It’s a new year, and there is likely a resolution you have forgotten: investing in your relationship.
As a culture, the new year tends to signify a time for reflection and for commitment to betterment in some sense. We make resolutions to improve ourselves individually. Sometimes we commit to taking action to improve the world or our community. We consider seeing friends more or spending more time with family. Life gets busy, and it’s important to reflect on our priorities so we don’t lose sight of them in the flurry of day to day living.
However, one area that tends to get overlooked, unless there is a glaring problem or a new and exciting milestone (like marriage, a new baby, a special anniversary), is our commitment to bettering, or strengthening, our long term romantic partnerships. In the chaos of life, work, raising children, home maintenance, family responsibilities, we tend to benignly forget that relationships take work, even when they seem okay.
Good relationships don’t just get good and stay good by themselves, despite what we may see in the movies, what we think we know about that couple who “has it all”, or what we wish to be the case.
The work can (sometimes) be painful, or hard, or even tedious, but the rewards are life-giving and compounding. The stronger your bond, the better you will weather future conflict together, the more your love will deepen, the more supported you will feel, and the more energy and inspiration you will have to make positive changes for yourself and your other relationships.
Strengthening Your Bond – 5 Things to Keep in Mind
1. Time for Each Other
Make the effort to make time to spend together. It doesn’t matter what you do – do what you like to do – but make sure the focus is on being together, enjoying each other, and staying present with each other (which means putting the cell phone away for awhile, letting go of the worries and stressors of everyday life, having time together that is separate from the kids).
2. Conflict Resolution Skills
Work on developing your conflict resolution skills. Instead of digging in about
being right, try hard to get to the more nuanced understanding of where things veered off track and how you can both come to a deeper understanding of one another. Remember the goal is not be right, or to be the more hurt party, but to mutually see and acknowledge each other’s feelings and work together to get back on track.
In long term relationships especially, attention to and care of the sexual relationship is crucial. A healthy sexual relationship strengthens your bond immensely and provides a sense of something that is uniquely yours and special. This also includes general affection and affectionate touch for one another.
4. Appreciation and Respect
The stress and frustrations of a busy life can get to us. When we don’t manage our own stress well, we are likely to take it out on others, most often those who are closest to us. That means our partners can be a prime target. But that doesn’t solve anything and only shifts the stress or makes it worse. Try, instead, to recognize and appreciate your partner for what she/he brings to your partnership, your household, your family. Mutual respect is essential for a positive relationship.
Laughing together and using humor to soften and bring levity to what may otherwise be serious, “loaded”, or potentially anger-inducing situations, can be a powerful tool in strengthening and maintaining your bond.
Wishing you the gift of positive, strong bonds this new year!
Leah Ottow, LCSW is a therapist and relationship guide at New Approaches. She specializes in helping people improve their relationship skills and enjoy a deeper connection with their partners. She helps individuals and couples improve their emotional well-being and learn how to thrive. Ready to be feel fulfilled and connected? Contact Leah today at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 207-553-2260 ext. 2.