New Years marriage resolutions are a wonderful way to symbolically put behind old, unwanted behavior and set a new course for your marriage. Instead of aiming for, “In 2014, I will have a better marriage,” try these small but effective (and fun) goals. The following ideas for resolutions can all have a big impact on you marriage.
Tip: Jaded by the experience of ambitious resolutions quickly abandoned? The key to making lasting resolutions is to choose specific, actionable, and realistic goals. The more specific, the better. For example, you might say, “In 2014 I promise to have more patience with my spouse.” Yet patience is a hard thing to just do, especially when it goes against habits of reacting that have been established over years. Instead, think of how you are going to accomplish an overall goal: “In 2014, whenever I feel impatient with my spouse, I’m going to take 5 deep breaths before I react.” This is an actionable resolution that will lead to real change!
1. “I resolve to pay my spouse a complement each day.”
In the beginning of most relationships, partners shower each other with complements. Additionally, your partner’s attractive qualities shine brightly for you. After years together, however, attention to these details fades. This slow loss of gratitude and positivity is actually a large contributor to the “loss of love” feeling that distresses many couples. Luckily, loving feelings can be built up again on a foundation of positivity. No complement is too small! Picking out something to complement your spouse on helps you re-spark your passion for all of your spouse’s positive qualities.
2. “I resolve to thank my spouse more often.”
Expressing gratitude is another way to reintroduce positivity with a marriage resolution. Studies have shown that spouses who show appreciation towards each other tend to have happier, healthier marriages and better sex lives than couples who don’t! How’s that for a reason to say “thank you” more often?
3. “I resolve to surprise my spouse with passionate kisses.”
Many couples later in their marriages (especially after children) find themselves bemoaning the lack of sex in their partnership. Where did that spontaneous desire and arousal go? Why, when they used to make love daily (or more) they find themselves forgetting about sex most of the week? Problems with sex in marriage can come from many sources, including physical issues, stress or boredom, and loss of trust or emotional intimacy.
However, another often overlooked source of lack of sex has an easy fix. Many couples mistakenly believe that (spontaneous) arousal must proceed and intimate encounter. However, spontaneous desire naturally fades as people grow older and become accustomed to each other. Amorous kissing and caressing can come first, with no roaring desire to have sex at the root of your actions. Make a marriage resolution to surprise your spouse with a passionate series of kisses and make-out sessions. You may find that your sexual desire hasn’t in fact disappeared, it just needs to be triggered in a different way.
4. “I resolve to text/email/call my spouse while we’re apart during the day.”
Many spouses spend most of their days apart. While having individual time to pursue your career and interests benefits a marriage partnership, it can also drive you apart. Reaching out to each other with sweet or spicy messages during the day reminds you of your connection and inspires thoughts of each other. A simple and fun marriage resolutions to upgrade your relationship!
5. “When I start to feel angry, I resolve to use the exit-reenter technique.”
The “exit-reenter technique” is a Power of Two fundamental for dealing with escalating anger. On a scale of 1-10, your anger with your spouse should never go about a 2. That’s pretty low! The truth is, every bit of negative emotion that you direct at each other has a devastating effect on your marriage. Anger is a learned behavior, an automatic reaction, that, consequently, can be unlearned. By exiting a conversation the moment you feel irritation rising, you can slowly lower your anger ceiling. Most important to this approach is to re-enter and re-engage in the conversation after you have cooled down. Learn more about anger and “exit-reenter” on the Power of Two website.
6. “When my spouse says something I disagree with, I resolve to ask for more information'”
Many, many conflicts in marriage center on spouses disagreeing over approaches to a problem. For example, after work your spouse wants to go to the gym together but you want to spend time with the kids as a family. This conflict seemingly has no resolution; either you do what your spouse wants, or what you want. However, instead of beginning to argue about how your spouse is ignoring the family, or ignoring your desires, or any other possible list of offenses, stop and ask the question that really matters: why? Why does your spouse want so badly to go to the gym? Your spouse may reply that her primary underlying concern is to get some exercise after sitting in the office all day. With this information, you can come to a new win-win solution to the problem. For example, the whole family goes to the park and plays soccer or takes a bike ride together. Family time and exercise!
Whenever you encounter your spouse’s opinion differing from your own, make your automatic first reaction to ask “why”? See how much more understanding, and how many fewer arguments, this technique gets you.
7. “I resolve to let my spouse and kids know when I need ‘me-time’; and to take it.”
A healthy marriage is built on the foundation of two healthy individuals. It is far from selfish — in fact, it is essential — that you take time to pursue your interests, nurture friendships, and take care of your mind, soul, and body. Feelings of frustration, boredom, and restlessness are all signs your body sends you that it is time for a break. Heed these alerts rather than “plowing through” and you will find yourself much better able to handle the stresses of marriage and family. Make sure, too, that you let your spouse and kids know when you need a break. This models healthy self-care and boundary-setting.
8. “I resolve to vocalize my doubts and worries.”
The earlier the better is the rule when it comes to talking about marital issues. Of course, disagreements and minor differences are a natural part of living together and not every little thing needs to be worked out. At the same time, reoccurring or particularly bothersome behaviors or situations should be dealt with ASAP. Rather than hoping irritations or concerns will go away, resolve this year to be open with your spouse about situations that bother you.
One caveat, however, is to know how to present your concerns tactfully. In general, it’s best to find a time when you are both calm, fed, and undistracted to gently bring up any worries you encountered during the day or week. Learn more about how to communicate with your spouse at Power of Two Online.
Best of luck with your resolutions! Check back in each month and give yourself an evaluation. Are you on track with your promises? If not, try using a timer alert on your phone, computer, or written on a calender to remind you of your resolution. For example, set up an alert for noon each workday that prompts you to call your spouse. Or, make a note each weekend on your calendar to set up a time to have a marriage “check-up.”
Happy New Year!