It’s easy to get off track with your New Year’s resolutions when you’re the only one holding yourself accountable. If you’re in a relationship, though, you have a leg up: When you set goals as a couple, you’re far more likely to keep each other focused on achieving them.
What are the best types of resolutions to make with your partner? Below, marriage therapists and counselors share seven resolutions that could make your relationship happier and healthier in 2018.
1. We’ll commit to small, measurable changes in our behavior
“Ask your partner if they’d be willing to test something out with you. Say that you’d like your partner to name something in everyday life they’d like you to change. And you’ll do the same. Start small. This isn’t about asking him to get fit or deal with an addiction. It might be something as simple as, ‘I’d like you to text me at least once during the workday.’ Keep it simple and specific. Don’t say, ‘I’d like to hear from you more during the workday,’ because that’s too vague, leaving it open for interpretation and misunderstanding. In all my years as a marriage coach, I can attest that it’s the small things that have the biggest impact. When you see the impact a small change can have, you’ll both feel empowered about tackling bigger ones together.” ― Abby Rodman, a psychotherapist and the author of Without This Ring: A Woman’s Guide to Successfully Living Through and Beyond Midlife Divorce
2. We’ll break up with our iPhones
“Divorce your phones this year. When you’re spending quality time together, park your phones at the door. Better still, shut them off when you’re spending couple or family time. Think you’re not addicted? Try spending a technology-free weekend. It may be harder than you think, but it will do great things for your relationship.” ― Winifred Reilly, a marriage and family therapist in Berkeley, California
3. We’ll commit to becoming better people for each other
“Often in a relationship, we focus on what we want from our partner and how we wish they’d behave. When we talk about change, it’s often focused on ways our partner could get it right ― or what we’re not getting from them. But when two people in a relationship are focused on what they can give their partner, the relationship becomes much stronger and more harmonious. This resolution has you both focus your attention on what you can give to your partner. ” ― Isiah McKimmie, a couples therapist and sexologist in Melbourne, Australia
4. We’ll treat each other as kindly as we treat our friends ― or even our local barista
“Couples often treat their friends ― or even much more peripheral people in their lives ― with more kindness than they do their partners. You may give your friend the benefit of the doubt without hesitation. Do you extend that to your partner? How often have you had a tense conversation with your partner in a restaurant, and when the server comes to your table, you switch gears, smile, and are pleasant to the server? Why not be that pleasant to your partner? This resolution is about understanding that kindness goes a long way in dealing with the differences of opinion that all couples have.” ― Diane Spear, a couples therapist in New York City
5. We’ll continue to share stories from our past
“Make a point to swap stories about your past: When you first dated, you were excited to share and hear stories about each other because it feels good to be known and to really understand one another. But then the focus likely turned to the day-to-day stressors and you stopped sharing stories. Make it a game to come up with the most interesting question about the past, and both of you answer it. Here’s a start: What was your favorite toy as a 5-year-old? What was your third grade teacher like? Who was your first crush? They don’t need to be mind-blowing questions, but you’d be surprised how much you learn about yourself and each other when you dive deep.” ― Ryan Howes, a psychologist in Pasadena, California
6. When we disagree, we’ll take turns talking and actually listening
“Make this the year you’re smarter about arguments. When one of you states your viewpoint, the other will say what he or she heard, then ask if they got it right. Once the first speaker says ‘yes,’ the other gets to state their own position and be heard. It can be tempting to compose our rebuttal instead of totally listening. Listening doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing. The active listening technique is so worthwhile because it fosters emotional intimacy. When most spouses really want is not to win an argument, but to feel understood.” ― Marcia Naomi Berger, a couples therapist in San Rafael, California
7. We’ll upgrade date night
“Commit to trying new things (new restaurants, new weekend activities, new vacation destinations, etc.), and doing so often. While having date nights at your favorite places can feel comfortable and nostalgic, getting stuck in monotonous loop can be death by a thousand cuts and lead to feelings of boredom and dissatisfaction in the relationship. Sit down in early January and write a list of 20 new things you’d like to try together in 2018, then post the list on your fridge. The list can serves as both a visual reminder to keep you both accountable to your commitment, and a source of ideas when you inevitably look at each other and ask, ‘So what should we do tonight?’” ― Spencer Scott, a psychologist in Santa Monica, California