New year, new marriage. Well, sort of. Whether you just got hitched or are coming up on your 10-year anniversary, it’s never too early (or too late) to start working on your relationship and building toward a healthier, happier future together. But exactly what goals should you set, and more importantly, how in the world will you actually get yourselves to stick to them? That, couples, is the million-dollar question.
According to research from the Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately 8% (yep, you read that right) of Americans actually make good on their New Year's resolutions, which, admittedly, doesn’t look so promising. The biggest problem, however, isn't so much everyone's follow-through as the actual goals themselves. Instead of thinking big (i.e. we’ll do spinning together five times a week), in reality, it’s best to start small (i.e. we’ll do one spinning class a week) and work your way up from there.
You’ll also want to get much more specific with your resolutions, as opposed to keeping them very vague and general. For example, don’t just vow to be more affectionate next year; find measurable ways you can achieve this goal, like touching each other every time you watch TV, and make that your New Year's mission. See—easy, right? And definitely not nearly as overwhelming as just trying to get in more physical touch.
From learning your partner's “love language” to playing the appreciation game, we’ve put together 18 New Year's marriage resolutions to get the love flowing and the bonds growing in the coming year. Remember: you can tailor any and all of these to make them reachable and achievable for your own relationship.
Plan a Weekly (Or Bi-Weekly) Date Night
Practice More Positive Talk
Vow to say five positive things for every negative remark toward your spouse, recommends Sherman. Not only will this help nip the negativity in the bud, but it will also build both of you up and encourage you to focus on the good in each other—as opposed to dwelling on the not so good.
Play the Appreciation Game
Every evening at dinner, practice telling your S.O. one thing you appreciate about him or her and have them do the same for you. It can be something specific like how they helped you solve a dilemma that day or more general like the fact that they work their booty off to support you and the family. Switch it up nightly, and let the love flow.
Actively Seduce Each Other
“Dream up something unique to do together in the bedroom, make a plan at least a week out and let your partner know something special is coming.” Drop hints along the way (sexting works well) until the big, unforgettable night. “The elements of surprise and anticipation that this helps create are critical to a lasting, powerful sexual relationship.”
According to marriage and family therapist, Alicia Taverner, LMFT, owner of Rancho Counseling, the best New Year's resolution for couples is to fight fair.
“This means refraining from things like name-calling, criticism, attacking personality or character traits, and bringing up past issues into a current fight. You want to fight about the topic at hand and discuss it until you feel there is resolution or an agreement to disagree.”
Here’s how she recommends structuring the gripe: “I'm upset/angry/sad about ____. In the future I'd like it if you could ____.”
Touch Each Other Every Time You Watch TV
One thing that Crystal Rice, owner of Insieme Consulting, finds is that couples in trouble have stopped being affectionate in non-sexual ways—so, vow to do better.
“By simply sitting next to your partner on the couch, you increase the probability of affection, a commodity often seen far too little in long-term relationships,” she says.
Stop Lying About the Little Things
...Like looking good in a sweater that has gotten too small. Yep, you heard us right. When we lie about the little things, it gets easier and easier to lie about the bigger stuff, explains Rice. “And then one day you wake up and realize you've been lying about feelings, or thoughts, or concerns that should have been brought to light many months or years earlier. You don't have to be a rat about it. You can say, ‘I like you better in the blue sweater.’” Whatever you do, just don't lie.
Learn Your Partner’s Love Language
Take the quick quiz on 5lovelanguages.com and practice showing love in each other’s preferred language daily, suggests licensed marriage and family therapist Carrie Krawiec, executive director of Michigan Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
“The languages are quality time, words of encouragement, acts of service, physical affection, and gifts. Often we show our partner love in our language, which may not be theirs.” For example, “If we spend time picking out the best gift but our partner would rather have a massage (touch) or come home to the laundry all put away (service) then we haven't really shown love because we haven't translated to their language.”
Go to Bed at the Same Time
No matter what. This is a special time where you can connect after a long day, points out Cathryn Mora, relationship expert, couples' coach, and creator of LoveSparkMe. “Whisper, cuddle, share your dreams, bond, and be intimate, as it’s critical for married couples to connect in these ways.” Trust us, everything else can wait.
Take More Time for Yourself
Try to do something for yourself, be it a mani/pedi, reading a book, or simply catching up with a girlfriend, each week.
“It’s common that we lose ourselves in relationships and women, especially, tend to put everyone else's needs above theirs,” notes Dr. Nikki Goldstein, sexologist and relationship expert. “Me-time can make you a happier person and, therefore, an easier person to be in a relationship with. Not to mention, this happiness can also transfer to your partner.” So basically, it’s a win-win.
Set Sex Goals
Whether it’s once a week, three times a week, or whatever it may be, push yourself to have sex, urges Goldstein.
“We can get busy and tired these days and having sex at night can feel like the last thing on the list, but it's important to have a connection and bond with your partner. Often, when you get into it, the right feelings of desire, attraction, and connection can begin to occur.” As she says, “If you don't use it, you lose it.” True that.
Commit To "The Daily Question"
Every morning ask your spouse what you can do to make their day a bit easier.
“Just taking a moment to ask this question daily sends the message that you’re thinking about your partner even if they don't have anything in particular that they need you to do,” says Dr. Gary Brown, LA-based licensed marriage and family therapist.
Find a Project to Complete Together
“So maybe it's redoing the kitchen, training for a Tough Mudder, or taking improv classes. Preferably, the project should be something that puts you both out of your comfort zone.”
Don't Have Sex in the Same Location Twice in One Week
If you’re up for a challenge in the bedroom (and out), try this one. It’s a sexy game that keeps things fun and creative, says Xu. “The rule is, you can't do the dirty in the same place twice in one week. When you're pushed to think outside the box, you'll also start seeing your partner in a different light.”
If sex was good before, things are about to get very, very exciting.
Try Something New Together Each Month
As a couple, take the road less traveled by purposefully seeking out unfamiliar activities, advises Gary Lewandowski, professor and department chair of the psychology department at Monmouth University.
“Try a new restaurant, take a class together, or go on a getaway to a never before visited destination. Research shows that by doing these types of things, you will grow as a person and keep your relationship going strong.”
Make an After-Work Hug or Kiss a Habit
This may seem like a no-brainer, however, after a long day sometimes you get overwhelmed with work, cooking in the kitchen, or just wanting to change out of your restricting clothes and heels, notes Adelle Gomelsky Kelleher, matchmaker, dating coach, and relationship expert at Coaching Heart Consulting.
“All those things will happen, but it makes such a huge impression when you take a moment to simply acknowledge and appreciate your special someone with a hug and/or kiss and a quick 'hello, how are you?'”
End Every Night by Saying What You Love About Each Other
What makes happy couples so happy? According to relationship expert Lori Bizzoco, founder and executive editor of Cupidspulse.com, they see past the bad and remember to acknowledge the good. Before putting your head down on your pillow at night, she suggests telling your partner what you love about them.
“This helps you both wake up the next day with a smile and a heightened sense of appreciation for the other person. Go below the surface and admire your partner's work ethic, commitment to family, or passion for adventure.”
Set a Long-Term Goal Together
For fit couples, Bizzoco says you may want to plan to run a half marathon together and for adventure-loving couples, why not set a goal to hike that mountain you've been meaning to get to?
“Whatever you decide to do, making these long-term plans not only gives the both of you something to look forward to, it also allows you to work toward that goal in the meantime, creating more time together as a couple.” Amen!