Today is the day that people all over the world at least entertain the idea of making a fresh start. Next year I will be more fit, next year I will eat healthily, next year I will stop being late. . . . The list goes on and on. If the lips that meet yours at midnight are of the man you have sworn to love in sickness, in health, and in good times and bad, maybe today you find yourself hoping that next year your marriage will be stronger? That your love will run a little deeper?
Last year, certified Gottman therapist Zach Brittle told Verily readers that the number one New Year’s resolution your husband wants you to make is to take care of yourself. “Your partner wants your best you. He wants you fully alive. Healthy. Whole. He wants a teammate. And an adversary,” Brittle explained. “He wants you to have his back and to call his bluff. You can only do this if you know yourself fully and you’re living fully as a differentiated human being. I don’t think that’s possible without nurturing your body, your mind, your soul, and your self.” This resolution is still the most important thing you can do for your husband and your marriage. But this year we have expanded the list to include a few more resolutions that your husband—and your marriage—will thank you for.
After talking to four of Verily’s favorite marriage counselors and therapists, I can assure you that your husband has hopes for a better marriage in the New Year. But don’t wait around for him to make the first move.
01. Resolve to Be Intentional
This year Brittle adds to his number one resolution, saying that the second best resolution for a relationship is to be intentional. “Whatever you do, do it on purpose,” Brittle suggests. “Designate specific time to work on the relationship, whether it’s date night or a conflict discussion.”
Brittle warns us not to fall in to what he refers to as “roommate syndrome.” In other words, what happens in a relationship when passion slips away, and marriage becomes more about sharing a space together than sharing a life and loving one another. Brittle says we fall in to roommate syndrome by “simply going with the flow.” To avoid this rut, Brittle suggests kissing more. “Kissing is the secret to more intimacy and also more (and better) sex,” Brittle says. “Try a prolonged kiss each day but not just as a means to an end. I promise that prioritizing this one act of physical connection will change your relationship in profound ways.”
02. Resolve to Be Kind
“Another of the best things you should resolve to do for your relationship is to be kind,” Brittle says. “Be kind to yourself. And prioritize kindness toward your partner.” Maybe your marriage is going through a dry patch, or perhaps things are feeling pretty rocky. It’s an outpouring of kindness to one another that builds up those positive feelings to help get you through the difficult times. “Nothing goes farther over the long haul than kindness . . . even when you have serious complaints and persistent problems,” Brittle says.
This year, resolve to show kindness to yourself and to your spouse. In addition to resolutions of self-care, find a daily routine of kindness. Maybe it means thanking your spouse for specific things that he has done throughout the day or committing to one secret act of service. Commit to a year of kindness, and watch your marriage grow happier and healthier.
03. Resolve to Put Away Your Smartphone
The smartphone is every man and woman’s new best friend. We would be lost without them—literally lost—but Dr. Gabriel Somarriba, PSYD, suggests that 2016 should be the year we give our phones a break. According to Somarriba, a 2014 poll conducted by Brandon McDaniel of Pennsylvania State University and Sarah Coyne of Brigham Young University found that almost three-quarters of women in committed relationships feel that smartphones are interfering with their love lives and reducing the amount of time they spend with their partners. Yikes!
“Perhaps Animal Planet should start a new show called It’s Me or the Smartphone, in which poor husbands commiserate about dinners for one while watching their wives break Candy Crush records and update Facebook profiles,” Dr. Somarriba jokes. “Or, wives can simply put their phones away (e.g., in the other room, in the car, turned off and in the purse), and give their husbands their undivided attention. Because the biggest gift you can give to your spouse is you.” If your husband is just as bad of an offender, don’t forget that the change begins with you. Set the example of how you would like to spend time together by putting your phone away when you and your husband are sharing a meal or catching up at the end of the day.
04. Resolve to Enjoy Shared Activities
For even the most connected and united couples, the business of the everyday can get in the way. But Verily contributor and premarriage counselor Peter McFadden suggests that once a month we should resolve to plan an activity to share with our spouse. “Shared experiences enrich a marriage, and your husband will appreciate your effort to keep things interesting,” McFadden says. “Keep track of these activities on your calendar so that you can stay true to your resolution.”
“It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it would certainly be a bonus if it were something you’ve never done before,” McFadden adds. Therapist and marriage counselor Jessie Tappel agrees. Tappel suggests learning more about an interest of your husband that you may not necessarily share. “Spend some time learning more about what he loves to be able to share with him,” Tappel says. “If he loves craft beer, take some time to research the local breweries. If he loves football, read up on the latest news. If he is loving this new tech book, invest some energy in learning alongside him. After all, shared experiences are the most enriching.”
By investing in some quality time and being more intentional about your relationship with your husband, you’ll no doubt see your bond strengthened in the coming year.
Photo Credit: Violet Short Photography