Rescuing Your Most Important Relationships

A SMART Start

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves”. – Bill Vaughan

It is the time of year when many of us make New Year’s resolutions. The most popular include things like losing weight or getting fit, getting the finances in order, organizing our life, an effort to quit smoking and reduce or stop drinking and even try to have more fun. I even read that fifty-percent of Americans say their New Year’s resolution is to spend more time with family and friends.

But what about a New Year’s resolutions specifically for your marriage?

Half of marriages end in divorce. Research has found that only half of those who stay married actually carry the moniker of “happily married.”  So, this year, make a resolution to prioritize your marriage. Couples that invest in their marriages have more satisfying, pleasurable interactions with each other because great marriages do not just happen. It’s time we all make some New Year’s resolutions together and focus on our relationships.

When you think about resolutions, you can’t get any better than strengthening your marriage.

Step one is to sit down with your spouse, grab a pen and paper, a glass of wine or cup of tea-this exercise is supposed to be relaxed and enjoyable-and brainstorm together some New Year’s resolutions for your marriage.

1. Start with the positives. What do you both like and appreciate about your relationship? How can you enhance and highlight the positives?

Spending time alone together is essential for your relationship health. Commit to a monthly or weekly date night. If you have children, brainstorm about childcare. Besides hiring babysitters, you may be able to trade play dates or sleepovers with family or friends. Do not be complacent. Make a commitment or resolutions to have date nights in 2012. No more excuses!

If your romantic and passionate life used to be positive, but now has been neglected, pay more attention. Research by Barry McCarthy has found that if you are both happy enough with your sex life, it only accounts for 15 percent of marital satisfaction. However, if either of you is unhappy with your sex life, it can account for 85 percent of marital satisfaction. Commit to prioritizing your sex life. Set aside time for sex dates, read some fun sex self-help books together and commit to being more affectionate and passionate in 2012.

When you were first together as a dating couple, you likely had new, fun and interesting experiences together. Commit to trying some new activities, hobbies or outings together in the New Year.

2. Remove the barriers. What gets in the way of marital satisfaction?
How do you handle conflict? Remember that conflict is inevitable in a marriage. Do not avoid conflict, but find productive ways to deal with differences. Are either of you guilty of using criticism, contempt, stonewalling or defensiveness? If so, how about a New Year’s resolution to eliminate these hostile interactions that are predictive of divorce?

Is work or technology interfering with prioritizing time together?  If either of you has a hard time with the work/life balance or relies too heavily on technology, social media, TV or video games, you might take a look at this issue together. How about setting some mutual agreements? Amazingly, 70 percent of families are now reporting using phones, computers or watching TV during meal times together. How about a resolution to have technology-free meals and technology-free evenings during your weeknights?

Do either of you feel taken for granted or unappreciated? Do you know how your spouse prefers to be loved? Make a New Year’s resolution to show your spouse love in the way they want to be loved, rather than role model what you want!

3. Check in weekly or monthly with each other to see how you are doing with your relationship goals. What kind of marriage do you want to have? Are you being the people you want to be and having the relationship that you really want?

Make your marriage a priority. I believe the most important gift that you can give yourself and your children is the feeling of a healthy, loving marriage.

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