Yes, it's that time of year again — the time when millions of recovering people make promises about how they will finally get rid of unwanted personality quirks and break long-standing bad habits. However, reaching for gold standard goals in the excitement of the New Year can make for unrealistic expectations and broken promises.
Don't get me wrong. I'm in the business of helping recovering couples become the best they can be together. And sometimes the best New Year's resolution you can make is to stop focusing on the gap between where your relationship is now and where you wish it to be. If you can accept your relationship as it is, then you are free to celebrate how far you've come in the last year. That's a darn good way to start off the New Year.
As you clink your glasses of soda water on New Year's Eve and ponder what resolutions you might make, I would like to appeal to your greater intelligence to take the following three resolutions OFF the table:
I know it's not fun to be fighting with your partner. It's distressing, uncomfortable, lonely, and well, downright painful. But, ironically, the decision to stop fighting is tantamount to the decision to stop loving. Secure couples fight, and they sometimes fight a lot. So, stopping yourselves from fighting is counterproductive if you want to move toward a secure relationship.
Here's an alternative. Make a resolution to learn how to fight better. Resolve to stop and calm yourselves down when a fight gets too heated, and to take a moment to return to feeling connected before you continue the fight. Remember, the flip side of fighting is loving, and the flip side of conflict is connection. They go hand in hand: you can't have one without the other.
Meditation has many, many benefits for both individuals and couples. It helps you to regulate reactivity. It boosts your immune system. And it gives you a spiritual zone to enter with your partner. The problem with making the resolution to start meditating for a set amount of time each day with your partner, especially if you've only been doing it irregularly, is that you may end up not doing it at all.
Here's an alternative. Resolve to do a 3-minute mindfulness meditation with your partner at least once a week. You can slowly increase that by 30 seconds each time you mediate until you reach the 20 -minute mark.
Unless you are retired, are a trust fund baby, have no children still living at home, or are in the first year of your relationship, this resolution is a sure fire setup for failure. If you aren't already having great sex twice a week in your recovering relationship, then going for three times a week is a bad idea.
Here's an alternative. Resolve to have sex one more time a month than you are having now. And during that one additional time, resolve to go a little slower, have a little more fun, and be a little more open about what each of you would like to explore. I'm not trying to stop you from going for the gusto in your sex live, I just want you to be able to go for the gusto and succeed. The less pressure, the more likely you will follow through.
Personally, I don't see the point of goosing your relationship to greater heights just because it's the New Year. Any resolution of value is something to work on every day of the year in a slow and steady manner. But if making resolutions is a meaningful practice for you, go for it. Just be sure to align your resolutions with the spirit of the alternatives I have described. And have a Happy New Year!
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