A new year has finally graced us with its presence so it’s the ideal opportunity to make some resolutions. While you may typically focus on yourself, your career, and your fitness regimen, there’s one part of your life you don’t want to neglect: your marriage.
Whether you’re living in wedded bliss or riding an emotional roller coaster, there are always ways to improve your relationship. Not sure where to begin? We’ve enlisted the help of expert Cate Mackenzie to run down some of the best marriage resolutions you can make this year.
Meet the Expert
Cate Mackenzie is a psychosexual therapist and couples counselor.
Stop sweating the small stuff.
Bickering about the laundry, who cleaned the bathroom last, or who needs to take the trash out? These petty arguments are cliches for a reason. According to a Yelp poll, 80% of chore-doing Americans who live with a partner report arguing about housework, so no, you’re not alone! However, now that the new year has dawned, it might be time to quit sweating the small stuff.
"Diffusing these disagreements is essential for making a relationship work," Mackenzie tells Brides. "Your partner may not fill the dishwasher as you would but if you micro-manage then you may find they don’t wish to clear the kitchen at all."
Hint: If you treat your partner like an adult, they will likely act like one. "No one likes to be treated like a child in an adult relationship," says Mackenzie. "It’s about finding ways to express your desires but equally give each other the freedom to be true to who you are."
Join the gym together.
Thinking of boosting your fitness this new year? Don’t go solo to the gym—enlisting the help of your partner could bring you closer together. Not only is this a fun, healthy way to spend time together, but it could also help you to see your partner in a brand new light.
"Training together can be very sexy. It’s enormous fun to put on your gym [clothes] and watch each other work out," says Mackenzie. "Swimming, doing a yoga class, and even being in the sauna together can induce flirting. When we see our partner in an outside environment it can help us to view them as a stranger again and this can be very erotic."
Make time for sex.
New relationships are hot and heavy. But over time things will start to naturally cool down. It happens. Chances are, you’re not going to be jumping each other’s bones every time you get a second alone forever. Making time for sex isn’t simply a tip—it has to be a priority. Losing that sense of intimacy with your partner could mean that you lose your bond or connection. It’s a risky game to play.
"It’s an illusion that sex will just happen, especially once that eros period has ended; between six months and two years," explains Mackenzie. "Once you have 'won' your partner, it can be tempting to go back to your life and fill it up with friendships, work, and activities...and then wonder where the sex has gone."
"For sex to be a continuum in the relationship, there needs to be lots of sensual fun experiences," she continues. "If you can make time for flirting, dating, touching, having fun, dressing up, and going out, then you’re more likely to keep this flame alive. Begin to create fun days or weekends together and bring back presence and safety so it can be possible to enable that sense of play again. This can relight the fire."
Try something new in the bedroom.
If your libido is waning, you may be bored with the old routine. We all crave newness and excitement, and so it’s worth considering how you can bring this to your bedroom game. Luckily enough, there are plenty of ways to shake things up and try something different.
"It’s a great idea to bring new ideas to the bedroom," says Mackenzie. "For example, you could try massage, buying sex toys, or experimenting with equipment. Sometimes it can be fun just to get a sexy outfit and walk around the bedroom to surprise your partner. Planning ahead can invite new sensory experiences that can enrich the connection."
Dedicate time to talking honestly.
Speaking with your partner should be effortless. Or, at least, that’s what many of us misguidedly presume. The truth is a little more complicated. When you’ve been in a relationship for a matter of years, it’s easy to fall into bad habits. You might switch off when they start talking about a certain subject or give automatic replies without engaging. Whatever the issue with your communication style, it’s time to tackle it.
"Listening to each other is important if you would like to feel intimate. It’s an art and we can assume so much about our partner without really taking the time to get to know them," shares Mackenzie. Taking some time away from the home could help. "You can begin by going out once a week and expressing affirmations and then listening to each other."
She continues, "Sharing can take courage but is so worth it. Practice by writing in your journal or speaking to friends first. Share what is happening in your life or what you desire. When you become clear, you may be surprised what your partner does for you."
Slow down and focus.
