The start of the New Year is a time to reflect on the past, but more importantly to look forward to the coming year in El Segundo. It is a time to contemplate what changes we want (or need) to make to improve the quality of our relationship. To create a more satisfying relationship, it is important to first, look at yourself and determine what changes you need to make to achieve a relationship of more love, joy and peace.
Here are some tips that may assist you in creating a relationship of full respect and love.
- Put your relationship first. Make each other a priority. Make each other feel important by checking in during the day, planning a date night at least one time a month or hiding “I love you” notes in a handbag or pocket.
- Put down your phones! Cultivate real conversations. Connect over a cup of coffee in the morning instead of immediately checking your emails. Set rules for tech free meals, no tech in the bedroom, etc. Your undivided attention communicates to your partner, “You are important to me and what you say matters.”
- Listen More. If you are doing all the talking, you are not listening. The skill of listening sends the message that you care about your partner’s point of view; they have been heard.
- Be emotionally honest. Being vulnerable is hard and scary. However, it is what creates a deeper intimacy. It is important to let your partner know how you feel so they can help you. Focus on statements that don’t shift blame; take responsibility for your emotions. “I feel ____” is an emotionally honest statement. “You made me feel _____” is an example of blame shifting.
- Praise more. Acknowledge both the big and little things your partner does. Therapist, John Gottman, suggests that for every one criticism, five positives acknowledgments are required in order to come back to a place of relational respect.
- Have a shared goal. This is important to keep the relationship alive, connected and committed. Working on something together can bring laughter and learning.
- Be kind. Treat your spouse as kindly and respectfully as you treat others. Practice being more patient and tolerant. Your partner is the most important person in your life. See them worthy of your kindness.
- Try to see your blind spots. A blind spot is something your partner picks up on, but you don’t. It might be something your partner complains about repeatedly. Pay attention to that complaint and be willing to ask yourself if there is any truth in that complaint. This is your opportunity for growth and change.
- Be more affectionate. Hold hands, hug, cuddle, a kiss hello or goodbye are small gestures that make your partner feel loved. Research shows that a hug lasting as little as 20 seconds can decrease blood pressure, decrease heart rate, decrease levels of stress and increase the release of oxytocin (the feel-good brain chemical).
- Play together, be silly & laugh. Adult lives can be very serious and stressful; but not everything in your relationship has to be. Being playful is a great stress reducer. Watch a funny movie, retell funny stories of your past, go to the park and ride the swings, skip down the street, etc.
- Let go of the past. In order to let go of the past and those reoccurring arguments, stretch yourself to give your partner a genuine and heartfelt apology. Own your part of the issue. Commit that you will both move forward and not hold a grudge.
- Do what you say you will do. This is the basis of trust. When you follow through with your partner’s request it engenders feelings from your partner of, “you have my back.” When you say, “yes” to your partner you are initiating a contract. Stick to the contract! If you say “yes”, even begrudgingly, you do not get to punish your partner because YOU said, “yes”. A “No” answer might be uncomfortable for your partner to hear and for you to say but at least it is truthful and genuine. You might say, “I hear how important that is to you. However, I am not able to commit to that.” Be willing to have the courage to say, “no” if you are not able to follow through on your partner’s request.
Now that you have reflected on your own personal changes that could bring about a loving relationship it is time to sit with your partner reflecting on your shared goals. It is important that you are both equally committed to achieving the same goals. Make sure the goals are realistic and achievable. These shared goals can give a purposeful pathway that enriches your lives with meaning.
To find out if you and your partner are on the same page, sit together and answer the following questions. Another approach is to answer the questions individually and then compare notes with your partner. Next, combine the similar goals on a separate page. This is an opportunity for some negotiation and dialoguing. This becomes your template for your shared relationship goals for the coming year.
- How can we keep or bring back the fun in our relationship?
- How can we spend more quality time together?
- How can we build intimacy, both sexually and emotionally?
- What is something we can both do to improve our friendship?
- How will we let each other know about our physical and emotional needs?
- How will we handle jealousy, resentment or competition toward one another?
- How will we handle fights and bring them to a healthy resolution?
- How will we communicate and “check-in” with each other?
- How do we support each other’s individual goals?
- What is the most important aspect about our relationship? And how do we nurture that?
- Are these goals realistic and achievable and are we both willing to commit to them?
Lastly, reading a self-help book together is a useful tool to learn new and more effective communication skills. Two books I would recommend are:
Be patient – changes don’t happen overnight. Commit to take small daily steps towards your individual and shared goals. You will be surprised by the positive outcome and lasting impact!
May the coming year fill your hearts with love, your home with joy and life with peace.