10 simple tips to help you keep this year's relationship resolutions.
Every January, millions of us make New Year’s resolutions to stop smoking, to lose weight, to join a gym—and to improve our relationships. Then, halfway though the month (if we make it that far) we break our promise to ourselves and to our partners. To compound the problem, we then wait 11 more months to "try" again. Is it any wonder that there are so many lonely, single men and women at all of those New Year’s Eve parties?
Happy couples know that persistence is one of the primary secrets to a successful relationship. Happy couples don’t give up. If their relationship isn’t working, they get resourceful; they try different ways, techniques and strategies until it begins to work.
Here are 10 simple tips to help you keep your relationship resolutions this year.
Tip #1: Make your resolutions in July
The problem with making resolutions on New Year’s Eve is that we’re focused on the wrong thing. We’re focused on the day, rather than on what we want to accomplish. We turn our resolution into an all or nothing proposition. We set unreasonable expectations, make it an event and set ourselves up to fail before we ever get started. If you’re serious about keeping your resolution, begin on December 17, or January 8, or any ordinary day of the year. DON’T MAKE IT A SPECIAL DAY! If you break your resolution on a Wednesday then start over on Thursday. Don’t wait for THE RIGHT TIME, or until January 1.
Tip #2: Think of your resolution as an ATM, but instead of instant cash, you want instant results
These days, most of us are programmed to be instant-gratification oriented. We quickly give up if we don’t see immediate progress or if things don’t improve right away. Since the best way to improve your relationship is one minute at a time, one hour at a time and one day at a time, it’s okay if you mess up one minute or one day, you just start again the next. Improving your relationship is not like losing weight; you don’t have to wait weeks or months to see the results. A hug, a kiss, a kind act can start improving it immediately. Start with an action in which you’re likely to get a positive reaction. It’ll give you confidence and motivation to continue.
Tip #3: Think small--even smaller
Have you ever walked 100 miles? Would you believe it if I told you that you could effortlessly walk 100 miles without even breaking a sweat or losing your breath? Probably not, but it’s true, you can. In fact, you already have. You just didn’t do it all in one day or one week or one month or all at the same time. According to studies, over the course of your life, the average person walks over 100 miles. The average, overweight, sedentary person walks over 75 miles. You’ve probably already walked thousands of miles and you even ran part of the way. The point is, when making a resolution, promise yourself not to focus your attention on the end result you want to achieve but instead, focus on the steps along the way. Divide up your goal into tiny, manageable steps. Then break those steps into even smaller steps and you’ll make giant strides towards keeping your relationship resolution.
Tip #4: Make a list and check it twice—a day
It can be fun to share your resolutions with friends or your partner at a party on New Year’s Eve, but if you don’t write them down they just become so much confetti that gets swept away the next morning. This year, make a resolution "check-list" and don’t stick it in a drawer. Place it somewhere where you can check it at least twice a day and chart your progress or lack of progress often. This will help you stay or get back on course.
Tip #5: Make your list specific and concrete
Once again, think small and break each resolution into very specific, concrete activities that you can check off as you accomplish them. Most of us make resolutions to be more romantic or more affectionate or to improve the way we communicate. But these are vague wishes that might just as well be tossed in a well. If you want to improve the way you communicate with your partner, be specific. Which area of "communication" skills do you want to tackle: agreements, apologies, arguing, expectations, fairness, listening, sharing? Choose one then list specific activities you want to work on. Then list the specific goal, so you know when you’ve achieved them.
Tip #6: Use all the tools—not just the ones you have handy
We've all tried and failed to do something (like dieting or exercising) that we knew we needed to do but didn't really want to do. The problem with failure is that we don’t often learn from our mistakes. The next time we gather up the motivation to try again, we use the same approach that didn't work the first time. It’s natural to do what you know, what you feel comfortable doing. Next time, however, try something new, something you have never tried before—even if it doesn’t feel right. If you've tried to use willpower in the past, this time try rewards, or tricking yourself, or reminders, or some other creative approach you've never tried before. Remember sometimes you need tweezers and sometimes you need a chainsaw to complete the task at hand. If tweezers are the only tool you have or choose to use, there will be many resolutions you’ll never be able to keep.
Tip #7: Ask for help
This is one of the simplest and most effective techniques and the one that’s rarely used. Most of us jump at the chance to help others, but resist asking for help. For some of us helping others feeds our egos. For others, it satisfies our altruistic urges. Either way you both win when you ask for help. Ask friends, family, co-workers, professionals and especially your partner for help in keeping your resolution.
Tip #8: Stack the deck in your favor
Write your resolution so that you can’t help but win, no matter what the outcome. Make sure you’re in control. For instance, have multiple, positive and possible outcomes. If you want your partner to treat you with more respect, for example, have various scenarios described how you will measure the results. Make sure that you are completely in control of at least one of these scenarios so there’s no way for you to lose.
Tip #9: Make failure and frustration part of the goal
When you write your resolution, include failure and frustration as necessary steps. Add them to your list. Most of us are so afraid of failing or dealing with the frustrations along the way to our goals that we often refuse to even try. Instead, make failure a part of the goal. If you aren't frustrated or don't fail at least once in your attempt, then you haven't completed your goal. Remember, if you haven't failed at least once, then you’re not trying hard enough.
Tip #10: Just do it--anyway
Don’t expect that trying to keep a resolution will feel good. But no matter how badly you may FEEL, keep doing what you need to do. People who keep their resolutions know that it’s all about behaviors, not about feelings. They know it doesn’t matter how you feel, it matters what you do. Tell yourself before you start that no matter how many obstacles, roadblocks, setbacks or frustrations you encounter, that you will continue anyway. And don't second-guess yourself; confidence is very powerful.
Use these 10 tips this year and you’ll be toasting your relationship next year.
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