Okay, so you’ve finally sat down—without distractions—to talk. Now, what? One of the biggest mistakes you can make is constantly interrupting your partner. You might think you know them so well that you can predict exactly what they’re going to say. Not so fast.
"Taking time to slow down is crucial in a connection. You could take turns speaking and time each other for five minutes," says Mackenzie. Of course, this can be especially challenging if you’re disagreeing on something, but the same approach stands. "It can be triggering to hear your partner say difficult things but you can get help from a counselor."
Rediscover each other’s personality.
"There was something that drew you to your partner. Have you forgotten what that was?" poses Mackenzie. "Do you remember the early days of dating?" Cast your mind back to the start of your relationship. You were likely eager to learn all there was to know about your partner. Even the most mundane details of their lives were vital puzzle pieces as you meticulously put together the full picture. But something changed along the way.
Now that we’ve entered the new year, take the opportunity to rediscover your partner’s personality. Marvel over the things that make them unique. If you’ve been together for a long time, it should come as no surprise that they have grown and changed. Spend some time getting to know who they are now and how they have developed. You might just fall in love again.
Look for solutions to arguments.
Do your arguments get heated? One of the ways that couples may exacerbate their disagreements is by bringing other topics into the conversation. Stay on point. Rather than allowing a small issue to blow up, look for a solution that works for both of you.
"I often see couples argue the same points," says Mackenzie. "It’s worth seeing if you are missing important issues. For instance, one friend's partner is upset about coming home to a messy home while the friend feels that he is being fussy. What she is missing is that they probably have different values. When she dismisses this value, he feels disrespected. The solution may be to work out a way the housework is easier for both of them."
Share your triumphs with them.
Picture the scene: Your manager calls you into their office and offers you a promotion. It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for all year. You’re over the moon. Once you leave their office, who is the first person you text? It might be your parents or even your best friend. If you’re leaving your partner out of the loop, though, that could be a problem.
"We can take our partner for granted or not share important information with them," says Mackenzie. "If we don’t prioritize our partner, this will be destructive to the connection. It can leave it open for them to meet someone who is more interested in them."
Plan a vacation together.
When was the last time you and your partner got away from the hum-drum of everyday life? If you can’t recall your last break, call up the travel agents. "Taking weekends away or breaks can help couples begin to love, laugh, and have sex again," offers Mackenzie.
"Of course, this needs to be done in a way that works for you," she explains. "You could even take a break in your own home and plan walks, time in bed, a massage while turning off your phones. The message to your partner is clear: you are important to me. I know marriages that have become revitalized by weekends away."
Find some mutual friends.
Date nights are all well and good, but sometimes you might prefer hanging out in a group setting. That’s where mutual friends slide neatly into your social life. Believe it or not, having a bunch of people who know you as a couple could strengthen your connection.
"Couples can suffer from shame especially if there are any difficulties with family acceptance or feelings about not being good enough," says Mackenzie. "But mutual friends can promote the best in you both. You have a certain energy as a couple and it can be healing to have that love appreciated and recognized."
Show some gratitude for each other.
Taking your partner for granted? If you’ve been together for a long time, you may forget to show how much you appreciate your other half. The daily grind, worries, and your hectic social life can all get in the way of letting your partner know that you value them.
You can start small. "Even one specific appreciation expressed daily can change the atmosphere of your connection," says Mackenzie. Sure, you might not believe every word you’re saying at first, but give it time. "Try it out. Of course, this works better if you truly mean it but it’s always good to start the practice anyway."
Let go of old grudges.
Out with the old, in with the new—that should be your mantra this year. If you’re holding on to grudges from yesteryear, do both yourself and your partner a favor. Figure out how you can let them go. Moving on isn’t always straightforward but it’s sure to enhance your bond.
"Resentment pollutes the atmosphere between people," says Mackenzie. "We often can’t simply forgive and may need to be heard by the other. Find a way of releasing past pain. You can start by getting in touch with your feelings and writing about them, seeing a counselor, or expressing them to someone you trust."
Yelp. "Yelp Releases 'Modern Love and Household Responsibilities' Survey." August 7, 2019.