A New Year’s Resolution for Your Relationship

Couple in warm clothes holding burning sparklers near river

Another year has flown by and many people are thinking about what they want from the new year. It’s rare to get through a day without someone asking, “what’s your new year’s resolution?” 

According to Statista, health was last year’s number one resolution. That’s followed by personal improvement, career advancement, etc. Focusing on yourself and your career as you look to the new year is normal, but you shouldn’t neglect your relationship. 

Setting a New Year’s resolution for your relationship may be a new idea for many. In the Statista list, improving one’s relationship is something only 11% of people do. But prioritizing one’s relationship in the New Year can bring a lot of good to your relationship and your personal life. 

Even the best relationships can always find additional ways to improve or make things better. Sometimes we just need minor tweaks here or there to keep things running smoothly. The New Year is a fantastic time to introduce new ideas or raise questions you’ve been hesitant to ask about. 

As we grow together, we change and evolve as people. It’s always good to check in as a couple to see how those changes impact the relationship. 

How to get started? 

It goes without saying that it’s essential to make your New Year’s relationship resolutions with your partner. Healthy communication is vital here. You’ll want to find some quality time where it’s just the two of you, where you can talk openly without interruptions. 

Go into your talks with an open mind and try to avoid rushing to a defensive response. Take time to truly listen to what your partner is saying. Let them voice their complete thoughts without rushing to interrupt or add your two cents. After taking turns, then open things up for conversation. 

Start With the Good

It’s easy to fall into defensiveness or justifications when looking at what needs to be changed. One person can feel like they’ve failed or that everything that needs improvement is because of their actions. So, start off by reflecting on all the good things that have happened over the last year. Don’t get entirely lost in what needs to change. Take turns thanking each other for little things they’ve done that might have gone unappreciated throughout the year. That way, everyone’s in a good place to think about positive changes for the future. 

Be Clear

When setting your resolutions, strive to stay open and curious about your partner’s perspective while clearly stating yours. It’s important for both of you to share what matters to you and what changes you would like the two of you to work on while also being open to hearing what your partner feels and thinks about what you are bringing up. For example, you could try something like, “I would like us to spend our dinners asking each other how our day was rather than watching TV, and this matters to me because… and I would love to know what your thoughts are on that and what your preference is and why”. Try to avoid targeting your partner with phrases like “you are always on your phone…” or “you never pick up after yourself…” instead focus on how what is happening impacts you and share that with your partner. For example, instead of saying, “you are always on your phone” you can say “I feel dismissed and unimportant when you use your phone at the dinner table.” 

Keep Things Realistic, Relevant & Specific

Resolutions work best when they’re practical, specific, and attainable. Change rarely happens overnight, and if our resolution is too big, too vague, or unrealistic, we are not going to maintain it day after day. Focus on breaking down what you want in your relationship into small manageable actions both of you can implement. Saying that you’d like to “have a better relationship” is vague and hard to measure. Instead, use that to guide you into figuring out what actions would make you feel that your relationship is improving or is what you want it to be. For you, a better relationship may be one where the two of you take the time to focus intimately and deeply on each other. If this is the case, you may suggest weekly date nights or checking in with each other every night. For your partner, a better relationship may involve financial clarity and goals. Therefore, setting time aside to talk about your finances and check in with each other weekly or monthly would fill the gap for them..  

Example Resolutions

As we’ve said previously, the best resolutions are those that you come up with together and are specific to your relationship’s needs. We’ve included some example resolutions here to help kickstart your thinking. But please discuss and adapt these resolutions with your partner. Don’t just come at them with, “here’s something a counselor said we should do.” Use these tips as starters or springboards to begin your resolution discussions. 

This year, we’ll take one risk together

It’s easy to fall into a routine in a relationship. Work follows patterns, and to make things easier, you develop habits to make things more manageable and comfortable. Some comfort is good, but when things get too stale, problems emerge. Stepping outside your comfort zone is an excellent way to spice things up and develop more intimacy in your relationship. Trusting that your partner has your back while you try something new will help build trust. Maybe that’s a trip to somewhere far away or starting a new hobby like taking art classes, going out for dancing, or joining a cooking class. Every couple has their own threshold, but try to find something that makes you feel a little uncomfortable or nervous and then push through it together!

This year, we’ll learn something new about each other

We don’t want to admit it, but many take their partner for granted over time. It’s not something anyone plans on doing, but it’s human nature to get used to what we’re around daily. Your partner is continually growing and evolving. They were terrific when you met, so you wanted to spend your life together. But year after year, they grow even more special. Find ways to take time to rediscover your partner. How are they changing at work? What new things are they interested in? Ask if it’s OK to get involved with any new interests or passions they’re developing. 

This year, we’ll get new couple friends

Many couples can become isolated or distanced from social networks over time. You get off work and just want the comfort of your partner or spouse without having to deal with other people. Finding and spending time with a new couple can be challenging. Still, it can add a new dimension to your relationship. New friends bring their own perspectives, insights, and passions into your lives. It’s not all selfish. You’ll be able to pass off everything you’ve learned in your time together as well, helping the new couple as much as they’re helping you. Getting to know new friends will help energize your relationship and give you that new relationship spark. 

This year, we’ll set aside distraction-free time to talk

We’re all guilty of multitasking and not giving our all to our partners. Phones, computers, and the newest Netflix shows are all pulling our attention away. We “listen” to our partner while scrolling through our feeds. For the New Year, try to set aside some uninterrupted time for each other. You can start small, like 15-30 minutes, where the phones are down, and the TV is off. Over time you’ll most likely find that you want even more time and look forward to the distraction-free time more than the technology time. 

This year, we’ll be more appreciative

Couples who show gratitude for each other are happier and more likely to stay together. We love being around people who build us up and aren’t constantly pointing out every small failure. Everyone needs to feel validated. When we feel appreciated and supported, we listen better and feel closer to the other person. Maybe you aim to start with one compliment a day? Try to find various compliments that mix the expected with some elements of surprise. We all know to compliment our partners when they dress up for a date night (hopefully, right?). But we also need to acknowledge the little things they do silently in the background throughout the day. 

Wishing you the best in the New Year

We hope you have a fantastic year as an individual and in your relationship. Set goals for yourself as you usually would for the new year. We all need to grow and develop into the best version of ourselves

But please don’t neglect to also set some goals for your relationship in the New Year. Your marriage or relationship is one of the most important relationship you have in your life and is worth the time and attention. 

The act of coming together to work on resolutions shows your partner that you are committed to improving your relationship. And that won’t go unnoticed and unappreciated. 

Here’s to a Happy New Year and a deepening of your relationship this year!

Maha Elias is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC), Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC), Comprehensive Family Mediator (FMC), and sexual health and trauma-informed couples therapist with a private counselling practice in Victoria, British Columbia.

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