Most people have made (and broken) New Year’s resolutions at one time or another. Perhaps you’ve promised to improve your life this year by losing weight, exercising more or quitting a bad habit.
Such self-improvement goals are great, but if you are one-half of a couple, the health of your relationship islikely to have the biggest impact on how happy you will be throughout the calendar year.
So, we’ve put together some simple “relationship resolutions” to help you put more love into your love life. If you are currently dating or married, these 12 relationship resolutions for the next 12 months will help you and your loved one to have a truly happy new year.
1: Make your relationship number one.
Every relationship requires work, and you have to be willing to commit the needed time and energy to it. So, the first step is to make improving your relationship a priority this year. If your loved one is truly important to you, they should be a top focus of your time and efforts.
2: Accentuate the positive.
It is OK to discuss ways your partner could improve or point out something they do that is bugging you. However, too much correction or negativity can make anyone feel unworthy and unloved. “We are quick to criticize and find fault and pick on shortcomings, but fall short on showing how much we care,” explains Sheryl P. Kurland, Author of Everlasting Matrimony: Pearls Of Wisdom From Couples Married 50 Years Or More. So make sure you are giving far more compliments than criticisms. Kurland recommends giving three sincere compliments a day to your loved one. “Three compliments a day is a simple reminder and easy way to make a conscious effort to ‘build up’ the relationship instead of breaking it down.”
3: Schedule a weekly date night.
In many long-term relationships, life gets busy and couples stop making time to really be together as a couple. By committing to having a date night once a week, you ensure that you won’t let your relationship slip through the cracks. According to a study by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, married couples who date each other at least once a week are three times as likely to be satisfied in love, and roughly half as likely to consider divorce, as couples who go on dates less often.
4: Have regular relationship check-ups.
Besides spending time enjoying each other’s company, experts recommend taking the time to regularly “check in” and check up on how each of you are doing, both in the relationship and with life in general. As relationship coach Ken Donaldson describes it, the goal is to not just talk about “superficial stuff,” but to discuss “what’s really going on. ‘Here’s the things I really like that you did’—accenting the positive—‘and here’s the things I’m having struggles with.’” By scheduling regular check-ups, you can prevent problems or resentment from building up, and be proactive rather than reactive.
5: Be present.
During these intentional times together, make sure that you truly are together. That means focusing on and listening to your partner rather than thinking about a work project or checking football scores. “Sometimes we’re together but we are barely paying attention to each other,” says psychologist and author Dr. Michelle Callahan. “We need to spend not just time together, but quality time.” She notes that in today’s world, that often requires putting away the iPhones or turning off the TV in order to give your partner undivided attention.
6: Play together.
Being in a serious relationship doesn’t mean you always have to be serious. So have fun together. Studies show that couples who take part in fun activities and laugh together feel closer and more satisfied in the relationship.
7: Learn to speak their love language.
Some people feel loved when you help them with simple household chores, while others would prefer you whisper sweet nothings into their ear. There are five “love languages,” or ways that people show love: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service and physical touch. By using the love languages that your partner is more attuned to, they will feel more loved and appreciated—and appreciate you more in return.
8: Perform random acts of romance.
Being romantic has a lot to do with being creative and thoughtful. For example, you can write little love notes to your significant other and leave them in unexpected places where they will eventually be found, such as in a sock drawer, a packed lunch or even in the freezer. Sprinkle such romantic gestures throughout the year to remind your loved one of what they mean to you.
9: Surprise them with gifts.
Gifts on anniversaries or at Christmas are expected, so there is a sense that they are given partly out of obligation. But if you surprise someone with a present on their half-birthday, or send them flowers on a random Tuesday “just because,” they know the gift is motivated by your love.
10: Get more physical.
Want to feel closer to your mate? Then get closer. Physical contact—even something as simple as holding hands or hugging—triggers the release of chemicals that help you bond emotionally with a person. And for some married couples, the goal should be to have sex more often. Pastor Ed Young, author of Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with Your Spouse, says that “Sex is the super glue of marriage” and should be a priority that busy married couples intentionally make time for. “Stop making excuses,” Young says, “and start making love.”
11: Don’t expect perfection.
Nobody is perfect, and therefore no relationship is perfect. There will be bumps in the road, but that doesn’t mean you should call it quits or that things would be better if you were with some other, similarly imperfect person. “Constantly visualizing ideal spouses makes you less happy because it creates more potential for unproductive desire or regret,” explains Joshua Coleman, Ph.D., author of The Marriage Makeover. Be willing to overlook small flaws or minor mistakes.
12: Forgive freely.
Forgiveness is essential for a long-term relationship between imperfect people. This includes being able to forgive yourself when you break a resolution (as most people do). One mistake doesn’t mean you have to give up on the resolution; you just re-commit to it for the rest of the year.
Regardless of whether your relationship is on the rocks or you are enjoying wedded bliss, committing to these 12 resolutions can help make your relationship stronger and last longer—both in this year and the years to come.