Congratulations — you did it! You and your partner successfully made it through the stressful holiday season, survived financially-draining gift giving, and probably even shared a NYE midnight kiss to celebrate. But why stop there?
I see you goal-getters out there — you’re setting intentions for work and goals for your finance, journaling resolutions for wellness and mantras for mental health. So why not do the same thing for your love life? Whether you want to talk them through with your significant other or make individual goals to be more mindful, include one (or all!) of these relationship resolutions in your 2019 goals. By the time 2020 comes along, you might just be in the best relationship of your life — just wait for that NYE kiss!
1. Focus on finding the good
It’s no secret that optimism and gratitude make for a happy life, but they make for a happy relationship, too. While it’s incredibly easy to notice and vocalize what your partner does wrong (forgot what you said about your meeting last week, make corny jokes, not unload the dishwasher, again), this leads to resentment and unhappiness on both sides.
When you find yourself thinking about your partner’s flaws and shortcomings, try to reframe negative thoughts with what you love about them and what they do to make your life better and happier (i.e., brought you flowers when you got that promotion, is a lot of fun when you go out, or walks the dog every morning). Every day, think of at least one thing you’re grateful for in your partner to reframe your mind to start noticing the good.
2. Plan more dates
If this one seems like it’s too hard of a goal to set with your busy schedules, you probably just need to reevaluate your definition of “date.” A date should be any time the two of you get quality time alone, whether it’s dinner and a movie or a walk to your local coffee shop in the morning. For the record, it does not mean watching TV before falling asleep or eating dinner while you’re on your phones. Schedule a date and take it seriously — even if you’re tired after the kids go to bed or short on money, commit to making quality time a priority. This could mean sitting down to a homemade dinner (and putting away phones!), or going on a picnic in the park. Aim for a specific number (once every week or two), and schedule it into your calendars so it can’t be pushed back or forgotten.
3. Show love with your partner’s love language
By now, I’m sure you’ve realized that your partner doesn’t exactly feel love the way you show it, and might not give love the way you feel it. We call this “love language,” and it is arguably the single most important quality in happy relationships. If you haven’t yet, take the quiz with your significant other to find out if your love languages are acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, or physical touch. Then, identify the ways in which you can act in your partner’s love language on a regular basis, and live more consciously with their love language in mind.
4. Actually tell them what you want.
I know, I know — when you’re hurt or disappointed, sometimes it’s worse to ask for what you want, because you want them to just know. Or maybe we don’t want to come off as high maintenance or needy. But the truth is that no one can read minds, no matter how long you’ve known each other. If your partner is worth keeping, they’ll want to do what they can to make you happy. That doesn’t mean they’ll always just know how to do it. Whether it’s your sex life, how you want to be loved, or the help you need around the house, work on communicating exactly what you want from them, and listen when they communicate with you.
5. Set your own career and life goals to achieve together.
While you’re busy making your own New Year’s resolutions (better budgeting and eating more greens, here we come!), make sure you clue your partner in to what you want out of this year, and learn what they want as well. Build common goals together, whether it’s financial (down payment on a house), or wellness (put away screens an hour before bed). Even if you don’t work together, and prefer to keep your personal and career life separate, you can still hold each other accountable to reach career goals you know you want to accomplish. Making goals for your life together or sharing your personal goals will feel like you’re on a team, and you’ll both feel more supported.
6. Try something you both haven’t done before.
Get out of that relationship rut — try rock climbing, take a pottery class, or just check out the new Thai restaurant down the street instead of your usual Italian take-out. Getting a little adventurous makes the relationship feel fresh and new, and trying new things with your significant other will help you learn more about them. Not to mention it will make for great stories and inside jokes later on when you mess up your ceramic vase or get food poisoning from the Spicy Thai Basil Chicken.
7. Be more physically affectionate (in unexpected ways)
Those of you in LTRs probably can relate to the struggle — after a long time together and through the busyness of life, hand holding, kissing, and intimacy become restricted to routine. Kisses when you say goodbye, hand holding occasionally, and sex is restricted to post-bedtime (and maybe even only specific nights of the week). Bring out the innocent days of your relationship’s youth and make out like a teenager during a random time in the day, hold hands or snuggle when you watch TV on the couch, and give your partner random hugs throughout the day. Physical intimacy immediately corresponds to emotional intimacy, so making the physical a priority (and switching up the routine) will make you feel emotionally closer.
