Here’s a question that came to mind on Hogmanay: why do we rarely make New Year resolutions about our relationships?
Typically, we opt for an act of self-improvement like eating better, exercising more, quitting smoking or spending more time reading books that will broaden our minds and less time binge-watching Amazon Prime.
All are important in their own way, but they are focused on the self and rarely have anything to do with our relationships. Certainly not directly, although eating better/exercising more can be prompted by a desire to at least partially please our significant other.
Is there such a thing as a relationship resolution?
What about spending more time with your partner and less time at work? Or trying to give your full attention to a conversation instead of trying to finish it quickly so you can get back to checking Instagram? What about making a commitment to be intimate more often? Or for busy couples/couples with kids, making a determined effort to schedule time for sex?
As a relationship counselling provider, we know good relationships are what keep humans happy, content and secure (if you don’t believe us, check out this brilliant TED Talk about the world’s longest study into what makes us happy by Harvard University. Spoiler alert: it’s good relationships!). They do not, however, get the attention they deserve. We are all guilty of neglecting them in much the same way we neglect our waistlines over Christmas.
Why we all need to invest in our relationships
It is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that important relationships are just ‘there’. Especially when it comes to the one we have with our spouse or partner.
They happen. We wake up in the morning and they are there. They function and there’s nothing we really need to do about them. This is especially the case when we have been in a long relationship or other aspects of living where kids, careers and the natural ups and downs of life monopolise our attention.
In reality, our relationships are living entities in their own right. Just like humans, they need to be looked after, cared for and nourished. In much the same way that the beach body you resolved to sculpt this year will require time and effort, so too does your relationship.
Sticking to that healthy eating plan requires sacrifice and dedication. Though we hate to break it to you, those post-Christmas muffin-tops won’t shrink themselves. They need time invested in exercise and a focus on nutrition to disappear. In the same way, our relationships need time and focus to maintain their health.
When life gets in the way of nurturing that most important relationship
Some of the couples that come to The Spark for counselling do, in time, trace the start of their problems back to the moment they stopped tending to their relationship. More often than not it is simply due to circumstance rather than any deliberate action.
Life gets busy and without realising it they started treating their most important relationships as just a part of getting through the day or making it to the weekend. Before longing their partner was just the other person they shared a home with and relied on to get the kids to school, pay the bills and feed the family. Like a gym membership card, the relationship just gets buried under everything else and forgotten about.
We want to wish you well in whatever you have resolved to achieve this year. If you are in need of some help, take a look at our advice on keeping New Year resolutions beyond mid-January. However, before you do, we would encourage you to consider making a relationship resolution this year.
Consider a relationship resolution this New Year
Instead of settling for the usual get fit/eat less chocolate/stop watching TV options, have a think about the important relationships in your life. In particular, consider the ones involving your partner, kids and close friends/family. And be honest with yourself.
Did any of them get lip service last year? Has your relationship with your partner survived on the emotional equivalent of junk food? Have you got into the habit of spending more time glued to social media than talking to your kids about their day at school?
What part of your relationship needs some TLC?
Once you have considered which relationship could do with some attention, consider what aspect of it could do with a little TLC. Could you and your partner spend more time together? When was the last time you had a conversation that was not devoted to the daily/weekly checklists of family life? What fun things did you used to do together that you don’t really do now?
Could the TV be switched off at mealtimes to encourage the family to simply talk and listen to each other? Is it worth committing to getting home for bath time and a bedtime story more than once in a blue moon? Is it actually a ‘life-saver’ to ‘plug’ your child into a tablet if it means you rarely talk these days?
Relationships make us tick as humans. When they are good, we feel good. When they are bad, stale or in need of attention we tend to feel the same way.