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New Year's Resolutions and Prioritising "Us" in 2024

As the year starts to wind down, it is time to start pulling together the threads of the year, make sense of what we've learned, consolidate, and set ourselves up right for the year ahead. And as the saying goes, if we fail to plan, we plan to fail. If we want to prioritise ourselves as a couple in the new year, how do we do that? What might that look like? One way to think about it, is to schedule activities into our diaries/calendars. If you think about it, all the important things in life make it into our diaries/calendars/to-do lists. But what about our relationships? Is this one of the reasons that "We" often end up falling off the list in terms of priorities?

We might have the best intentions to prioritise "Us" this year. But the reason that many New Year's resolutions fail (research shows that up to 80% of resolutions fail by mid-February) is that:

  • the goals are too big

  • the goals are not aligned with your values

  • the goals are not measurable (e.g., if we say we want to communicate better, how will we now if we get there?)

  • the goals are focused on short-term change (reviewing goals and your relationship vision quarterly, six monthly or yearly is a good way to keep you on track).

So before you dive in into devising your #couplesgoals, reflect on how you can make small changes that are aligned with your values. Connecting (or tying together) a habit (e.g., a 'ritual of connection' of checking in with each other after work for 15 minutes) to another habit you already have in place (what is referred to as habit stacking) such as having a cup of tea after work, is much more likely to stick. Also make sure that your resolutions are SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-specific).

Here are some practical ideas to prioritise you as a couple in the new year.

1. Booking in a regular date experience

Prioritising yourself as a couple absolutely needs to include time for yourself. Time for FUN is so important for you as a couple to help you recharge, connect and enjoy each other. Getting out the calendar now and blocking out time across the whole year, means that this takes priority, and that all other plans fall around this. For some people this might mean once a week, for others once a fortnight and still for others, once a month. Do what you can with what is available to you. But keep in mind that all of the time that you invest in yourself as a couple will pay dividends, and regularity is key. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, but it does have to be regular. Brainstorm a list of fun things you both like doing together which you can rotate through. Look up events that are coming up this year and plan ahead to go to them.

Tip: To keep it simple I recommend that people stick to a regular time of the week or month - for example every Wednesday morning catch up for breakfast at your favourite breakfast bar. Or every last Saturday of the month is your date day. This makes it easier to remember. But also go ahead and block it out in both of your electronic and hard copy calendars now so that it's all set up for the year. As much as you can, plan ahead now too for baby-sitting/ child-minding/ care-giving/ pet-minding needs.

2. Relationship maintenance conversations

These are just as important as the fun date experiences. This is a regular opportunity to check in and see how the two of you are going - a bit of a meta conversation about 'Us'. Think of this as the equivalent of the weekly team meeting at work. You can structure this in a similar way as you would a work team agenda. Now is the time to think about setting these up on a weekly basis to make sure nothing festers, and you both are on the same track. Again, the recommendation here is to schedule 30 minutes into your diaries now with an electronic reminder, so that you commit to doing this weekly.

In terms of structure, it's nice to start with what you appreciate about each other in the last week. You can also get a sense of what has been going well between the two of you/your strengths (you could ask "What do you think we've been doing well in the last week?"). Then you want to talk about anything that has not been going so well and process that (make sure you listen well before jumping to problems solving). You can wrap it up by talking about something to do to make the other feel more loved in the upcoming week. [The thinking behind this is that we want to build up the positive to negative ratio of 5:1 - so we always have a number of positive things we focus on in this relationship maintenance catch-up. Even if you don't have something to process that hasn't gone well, you can still highlight some positives, and talk about something to do in the coming week to make the other feel more loved].

Usually, I recommend that couples build a little ritual around this as well - for example, sit in a regular spot with your favourite beverage, or go for a walk to the park, or catch up for a coffee in your local coffee shop - same time, same place each week. While that's the basic structure, many couples add going through the weekly grocery list, or what's coming up in terms of kids' activities/organisation. It's also a good idea to review on a quarterly or half yearly basis financial goals and life dreams to see whether you are on track with where you both want to be individually, and as a team.

3. Stay screen-free during meals

Being distracted by your devices, takes away from your interactions. Make a rule that when eating at home or while dining out, you put your phones and other devices away and out of sight (i.e., not turned over on the table where you can see it). Make sure you also turn the notifications off or put it on Do Not Disturb. The same goes for turning off your television during meals. (For more tips on how to use your phone more intentionally click here)

4. Prioritising physical affection and sex

For many couples, physical affection and sex is an important part of their relationship. Maintaining a healthy sex life takes work - it doesn't just happen. Research on 70,000 couples in 24 countries who have a great sex life, note that they all have this in common:

1.Say “I love you” every day and mean it

2.Kiss one another passionately for no reason at all

3.Give compliments

4.Give surprise romantic gifts

5.Know what turns their partners on & off erotically

6.Are affectionate in public

7.Play together, have fun

8.Cuddle (only 6% of non-cuddlers had good sex life)

9.Make sex a priority

10.Stay good friends

11.Can talk about their sex life

12.Have weekly dates

13.Take romantic vacations

You might note that none of the things on the list talk about sexual positions or how often people have sex, but certainly that prioritising sex is important, and creating the conditions in the relationship for people to feel close physically and emotionally, is important. Everyone has different takeaways from looking at this list. I recommend that people look at this list and pick a few areas that they as individuals feel they can improve on, and work on that.

Here are some other ideas for your couples goals:

  • Plan a vacation together - often this is as much fun as the holiday itself. Preparation takes dreaming together, cooperation, saving and creativity

  • Volunteer together - serving others is a powerful bonding experience

  • Read relationship books/listen to podcasts together - there are a lot of ideas out there which you can reflect on together (e.g., the Gottman Small Things Often podcast)

  • Sign up for an exercise or art class together

  • Consider which errands you can do together

There you have it, a few concrete, actionable steps to set yourselves up right for the New Year. Whatever goals you set - check that they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-specific). Also remember to keep yourselves accountable with regular check-ins.

Which of these resolutions might you implement for yourselves next year? Prioritising yourselves as a couple has great payoffs, not only for your relational wellbeing, but also for your own emotional and physical wellbeing, so it's well worth investing in.

Wishing you a wonderful New Year!

Disclaimer: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as counselling/therapy advice or used as a substitute for such. You should always speak to your own counsellor.



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