Creating a New Year resolution together

Congratulations, you survived the sometimes stressful yuletide holiday intact. I hope you have been able to take a day or two to recover from the temporary changes to your daily routines and associations.

If not, I do hope you get to take a break soon to unwind and recharge before your usual commitments of work, school, sporting clubs, and hobbies begin again.

The New Year is traditionally (at least in Western cultures) a time of resolutions – a promise to do better, lose weight, get a new job or read all of the books purchased last year that are still waiting for the first page to be turned ( am guilty of this literary sin).

And when we think of New Year resolutions, we often think of them as solo acts, a commitment we make to ourselves to laugh about in two months when we give up or pat ourselves on the back when we see them through.

However, many relationship therapists, including myself, encourage the clients we work with to formulate New Year resolutions with their partners as well as themselves.

They don’t have to be life-changing; let’s sell the house and buy a boat resolution; they just have to be ones that both of you agree on and contribute to the goal of happiness ever after with each other.

If the thought of creating a New Year resolution together seems overwhelming or never been attempted before, it is okay. I have your back, and the following are some tools and scenarios that can help make it easier to do than buying that boat and sailing around the world in 2022.

1. Rewind, reflect, reward

For New Year resolutions to be effective, they require a wee bit of planning first; just ask any CEO of a successful company. Make time to check in with each other about the past year when you both feel relaxed and have no distractions.

Reflect on the good and the bad times and how you dealt with both. Celebrate the fact that despite another year of pandemic uncertainty, you still love each other and have made it through another challenging year together. 

2. Set specific, holistic and realistic goals

Avoid setting yourselves up for failure by creating resolutions beyond your realities, e.g. becoming the first couple to win the MMA world title by 2023 when you both struggle to find time to exercise 30 mins a week together or have the flexibility of a coat stand.

Keep the number of goals to a minimum to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Prioritize if you discover you have lots of things you want to try/change in 2022 but don’t feel like you need to place a time limit on achieving anything – we are in the midst of a pandemic still, after all.   

3. Remember the Gottman rules of engagement

As with all discussions with your partner where a difference of opinion may occur, it is crucial to utilise the tools of effective communication:

  • It is okay to complain but never criticize your partner when they have done or said something you don’t like, e.g., my love language includes receiving and giving thoughtful gifts vs you never buy me gifts because you are a cheap-skate. 
  • Play the ball, not the person. In other words, focus on the behavior/problem rather than comments that demean or are hurtful, e.g., wet towels left on the floor have no opportunity to dry vs why do you have to be so lazy; a child is tidier than you are. 
  • Take responsibility for your actions and be proactive in finding a solution to an issue.
  • Be an active participant in the discussion; stonewalling or changing the subject to avoid conflict is not helpful. Remember, you are working as a team to make your relationship the best it can be. If you feel emotionally overwhelmed, say so and make a point of picking up the conversation again when you are both feeling open to each other’s feelings again.
  • Stick to the point and resist bringing up past issues which may still live in your memory but have been resolved previously. Focus on the immediate past and present, not something that happened five years ago.

4. Be flexible and willing to compromise

It is normal not to be in sync with each other all the time, but remember that you are in a relationship because of shared values, attraction, and interests.

Focus on your mutual likes when deciding on resolutions that involve hobbies, sports and other activities.

Be prepared to try something new, trusting that your partner won’t make you do something you are uncomfortable with or will detest. It is also normal to have individual goals and interests; just make sure you leave room to do some things together. 

5. Honour your commitment to each other

Out of all the single people in the world, you chose each other. When reviewing the year and planning for the future, take time out to acknowledge how lucky you are to have found each other and remind each other of what you like about the other person; how far you have come on your journey together and how much better your life is with them in it.

Resolutions are always easier to make when warm fuzzies are involved. Recall the story of how you met, the feelings you invoke in each other and the memories that brought you closer as a couple, for example.

 6. Agree to review/check in regularly

A resolution may not be for life, but once you have made them, it is a shame to not at least try to fulfil them. I am not saying you should set a time limit to achieve your goals, but do make a resolution to check in on them and discuss whether they are still relevant, completed, or require revision throughout the year.     

7. It doesn’t have to happen overnight

New Year resolutions are made at the beginning of the year for a reason; namely, it gives you a whole 365 days to do something about them.

Creating new habits or changing old ones take time, so don’t expect any issues in your relationship to completely disappear overnight. Good things take time is a truism.

8. Be optimistic

Any change to an established routine takes time, so don’t become disheartened if an old habit slips in occasionally in the beginning (unless you feel unsafe or threatened).

Allow yourselves to feel optimistic that now you have made plans for change, they will happen, and your relationship will be stronger as a result.   

The New Year is often considered a new chapter in your life. It is a time of infinite possibilities and new endeavours as you look back on the past year and resolve to either stay the course (if it was a great year) or change direction, either for less turbulent waters or away from the doldrums that have held you back.

If you think it is time for a change in your relationship but feel like you don’t know where to start or are unsure about talking about your life together, contact me for a consult; I am here to help.

You can attend alone or jointly; either way, now is the time to take a moment to pause, reflect, evaluate, plan and celebrate your life together.  Happy New Year.


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Ann Jay

Ann Jay is a Wellington Relationship Counselor who provides marriage counselling, couple's counselling, and relationship coaching for couples and women either in a relationship or single. Her goal is to help people create healthy, loving and fulfilling relationships and experience the love they deserve.