Every year, we make them. Every year, we break some—maybe all of them. Workout more, eat better, spend less money, those are the most common ones. And while self-care and self-improvement are certainly worthwhile goals, there’s one area that many people overlook when it comes to New Year’s resolutions: their marriage.
Resolving to improve certain areas of a marriage is just as important as resolving to be physically healthier or eat better. The quality and status of a relationship creates a trickle-down effect to mental health, which impacts stress level and overall happiness. In short, they matter and they’re worth investing in—and the following five resolutions can all be had without costly gym memberships or fancy diet plans, just a little bit of effort on your part.
1. Growth: How do you want your relationship to grow? Without planning and forethought, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Maybe you want that new diet and health plan to be a couple’s goal, doing whatever you can to ensure greater longevity for both of you. Maybe it’s better budget control, or maybe it’s just trying to commit to a once-a-week sit-down breakfast during the busy work week. Without goals, it’s easy to let things stagnate rather than grow. Make a resolution, preferably as a couple—though it’s possible to do this solo and still succeed. A regular growth goal (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) helps ensure that you keep moving and evolving, one step at a time.
2. Companionship: It’s really easy to forget that you used to be involved in a passionate and fun relationship. Children, responsibilities, work, it’s all enough to make you want to pass out before starting it up the next day. But too much of this turns a couple into roommates rather than partners. A simple resolution is to do little things (turn off smartphones when you get home or no work e-mails after dinner) and bigger things (set a once-a-month date night), all designed to keep the spark of companionship going even during the whirlwind of daily responsibilities.
3. Commitment: One whole year. That’s 365 days or 52 weeks. A lot can happen in that time. Sometimes, it helps to hear someone has your back. An affirming New Year’s resolution is a great way to steel yourself for the challenges ahead, both expected and unexpected. By telling your partner that your resolution is to be there through thick and thin, it can be a quiet and simple moment of appreciation and affection that goes a long way when times are tough.
4. Handle Conflicts: Do you handle conflicts with grace or do they become a battle of wills? For most couples, the answer is somewhere in between. However, New Year’s resolutions provide the opportunity to be open and honest about how conflict resolution plays a role in your marriage. More importantly, it provides a springboard for each partner to pledge to be better when things get tough—and for each partner to recognize it when it happens rather than getting defensive in return. The ability to defuse is a gift for any marriage, and the turning of the calendar can create a symbolic pledge to act the right way.
“By telling your partner that your resolution is to be there through thick and thin, it can be a quiet and simple moment of appreciation and affection that goes a long way when times are tough.”
5. Emphasize Positives: You’d be surprised at how effective positive affirmation is, even for adults who’ve seen it all. A little "thank you" or "good job" goes a long way in strengthening the bond between two people, and it’s something that can be easy to forget when negatives act as the squeaky wheel that get things done. A resolution to recognize the positive in each other is a very easy way to build a stronger bond through the simple power of words.
These five resolutions are all simple mental shifts, not large financial or time commitments. Of course, it's difficult to change long-term habits, but making these resolutions provides an indirect secondary benefit: by talking with your spouse about these five ideas, you'll open the door to discussing deeper relationship issues. Communication and honesty are critical to a healthy marriage, and if you can get to new heights in those categories, then it will all have been worth it. Even still, try your best to keep those New Year’s resolutions.
Malini Bhatia is Founder & CEO of Marriage.com, a community of experts that acts as your advisors by providing information & support for healthy, happy marriages. Her passion for supporting people through the journey of building and sustaining positive, healthy relationships, combined with her business acumen, inspired the creation of Marriage.com. She has past experience in the PR and communications industries and has worked with companies in the tech, healthcare and non-profit sectors. Malini is a postgraduate in international business management and holds a bachelor's degree in Economics. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters.