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When you sit down to write out this year's resolutions, don't forget to take the opportunity to pen few goals that will make your relationship even better. Here, our experts get you started with five that will stop you from bickering and could even make a few fireworks fly.
1. Nonstop nagging.
Says relationship expert and advice columnist April Masini, we often nag when we don't get the results we want. In other words, we're sick to death of finding the socks beside the hamper, so we get into a routine of telling our significant other to put them away until our floors are sock-free. But "you can become aggressive in trying to get those results," Masini warns, which won't do good things for your relationship. "The better strategy is to change your own behavior. Recognize that nagging isn't the best use of your time, and look for a creative solution to the need you want met instead of barking up the same tree over and over again."
2. Playing the blame game.
Is it never your fault in your relationship? "It's very easy when problems arise to immediately blame and shame our partners," says Alisa Ruby Bash, licensed marriage therapist in Malibu. But by playing the blame game, couples can quickly cross the line from a calm conversation into dirty fighting. "When we get used to aggressive name calling and hitting below the belt, it can be very difficult to let go of our wounds," Bash explains. "Although arguing is inevitable in even the healthiest of marriages, the way we fight our battles and the words we use can impact our entire future together. So learn to take responsibility for your feelings and reactions when discussing issues. Communicate authentically with kindness."
3. Not showing your appreciation.
"Telling your spouse you love him every day is easy, cheap and not fattening, but so many people don't do it," says Masini, who recommends showing our appreciation in even the smallest ways. Sending a sweet text message or going old school with a love letter tucked in your spouse's purse or wallet are heart-melting moves that don't cost a thing, she says. You could also purchase inexpensive items such as a book or single flower to show your appreciation for all your significant other does on the daily. "Make this the year where you really show your significant how much you appreciate him or her with little gestures," Masini says. "A year filled with little gestures is much better than one grand one."
4. Getting too comfortable.
Admits Bash, "we all can get too complacent at times." But when we stop putting in the effort we did in our dating days, "we risk losing the spark that brought us together in the first place," she says. "If we start to become more like roommates than lovers, it can be very difficult to find our way back to romantic love." Chemistry, says Bash, isn't always natural. It too can take work. So this year, "pay attention to your partner's feelings and desires," she says. "Try to resolve anger that builds up between each other. Make your relationship a top priority, even if you are parents. And take care of yourself so that you feel attractive enough to be sexual with your partner."
5. Staying stuck in a rut.
If you find yourself repeating the same things over and over and over again with your spouse, you could be stuck in a rut boring enough to put your relationship right to sleep. "Lots of us resort to certain behaviors such as having sex in the same position or spending date night only at dinner and the movies," she says, "but a great way to live is to shake it up in all corners of your relationship." Some ways you can shake up your relationship include spending time volunteering together, taking a cooking class, exploring a museum, or setting out on a road trip. "Shaking things up takes effort," Masini says, "but the payoff is finding new interests and new adventures as a couple, and that's a great reason to shake off the rut this year."