I see all you goal-getters out there—you’re setting goals for your career and your finances and you’re journaling affirmations for your mental and physical health. I’m proud of you! So why not set intentions for your love life while you’re at it? A fresh year is a perfect opportunity to think about what you and your partner want the next 12 months of your relationship to look like.
So whether you want to talk through relationship resolutions together or make individual goals to be a more mindful partner, we are sharing 15 ideas that can help you kick off a whole new year of #relationshipgoals.
Important note: We have these resolutions broken down into categories (based on how long you’ve been with your partner), but know that all of these resolutions can be helpful to implement at any point in your relationship!
If you only recently started dating…
Make your partner laugh more
We try to be funny and impress on first dates, but after a few dates (when the first date jitters are gone and you’re not as worried about being “fun and cool”), we put less effort into impressing our significant other. However, laughing together makes you feel closer and makes any time you spend together more enjoyable. So this year, instead of always telling your funniest jokes to your coworkers around the water cooler, save some for your partner.
Build common 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 into what you want out of this year and learn what they want as well. Build common goals together, whether it’s financial (grow your savings) or wellness (put away screens an hour before bed). 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.
Try something new
Whether it’s taking a class, going to a new restaurant, or experimenting in the bedroom, experiencing firsts together sets a great foundation for a relationship and can help keep dates fresh and exciting from the very beginning. But keep in mind that it’s important to try new things solo too. Taking up a new hobby, planning a solo trip, or learning a new skill can give you a chance to focus on yourself and to ensure that you have activities that you enjoy outside of your relationship. If you and your partner both have your own interests that you are genuinely passionate about, you will always have something new to talk about.
If you’ve been together for a while…
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 becomes 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.
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.
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.
If you live together…
Have tech-free time together
Even if you and your partner are spending plenty of time together, you might be surprised to find how little of it you actually spend truly focused on each other. The prime culprit for these distractions? Our phones. In fact, most of us check our phones 96 times a day, leaving little time to give our loved ones our undivided attention.
Make an agreement with your partner to put your phones away for at least some of the time that you spend together. Without the distraction of group messages or the temptation to scroll through social media, you will have more time to truly listen to and engage with each other.
Make sex a priority
Although you and your partner might have been tearing each other’s clothes off when you first got together, sex tends to become less of a priority as your relationship lengthens—especially when you live together. For many of us, the realities of life get in the way of having the kind of long and loud sex sessions that are the mainstay of many early relationships. But sex can be one of the most important and intimate parts of a relationship and should be treated as such.
Plan a trip
If you can make it work in the new year, scheduling a trip could be a game-changer for your relationship. Getting out of your day-to-day routine and spending an extended amount of quality time will make you feel more connected than ever. If an overnight trip 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 time together that doesn’t consist of unloading the dishwasher, making a grocery list, or sitting on the couch.
If you’re engaged…
Acknowledge the things you appreciate about each other
Especially when you’re overwhelmed with wedding planning, it can be easy to take your partner for granted. But research from the Gottman Institute and Love Lab at the University of Washington found that one of the best markers of a long-lasting relationship is how often one partner acknowledges when the other does something positive, according to The Atlantic. This theory of the “culture of appreciation” suggests that if you regularly express gratitude, affection, and respect for your partner, you create a positive perspective within your relationship that prevents feelings of contempt from arising later on. It suggests that the perfect formula for a healthy relationship relies on couples having five positive interactions for every negative interaction.
Although you don’t need to be keeping score, try to be mindful of the kinds of comments that you and your partner exchange. Are they negative as much or more often as they are positive? And how often do you praise or express your appreciation for your partner? Trying to reframe these interactions will help to ensure that you both feel loved and respected and strengthen your relationship.
Talk about the future
It’s important to know that you and your partner are heading in the right direction, and talking about the future can be a good way to do this. Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? How would you like your relationship to develop now and once you’re married? What exciting plans can you make over the next year? Talking about the future not only ensures that you want the same things, a crucial factor in the success of any relationship, but can also ignite your excitement about what lies ahead for you both.
Plan more dates
If this one seems like it’s too hard of a goal to set with your busy schedules and with the craziness of wedding planning, 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 or short on money, commit to making quality time a priority. This could mean sitting down to a homemade dinner 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.
If you’re married…
Even if you don’t have any serious “problems,” an outside, unbiased professional can help you better communicate with 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.