If having a better relationship is one of your goals for 2016, we want to commend you.
Because the very first step in getting what you want is to make a commitment. Setting an intention for the new year such as "I want to feel more connected to my partner" means you're already ahead of the game. Such an intention sets the pace for the year ahead and keeps you on track to having what you want -- if you follow up the intention with action.
Unfortunately, all too many couples set resolutions that are either impossible to keep or that actually work against the relationship. To see why, read on.
- Don't say you're never going to fight
By definition, being in an intimate relationship creates the potential for conflict. When you have two individuals with their own thoughts and feelings, these thoughts and feelings are likely to clash every so often. If you believe you can create a conflict-free relationship, you're going to be disappointed when the two of you butt heads.
Even worse, if you start withholding your thoughts and feelings in order to stave off a potential dispute, you will create distance and resentment in your relationship.
Think instead of what is the real desire behind your intention not to fight. Most likely, you want connection and harmony. And you can have that even when there's conflict -- by resolving to be emotionally transparent with your partner and to allow him or her to do the same.
Being emotionally transparent means that you express your feelings honestly and simply. "I got scared when I saw you talking to that attractive woman at the holiday party" is a lot more powerful than launching into a verbal attack. Granted, it's also a lot scarier -- but that's exactly what lets you know you're on track. When you express your feelings succinctly like this, you also cut out a lot of fighting, because you're quickly getting down to the root of the issue without making your partner feel judged.
Is this one surprising? Well, we're always scratching our heads when we hear people talking about relationships as if they were boring, drawn-out business deals: negotiation and hard work.
There's one sure way to zap the fun, pleasure, and joy from a relationship: having to "work" on it. Chances are, you didn't commit to your relationship because it felt like work. You committed because it felt like a breath of fresh air, one that gave your life renewed purpose and inspiration.
Here's what we think happened for you -- at some point since you committed to your relationship, you also stopped doing those things that already gave your life purpose and inspiration. And you started depending on your partner to make yourself feel fulfilled.
If you're feeling dissatisfied with your relationship, take an inventory of what you do for yourself that is entirely unrelated to your partner. Have you stopped a particular hobby you once enjoyed? Have you become wrapped up in caring for your children and doing a million tasks at the expense of indulging in things that give you pleasure?
Rather than working on your relationship, we have a radical resolution for you: this year, work on cultivating an experience that brings you joy. And do it for at least 10 minutes a day. Whether it's taking a class, doing a sport, meditating, or taking extra long showers, we guarantee that taking this time for you will do more for your relationship than working on it.
Like working on your relationship, compromise is another word that brings up dread. Compromise implies having to give up and settle. It doesn't sound like much fun. Instead, we advocate something much more appealing: embrace and celebrate your differences.
Often, people feel they have to compromise because they view their partner's feelings as a threat to the relationship: "If I don't agree with what he says, maybe he won't think we're the right match." Or they view it as a threat to themselves. "I shouldn't have to go wherever she wants on the weekends." In the end, neither person gets what he or she truly wants -- which is to exercise their desires AND have a connected relationship.
Katie and Gay's free relationship e-newsletter, Hearts In Harmony, explores the challenges and glories of lasting love. Based on the tools they've developed throughout their 30+ year marriage and taught to thousands, you'll learn powerful insights and practical techniques you can start using today -- whether you're in a relationship or eager to attract one. www.heartsintrueharmony.com