Make the new year an opportunity to give your relationship a fresh, fabulous start.
Tired of dealing with the same old problems in your relationship? It’s time to let go of all the negativity and make a resolution for improving life with your partner. Goal-setting isn’t only for you as an individual – it’s equally important to do
as a couple, whether it’s about improving your relationship in terms of finances, communication or spending time together. Think of all the aspects of your union that are making you unhappy and commit to overhauling them this year.
1. Improve your financial fitness
Money is one of the top issues that lead to divorce. Improving savings and investments and growing wealth together should be a top priority in your marriage. ‘When you make resolutions together regarding money, it’s important to understand each other’s “financial mindsets” and what money means to each of you,’ explains Open Doors Life Coaching founder Natalie Kirby. ‘For instance how much can each of you spend and save? How willing are you to sacrifice in order to make that investment a reality? Visualise the end goal – whether it’s settling your home loan, paying off your cars, saving for your kids’ university fees, aiming for early retirement or simply achieving financial freedom. Ensure your goals are clearly
defined so that your actions align with the objectives.’
2. Argue better
In any partnership there are occasional disagreements – which is a normal and healthy thing. These can’t be avoided, but it’s essential to have a foundation in place informing you of how to disagree constructively. Many people become fixated on being right, trying to prove their partner wrong, or bring other, unrelated issues into an argument which escalates the conflict and causes unnecessary pain and anger to their partner. At the end of the day, everyone just wants to be heard and feel validated. Change your old habits by ensuring you both hear and understand each other, without wanting to get your point across as quickly as possible. Refrain from being rude, making unfair, nasty comments or swearing. Don’t begin
sentences with ‘You always…’ or ‘You never…’ Moreover, stop fighting over little things. When you’ve been together
for a long time, you may find yourselves constantly bickering over the same issues. Change this by learning to let go, because it can cause resentment over time. If your partner has an irritating habit that isn’t a dealbreaker, let it go and learn to love them as they are.
3. Listen to understand
Crucial factors that keep marriages intact over the long term are effective communication and listening skills. When your spouse is talking to you, don’t just nod automatically while doing something else: really listen to what they’re saying. If they’re telling you about the terrible day they had at work, don’t interrupt and make it all about you. This tells them that you don’t care about their feelings. Stop texting on your phone, lower the volume on the TV and turn your whole body (not just your face) towards your partner. Respond by asking questions (‘How did you feel when your boss said that?’) and being supportive and loving (‘That must have been really hurtful’). Make suggestions, if necessary, or offer another way of viewing the problem they’re describing. Let them know they’ve been heard, validated and loved.
4. Be healthy together
This is one of those resolutions you (like all the rest of us) have probably been making for years, but just can’t seem to get right! Maybe it’s time to team up. ‘You’re far more likely to commit and be consistent as a couple than you are alone. Remember all those times you’ve sat at the dinner table with your salad while everyone else devoured fried chips and
cheesy chicken schnitzel, followed by ice cream for dessert? That’s probably why you gave up your diet two days later!’ says Natalie. Involve your partner when it comes to eating healthily. ‘Trying new recipes and cooking together can be a fun way to stick to your plan. You can start new fun activities together like hiking, playing a sport or gymming that will help burn calories. This will also help cultivate a stronger bond between you and improve the quality of the time you spend together.’
5. Some time spent apart
Remember to prioritise time to spend on your own. Relationship experts commonly advise making time for each other, but also for yourselves.
‘Remember that you were individuals before you became a couple. Maintaining your independence is vital for a happy
relationship because when you’re content as an individual, you’re able to give your best in the partnership.
‘You can’t pour from an empty vessel. Spending time alone doesn’t mean taking a solo trip overseas: it can be small daily
things like spending some time writing, reading, meditating, listening to music, having a long, hot bubble bath, windowshopping on your own or going on a spa day with friends: whatever you really enjoy doing.
‘Use this time to refresh and rejuvenate your own energies,’ advises Natalie.
6. Set boundaries
It may seem like a strange thing to do, especially if you’ve been together for a long time. Isn’t this something you should have done at the start of the marriage? Yes – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t re-examine those boundaries and remind
yourselves and each other of what they are. Having limits and ‘rules’ in a relationship isn’t a bad thing, from not touching each other’s cellphones to giving each other space to be alone at certain times or never badmouthing each other’s parents. These boundaries can protect your happiness and dignity, both individually and as a couple.
‘It’s easy to become relaxed and settle into certain roles and expectations of each other. Often people in long-term relationships start taking advantage of each other, like waiting for your partner to pay all the bills, take care of the kids or
do all the cleaning. We forget to consider how our partners are feeling: are they tired of always doing everything or resentful?’ says Natalie. ‘So when a new year begins, it’s a great opportunity to set fresh, healthy resolutions together and ensure the margins are in place.
‘Keep the lines of communication open and be honest with each other about how you feel, while also being fair. These are the foundations for creating healthy boundaries.’
7. Appreciate each other more.
When you’ve been together for a long time, you may start valuing your partner less and taking for granted the wonderful things they do for you. It’s easy to become complacent. ‘Reflection and gratitude are key as you go along your journey together. Since journalling can be such an effective tool for checking in with yourself (see page 94), write down in detail all the things you’re grateful for in your partner. This will remind you why you chose them, to begin with,’ says Natalie. Thank them for the things they do for you, even if it’s something as small as making you a cup of coffee or sorting out dinner for everyone.
FEATURE: NOLWAZI DHLAMINI PHOTO: STOCK.ADOBE.COM