What a tremendous opportunity we are presented with as we take time to rest and gather with friends and family and to make meaning of the year just past. What we believed to be important and took for granted in the beginning of the year radically changed in March. Unquestionably, 2020 was a struggle for many people, families and relationships and, through necessity, 2020 allowed us to strip back our deeply held values and priorities in life (for some it seemed to be toilet paper)! Priorities like safety, security, health, connection, time together, appreciation and gratefulness emerged as repeated themes.
How do you carry through these core values and dreams into 2021? Now is a time to focus on what you want to achieve in the year to come, to set goals, ambitions and dreams, to establish clear intention about your relationship and family. Setting specific, achievable and action-oriented resolutions in all areas of your life provides direction, stability and security into the future.
Make your relationship intentional; don’t let it drift, bobbing along on the surface while dissatisfaction bubbles underneath. John Gottman’s research shows that couples who prioritise their relationship and intentionally spend regular time together do significantly better. He said, “there is a noticeable difference between couples whose marriages continued to improve over time compared to those whose marriages did not. To our surprise, these successful couples were only devoting an extra six hours per week to their relationship.”
Importantly, start a conversation with your partner about what will grow your relationship in 2021. Focus more on positive needs - that is what you want more of rather than what you don’t want.
To help, here are five excellent categories to consider when setting intentional resolutions to create greater positivity in your relationship.
1. Increasing Fondness and Admiration
Intentionally building friendship in your relationship goes a long way in growing connection and stability. It actually doesn’t have to cost a cent, but it does require a commitment to deliberately scan for the positives in your relationship and in your partner and then to let them know, to communicate the positive thought.
2. Growing Connection
There are many choice points in your relationship where you can decide to turn towards your partner and acknowledge and engage in their world, or you can absently ignore or dismiss the attempted connecting gestures from your partner. Ultimately, turning towards bids for connections from your partner lets them know that you are there for them, that you care and are interested in them.
3. Doing Conflict Better
Competition is positively viewed as constructive and necessary in daily life, at work and in sport, however, in intimate relationships competition can be an impediment to connection, trust and commitment. Stepping out of trying to win an argument with your partner and stepping into simply listening with understanding and empathy is a cornerstone of effectively managing conflict in your relationship. Being able to raise issues in a gentle way that will land for your partner is important. Taking the blame and the criticism out of your perspective allows your partner to listen non-defensively to your perspective and for you to feel heard and understood. Conflict in a relationship is not about winning or losing; it is about both people feeling understood, validated and heard. This brings connection and closeness, viewing conflict as a competition brings distance and disconnection.
4. A Focus on Sex, Romance and Passion
Great sex, romance and passion is a wonderful consequence of a relationship that attends to building and nurturing friendship and connection. Those relationships that report satisfying sex lives also report that there is a heightened value in the relationship of caring for their friendship. Knowing what your partner likes and dislikes sexually and creating a current map of what turns your partner on and off is an essential ingredient in maintaining and growing a satisfying and connected sex life. Like many other aspects of your partner’s world, over time, their likes, dislikes, dreams, and passions will change. This is also true for what your partner desires erotically from initiating intimacy, foreplay and lovemaking. Taking time to know each other’s feelings, thoughts and desires about all areas of sex and intimacy is a great way to ensure you remain in touch with one another’s erotic love maps.
5. Creating Shared Dreams and Goals for the Future
Create a shared meaning about what the relationship stands for, what it holds as important, what it honours and dreams about. Good relationships understand the individual dreams and goals of their partners, the individual pursuits and ambitions their partners hold. Masters of relationships honour their partners’ dreams; they view the relationship as a supportive platform to encourage, nurture and action individual dreams and goals. Knowing and honouring your partner's dreams is critical. It may be golf, live music, theatre, cooking, bushwalking, reading, travel or volunteer work. No one wants to be in a relationship where their passion and life dreams go unrecognised or unsupported.
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