The onset of a new year often kindles aspirational planning, also known as New Years resolutions. You want to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Your romantic partner is clearly part of this picture. They are a likely teammate you will look to for encouragement when the alarm clock rings early morning or the stress mounts at the office. Partners are hugely influential, so enlisting their support will greatly increase the likelihood of success as your motivation waxes and wanes.
Try creating resolutions and goals together—in service of the relationship. Couples resolutions can be seen as intentional shifts meant to strengthen the partnership—as the whole is stronger than the sum of the parts. Here are some ideas about how to put this into practice:
Commit to 5-10 minutes daily of guided meditation with a free or inexpensive app like Headspace or Meditation Studio. Find a comfortable, peaceful place where you can both breathe and learn to calm your mind. This will help the couple on many levels: you both start the day from a centered place; it will make you less reactive when conflict arises; it signals intention to yourself and your partner, which begets more care for the relationship. I’m taking taking my own advice and building my meditation practice. This short video addresses my own beginner experience.
Discover (or Rediscover) Your Faith
Spirituality will look different for everyone. For some, it is a return to something familiar with new eyes. For others it is a discovery of something enriching and supportive that uniquely fits their life now. Plugging into faith could look like you and your partner attending your place of worship more regularly. Perhaps you get more involved with faith activities, fellowship or go on retreats. Faith can be a much-needed mooring during stormy times. Having that shared connection, via a joint resolution, will strengthen the partnership during more trying periods through a common connection to a higher power.
Move Your Bodies
Notice I didn’t say lose weight? This is more about a sustained, shared commitment to physical activity. This might be a morning walk or an agreement to keep each other accountable with the gym. It also might be taking dance lessons together or joining a tennis club. Some sort of fitness helps both partners feel physically stronger and connected to their body. In turn, this connection can promote a healthy sex life—an important component to relationship.
Find a Cause
Life is busy and work demands a lot. Making time to volunteer may seem counter-intuitive, however giving back is incredibly enriching. Generosity (of time and/or money) is shown to increase happiness. People feel good when doing good for others. Doing it with your spouse will spread the love further still. What are you both interested in and passionate about? It could be feeding the homeless, maintaining hiking trails or gardens, supporting the local art museum or tutoring kids. Strategize giving your time to a cause that you both find compelling and offer your sweat labor.
Us Time/Me Time
Relationships do best when there is interdependence, which consists of mutual reliance versus the dreaded co-dependence. That looks like each partner having their own life (friends, interests, meaningful work) and a rich shared life of common interests and shared values. It is stimulating when partners bring new ideas and perspective into the relationship through individual experiences. That said, you also you want to build positive memories by having shared excursions, goals and friends you enjoy seeing together. This model requires each partner to be motivated to explore and secure enough to support their differentiation.
As the new year gets underway, consider other ways that you and your partner might join forces to achieve complimentary goals. Voicing these resolutions–even posting them somewhere (refrigerator or closet wall maybe) will increase awareness and likelihood of success.
Jenn Kennedy is a LMFT based in Santa Barbara, CA. She specializes in couples, addiction and LGBT. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-699-6834.