New Year’s resolutions can be motivators for much-needed change. Many experts recommend making your resolutions SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive) in order to better hold yourself accountable. But not all resolutions have to be SMART to be smart.
Fortunately, when it comes to your relationship there are several things you can resolve to do that will boost your bliss no matter how much more you do. Any amount, any time, in any way you do it, will make a difference. And, unlike many resolutions, these efforts will likely bring immediate rewards, keeping you motivated to do even more.
Here are five simple things you can resolve to do more of for a better relationship:
1) Open up. When you find yourself upset, irritated, overwhelmed and ready to act out or withdraw, try to admit what’s going on underneath. As the Jedi masters say, “Search your feelings.” Most of the time that we get upset about something small, there’s something much bigger going on inside. It might be a bad memory, an irrational fear, or a repressed feeling. It may be something serious you need to discuss with your partner, but often it’s something silly and that’s OK too! When you take responsibility for your own triggers, memories, and feelings, no matter how crazy they seem, you avoid lashing out and making things worse. And when you share these issues with your partner, you get the chance to heal a little bit each time.
2) Show you get it. Just as you want to be open about what’s going on with yourself, get ready to be accepting when your partner does the same. A simple acknowledgment of how your partner feels about something can be a revolutionary act. Try to just say “I understand” a little more often in any way you can. It can be in the form of a “That’s so awesome!” when something great happens for them, a “That is the worst!” when something bad happens to them, or a “I totally get why you would feel that way!” when they raise a relationship concern. It makes them feel loved and accepted and ready to better love and accept you in return. It expands your sense of their inner world to create stronger emotional connection. And it can almost instantly defuse unnecessary tension before a conflict begins.
3) Say thanks. “Thank you” is one phrase you almost cannot say too much in a relationship. Say thanks for little favors, for special things they do, for everyday things they do, for being who they are, for showing you a good time… for anything and everything. There are endless things to be thankful for about your partner so don’t hold back. The more little things you can find to be grateful for, the more you will feel fulfilled in your relationship and let your partner know you value everything about them.
4) Give praise. Similar to giving thanks, giving praise boosts your levels of love and appreciation. Unlike saying thanks, however, it helps to vary what you compliment about your love. Nobody will complain about being told they’re beautiful or handsome a million times, but if you throw in a mention about something else like their clever wit or sense of style then you’ll get a stronger reaction. Try to mention different things at different times. Just thinking about it will make you happier yourself and hearing new or unexpected compliments will make your partner feel amazing.
5) Check in. Relationships, like a lot of things in life, are a lot scarier, more complicated, and more difficult when we worry, speculate, and project. Remember that good love is supposed to be sweet, easy, and happy. When you feel like things are not headed in the right direction, it’s time to check in and get back on course. A check-in allows you to work out logistical issues like schedules and chores, talk about frustrations or successes at a time when you feel calm and safe, and reaffirm your visions for a life together. If you’re not in the habit of checking in, it can help to establish a routine of a brief weekly talk at the same time and place. Even when things are going perfectly well, make sure you both feel ready and willing to stop and talk things through once in awhile.