It's that time of year, where we reflect on the year that has passed and the one that lays before us. We think about what we have accomplished, as well as what we wish we had. People often put their physical and emotional health needs on this list, but many overlook their relational needs. Your relationship is such a large part of your life, it is almost surprising that it does not get the same attention as some other goals. For this year, why not make relationship resolutions that if kept, could greatly strengthen your relationship by the end of the coming year? Here are six suggestions for resolutions that can make a huge difference in your marriage and your life in general.
1. Erase the past. Think of fights, failings and issues like a giant dry erase board. Clear that board, and allow your relationship a fresh start for the coming year. This choice and change can be powerful! It is choosing to live in the present, to focus on each other, and to stop bringing up the past when you have a disagreement.
2. Talk about money. At the start of the year, or just before it, talk about finances. Who will handle what? How much can be put aside, if possible? What are each of your views on money? What will make each of you comfortable and meet your financial needs as a couple? This is a huge reason couples fight, so one good conversation can save you a year of fights if you really put the effort in to resolve matters ahead of time.
3. Resolve to fight fair. This means focusing on the issue at hand and not each other. When there is something that you disagree on, stay on the topic and do not resort to personal attacks. If you stay on the issue, you are going to be focused and hopefully come to a solution. If you start to personally attack each other, feelings are deeply hurt and very little progress gets made towards resolving the issue you are disagreeing about.
4. Set realistic expectations of yourself, your partner and your relationship. Each of us walks around with a set of values and beliefs in our heads. Often, we hold other people to our personal beliefs and values, but we never share what they are. We have to always remember that other people, even our partner, are not capable of reading our minds. We will always be let down if we do not verbally express our needs. If we have expectations for our partner and for the relationship as a whole, we simply need to be realistic about what those are, and we need to share them with our partner.
5. Learn the art of compromise. While no one is asking you to compromise who you fundamentally are, learning to compromise on issues that are causing friction in your relationship can create a huge shift for you. We all want our way, and we think our way is the right way. There are going to be some issues that are so tied to our core values that we are not going to change them, but there are many other issues that are easier to compromise on. When each person meets the other person halfway, each partner feels like the other cares about their point of view and cares about maintaining peace and harmony in the relationship.
6. No list of resolutions could be complete without mentioning the need to work on communication. This can be quite an undertaking, but this goal alone can make a huge difference in the state of your relationship over this coming year. Make a promise to yourself and each other to do a number of things:
•Be an active listener. Really hear what your partner has to say, and let them finish what they have to say before cutting in.
•Be honest in your communication. Do not lie to your partner to avoid potential fights.
•Do not "mind read." Never assume what the other person is thinking or what their intentions are. Make a point this coming year to ask the simple, but important, questions. In doing this, you will better understand each other and avoid more fights than you can even imagine.
•Talk in a calm tone. People will meet you at the level that you meet them. Don't yell and the other person will not yell, or they will stop yelling.
If you and your partner choose to focus on and live by these resolutions for the coming year, you may find yourself reflecting back with a very different point of view next year. You may find yourself surprised at what a difference a year can make. Most importantly, you have made resolutions that truly matter, as they are about having the strongest relationship possible throughout the year. Stick with it, and there is no losing!