This new year might not motivate a new you for your own sake, but if we were to ask our mates, would they agree? While being our best self is always at the top of the list, being a better partner should follow pretty closely.
Just like any new habits, it may be hard to get started, but we do and we see improvements. Here are seven relationship resolutions pulled from The Seven Natural Laws of Love by Deborah Anapol, PhD—and how to make them stick.
Resolution #1: Be more understanding of my partner’s faults.
“You got one mo’ time to leave these socks on the floor!” The nagger or the naggee, nobody wants to be involved. (And, yes, men can be nags.) Before you get ready start bucking, think what about you could that makes your partner want to buck.
How to make it stick: Every time you’re about to let loose with a “You always/You never [fill in the blank],” stop yourself and ask, is it worth the argument? Instead, sit down with your partner and make a list of things that you’ll agree is worth a convo when needed, like paying bills on time or getting the car inspected, and agree to let the rest go.
Resolution #2: Have more/better sex.
“For a lot of women, the problem is they’re not satisfied with the sex they’re having, and they either complain about it or avoid it altogether. For men, there’s often ego involved—men want to feel they’re good at pleasing their partners.” (The words of Dr. Anapol, not me, but oop!)
How to make it stick: The key to a more active, satisfying sex life is to make it a priority, says Dr. Anapol. Set aside time to talk about how you can improve the situation (presumedly not when you’re in bed after a long, tiring day or mid-action.) “Find something you like and appreciate about what your partner does, and tell him what that is. Then follow that up with a request.” For example: “I love when you reach out to cuddle me when we get into bed. Can we spend more time doing that before we move on to sex?”
Resolution #3: Find happiness outside of my relationship.
Of course, you want to lean on your lover when times are tough, but when you’re too needy, it can be a turnoff. Plus we are all more appealing when we have our own lives and things going outside of our mate.
How to make it stick: Think of things that used to make you happy that you don’t do as much anymore, such as taking a dance class, getting back on the basketball court, or even just seeing movies your partner doesn’t enjoy—and do them. Have brunch with your girls, join the softball team at work, whatever! “Live your life as though it’s not wrapped around his,” suggests Dr. Anapol. Having interests and experiences that have nothing to do with each other means you have more to bring to the relationship.
Resolution #4: Increase my gratitude for my partner.
Nothing is worse than an ungrateful mate. Who wants to be reminded of what they are not and don’t have? And as the old saying goes, one man’s trash… we all know the rest. Expressing thanks creates a feedback loop: Your partner feels good, which makes you feel good, and so on…
How to make it stick: Dr. Anapol suggests at least once or week or so, say few things aloud that you’re pleased about and want to thank your partner for.” Like, “I’m grateful that you put a new bag in the trash can after you took out the trash” or “I’m grateful that you didn’t say anything about how much time I spent on the phone with my sister.” Then share it with each other. You can express gratitude physically, too. Did he get up and clear the dinner dishes without a word, letting you sit and read a magazine? Give him a hug at the sink.
Resolution #5: Be a better listener.
Classic female complaint: The men in their lives have what they call “selective hearing.” But being a good listener has to be mutual—maybe he didn’t “hear” you when you asked him to get the laundry out of the dryer, but you didn’t listen to him when he wanted to vent about his boss.
How to make it stick: When there’s something you want your partner to hear, ask him if he has 5 minutes to talk so you both can focus on the subject at hand. Shouting “Listen to me!” is sure to get the other person to shut down (or get yourself shut down), but sharing a few minutes of mutual active listening gets results.
Resolution #6: Show more interest in my partner’s life, work and interests.
Are you feeling guilty because you’ve been doing a lot of nodding and smiling as your partner tells you about his favorite sports team or latest work project? Or, do you just repeat back a random word or two when she’s telling you about the latest book she’s reading?
How to make it stick: “Try to notice things your partner is doing, and comment on them,” suggests Dr. Anapol. For example, “I see you were reading that finance magazine; I didn’t know you were interested in that. Tell me about it.”
Resolution #7: Institute a date night.
Busy couples, especially those with young children, always say that they’d like to make their going-out habit more regular, but too many keep it at the bottom of their to-do list. Date nights (or date afternoons or stay-at-home dates after the kids are in bed) are important, not so much for what you do, but for the ritual. By making dates regularly, you acknowledge that your romantic life is just as important as your job, parenting, household responsibilities, and so on.
How to make it stick: This may seem like a no-brainer, but the way to keep this resolution is to…just do it. “You have to create a day per week or every couple of weeks, and honor it,” says Anapol. “Take turns choosing an activity. Try some date-night foreplay, like sending an email or leaving a note for your partner saying how much you’re looking forward to it.” And though regular dates, especially when they require a babysitter, can get expensive, you can find ways to cut costs. Look for local listings of free or low-cost events, like an art opening or free concert, so you can spend your date-night budget on the sitter. And sometimes just being out of the house with you boo is worth more than anything.