023, they might have thought, ”This is the year that we’ll stop fighting;” “This is the year that we’ll decide to have a child;” “This is the year that my partner will stop drinking;” or “This is the year that my partner will love me for me.” Other people have wishes to meet the “one” this year or a desire to see improvement in their relationship. 

The list goes on, but our wishes and dreams might not have been fulfilled in the past. 

We wonder if we can really change, if our partners can really change. In the back of their minds, some might be nervous, anxious, and worried: “Will anything be different? Will my partner keep their promises?” 

Many people are tired of nagging and begging for things to improve, so what can we do if nothing is different and no changes have occurred?

An Example Of A Couple: Roommates vs. Romantics

Michael and Gail, for example, are partners who have become complacent in their relationship. They started to feel like roommates and less like partners. Michael and Gail came to see me after being married for 10 years. Michael stated, “I think there’s something wrong with our relationship. It’s not like it used to be.” Gail interrupted, “We’re not in love anymore.”

Michael complained that his wife never had time for intimacy. She didn’t want to have fun anymore. Gail complained that her husband never made time to talk with her. He was always on his phone.

Wondering, hoping, and praying that your partner will change can help but, you need to look at what actions and steps you are taking toward change as a couple. 

This year your relationship can be healthier and more secure through action.

Like Michael and Gail, we have all sorts of reasons why we can’t stop to say, “Hello, how are you?” when our partner comes home from school, work, gym, or the grocery store – or why we say, “We have no time for fun because we have bills to pay, we have kids, or I’m too tired after working all day.” 

Some couples spend a lot of time looking at social media or playing games on their phone, which adds to the loneliness and feelings of not being loved.

Complacency vs. Connection

I can almost guarantee that when Michael and Gail were a couple “falling in love,” they spent quality time together, gazed into each other’s eyes a lot, and found interests and commonalities which helped their relationship thrive. So I asked them, as I now ask you:

  • What made your relationship work?
  • Are you doing those same things?
  • If not, what do you need to reintroduce into your relationship?

Frequently, my clients’ answers to the above questions bring us back to these basics:

  • Taking time for each other
  • Letting your partner know you are thinking of him/her during the day
  • Having a fun date (with no friends or kids)
  • Sitting across the table from each other
  • Talking about light, fun topics or having deep and meaningful conversations
  • Gazing into your partner’s eyes
  • Sharing quiet love
  • Expressing gratitude and thanks

I caution couples like Michael and Gail not to expect the honeymoon phase of their relationship, when everything was exciting, fun, and they were young. The newness of your relationship and the novelty made your brain fire neurons and chemicals that kept you connected and wired together. You cannot go back to the good old days and live in the past, but you cannot allow the opportunities of today to pass you by, either.

I explain to couples that you have to acknowledge and admit to yourselves how things may have changed and are different from the start of your relationship. You may have children and work full-time. You may have wrinkles, bald spots, pot bellies, even varicose veins. 

You may not be 20 anymore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a loving relationship.

How Do You Make A Relationship Resolution?

Your relationship will be different from when you first met, but it doesn’t have to be boring, cold, and distant. It can be fun, but you may need to get a babysitter now. It can be exciting, but you may need to plan your outings ahead of time because your schedules are less spontaneous.

In PACT, Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy, we learn that going somewhere novel and new or trying something you’ve never done before can increase excitement and help increase the brain firing again (like in the honeymoon phase). 

I explain to my clients that they don’t have to be roommates, but they will become roommates if they put their relationship on cruise control rather than focus on being present in 2024.

5 Relationship Resolutions Couples Should Make (Plus 1 New Year’s Resolution Specific For ADHD Couples)

Take action to improve the connection in your relationship. I recommend couples sit down and make a plan.

#1 If You Have ADHD, Make A Few Additional Relationship Resolutions Specifically To Support Your (Or Your Spouse’s) ADHD

  • Will we learn how ADHD impacts your relationship?
  • Will we read a book on ADHD and relationships?
  • Will we read my blog posts on ADHD and relationships?
  • Will we commit to addressing communication or conflict management?
  • Will we learn how neurodiversity impacts communication?

#2 Your Principles/Values Will Guide Your Year

  • What are our agreements about fairness, equality, mutuality, money, and other values and beliefs about our relationship? 
  • What and how do we want our relationship to look at the end of 2024?
  • What is the purpose of your relationship?
  • Why are you together?
  • How do we plan to improve our relationship and feel closer?
  • What do we value and believe is important as a couple?

#3 Set Monthly Goals

Just know that you may need to break down your agreements and goals into smaller pieces.

  • January : What are we going to do in January to reach our long-term principles? Your plan should be specific and detailed.
  • February : How did we do? Do we need to tweak our agreements or reevaluate our beliefs, principles, or values? When shall we schedule time to look ahead to March?
  • March : How can we improve our accountability this spring to stay on track? Are we working as a team and partners in this process? If not, what do we need to change?
  • April : Are we reviewing our goals and agreements to ensure we will meet them at the end of the year? Let’s celebrate our successes as a couple. If we are struggling, do we need to find a therapist because we may need more help making agreements and working out our differences? 

#4 If You Need Smaller Increments, Set Weekly Goals Too

  • What are we doing today to follow our agreements and principles?
  • This week: What is our action plan this week? Is this plan realistic and practical?
  • This month: In what ways was our action plan successful? What can we improve?

#5 Make Every Day Count By Setting Daily Goals As Well

  • Today, decide who and what are important – your relationship, social media, or something else?
  • Decide to make your relationship number 1. 

As the new year fades (which will happen), I recommend that you have a couple meeting to reflect and monitor your relationship, such as, Are you following your agreements and principles? and Do you need to make any changes to them?

Some of my couples purchase a white board and put up their agreements and principles in a common area of their home. If they are more private, then the couple keeps a journal in their bedroom. White boards and journals are great reminders of your commitments, dreams, and hopes for your relationship in 2024.

Use the excitement of the new year to fulfill your relationship resolutions. Begin by making small steps towards a happier and more secure relationship. The new year may fade away, but you can restart and reignite your relationship. Make every day a new day.

If I can help you get your relationship on track this year, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Updated 1/2/24

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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Annapolis, MD 21401

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