The end of the year is upon us and the holiday push is in high gear. But before you get caught in the hustle and bustle of shopping merriment, take a moment and give thought to the gift that would mean the most to your partner (and family): the gift of a better relationship.
It’s something you’ve been working on all year and now is the time to reflect on the progress that you’ve made. Ideally, you have been able to make improvements each month by following the Resolution Blueprint and your marriage is better than ever.
Maybe you’ve struggled with a few of the resolutions and aren’t yet where you would like to be. No worries. Improving your relationship is a day to day process so don’t discount the positive movement you’ve already accomplished. The key is to continue to focus on what’s important and to keep trying.
Instead of refocusing your attention on each of the ten resolutions, let’s put that effort where it will get more bang for your buck. Here are the top four areas where you can get the highest rate of return on your time investment:
1. Be Kind. This is a choice always open to you and it becomes easier with practice. No matter what your partner throws at you, you can respond with kindness. The key is grabbing your initial emotional reaction and then choosing to answer with your calmer, more mature self. Decide each morning that “kindness” will be your guiding word for the day. While you may not always be successful, your increasingly successful efforts will pay off. Shifting the tone in your marriage is something you can do on your own. It will leave you feeling better about yourself and your relationship.
2. Let Go of Being Right. This is the single greatest source of marital conflict and communication difficulties. About two-thirds of most conflicts in a relationship never get resolved. This is because they aren’t based in fact, but in differing opinions. If you don’t appreciate your partner trying to change your opinion, why do you think they would appreciate your efforts to change theirs? Pitting yourself against your partner rarely results in success and it undermines your ability to function as a team. Deciding to find common ground where possible is a much better relationship tactic and will result in longer lasting happiness than the need to be right in the moment.
3. Be Intimate. Again, this does not mean just having sex (though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for your marriage). Intimacy means sharing your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, goals, dreams, and fears, as well as your bed. You can’t do that if you and your partner haven’t created a safe space for that to happen. Be aware of how you respond to your partner when they are opening themselves to you. Focus on having an open heart and a willing spirit in understanding what they are sharing with you.
4. Be Willing to Forgive. No one is perfect and your partner will make mistakes that can be hurtful to you. Most of the time, that will not be intentional. Being able to accept their sincere apology and forgive them is a true act of love. This is not to say that all transgressions are equal in impact but, if you are willing, they can all be forgiven with time and intention. Holding hurts to you may give you a temporary feeling of power, but it will ultimately destroy your relationship. Forgiving is a skill that can be learned and it is a worthwhile endeavor that will strengthen your relationship and increasing its chance of success.
Putting your time and energy into these four behaviors can bring positive and lasting change to your marriage. Three of the four you can do on your own, which means you have real power to improve your relationship.
So, while you’re enjoying the holiday cheer, give yourself and your spouse something that can bring joy and happiness to you both–a great marriage.
May you have Happy Holidays and an even Happier Marriage!
I would love to hear how these relationship resolutions have helped your marriage. Feel free to comment below or contact me, Lesli Doares, Marriage Consultant, here.