8. Plan a trip
Maybe your relationship is on the newer side and this would be the first trip together, or maybe you’ve been together for years and have trouble getting a babysitter (or dogsitter) longer than a few hours, much less overnight. But if you can make it work, scheduling a trip could be a game-changer for your relationship. Getting out of your comfort zone together and spending an extended amount of quality time will make you feel more connected than ever. If overnight isn’t an option, for budget, time, or otherwise, try a day trip to a nearby beach, theme park, or landmark. The idea is to spend a longer amount of time together than your typical dinner date, and get into a totally new setting.
9. Make your partner laugh more.
You’ve heard it before — laughter is the best medicine. But it’s also the key ingredient to friendship, and friendship is the key ingredient of a relationship. Basically, laughter is the solution to just about anything (haven’t you watched Bridesmaids after a breakup!?). We try to be funny and impress first dates, but after the first date turns into the 10th, 100th, or 1000th, we care less about impressing our significant other. However, laughter is proven to be more about bonding social relationships than about humor. Laughing together makes you feel closer. So instead of always telling your funniest jokes to your coworkers around the water cooler, save some for your partner, or watch your favorite comedy together (the one where you laugh at all the same parts!).
10. Consider therapy
Even if you don’t have any serious “problems,” an outside, unbiased professional can help you better communicate to each other. This not only avoids more serious problems in the future, but will make your communication GREAT instead of just “fine.” However, if you have been struggling with some long-term fights or bigger problems that you’re having trouble solving on your own, a relationship psychologist is the perfect resource to help you work through issues and get your relationship back to a more loving, trusting, or happy place.
11. Say “I Love You” More
When do you say “I love you” in your relationships? When you’re hanging up the phone? When you’re going to bed? It’s the same as physical touch — when it becomes routine, it loses some of its special meaning. Take it from Yoko Ono (“The regret of my life is that I have not said ‘I love you’ often enough”) — you could never say “I love you” too much, but it is possible to not say it enough. Make sure to voice it at unexpected times like after they make you dinner, while giving them a hug, or just sending a random text in the day at when they’re at work. Say “I love you” more than you talk about household chores, to-do lists, or fights.
12. Do a digital detox
Sure, in these modern days, smart phones can totally help your dating life. After all, all you have to do to meet someone is swipe right, and all you have to do to see your LDR Sig Oth is to pull up FaceTime. But when you spend dates sending text messages to other people or scrolling through Instagram instead of talking? Let’s just say it can’t be helping with your bond. Focus more on your emotional connection than your WiFi connection — put away the phone when you’re spending quality time, and set boundaries for limiting phone use when you’re together.
13. Actually forgive and forget
Anyone in a relationship has been through the cycle — one person does something that bothers the other, there’s a miscommunication, the fight escalates, someone apologizes, and the fight (hopefully) ends. We all also know the feeling of forgiving because you just want the fight to be over, or because you don’t know what else to do, but not totally getting over it. We see this in the next fight, when we can’t help but resort to bringing up our partner’s mistakes that caused the last incident. Rehashing old fights happens all the time, but they’re not always productive.
If you’re forgiving your partner, that means you should “forget” it. It means that you’ve worked through it, you’ve seen their perspective, and feel they have seen yours. Your relationship will be better because you understand each other better. So don’t forgive until you feel that way, and don’t bring up past fights or mistakes in new arguments — if you’ve actually forgiven, that means the past issues are understood miscommunications, not problems that need more working through.
14. Change your argument language
The way you speak has a huge impact on everything from the closeness in your relationship to the way the two of you communicate. When you’re articulating something you’re mad about, always use “I feel” instead of “You did.” Focus on why you felt hurt, instead of what they did to make you feel that way. Say, “I feel like you don’t appreciate all that I do because I worked hard on a dinner that you came home late for,” instead of “You messed up because you’re late.”
Say “I understand” when making a point, and acknowledge their defense instead of ignoring it or feeling put off (i.e.”I understand you’re under a lot of stress at work, and I’m proud of you for all the extra effort you put in. But sometimes, it makes me feel like I’m on the back burner”). Always remember that the fight should be the two of you against the problem, not the two of you against each other. The goal should be how to avoid the problem in the future, not who was right about the problem in the past.
15. Pick an outdated relationship rule to ditch
Whether you’re single, talking, hooking up, friends with benefits, dating, engaged, married, or any other possible love life label (there’s a lot these days), it’s time to rid yourself of an outdated rule that’s stopping you from getting what you want out of life. Pick one of these outdated relationship rules (or all seven) and set your 2019 intention to ridding yourself of any harmful habits or thoughts that these rules have implanted in your mind of what you should or shouldn’t do. Because 2019 is about getting your best life — key word: your best life, and whatever that means to you.