relationships

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.

New Year sign - try a relationship resolution this New Year

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 and 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.

Unhappy couple image - does you relationship need some TLC?

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 long 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.

Image of a bowl of Love Heart sweets. Consider making a relationship resolution this year

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.

So before committing to that ‘zero upfront and no fees until March gym membership’ have a think about committing to a relationship resolution instead this year.

new year resolution staying on target

January is probably most famous for New Year resolutions. It is also famous for something else: the complete failure of New Year resolutions before the end of the month.

No matter whether your New Year resolution is to lose weight, keep date night with your spouse sacred or actually take a lunch hour, here are our 6 ways to help keep your resolutions.

new year resolution will power is like a muscle1. Willpower is like a muscle so exercise it

How often do we say ‘he/she has such great willpower’ or ‘I wish I had more willpower’? A lot. But willpower is not a static thing that we are either blessed with lots or little of. Like a muscle, it can increase with training.

You would not go from zero exercise today to running a half marathon tomorrow so do the same with willpower. In the build-up to starting your New Year resolution (there is no law that says it has to start on January 1st by the way!) try some smaller, willpower ‘gym sessions’.

Ahead of a healthy eating resolution try to ditch the chocolate biscuit with your morning cup of tea for 2 days, then 4, then a week. Or get outside and walk for 10 minutes each day as you build up to a ‘get fit’ New Year resolution.


new year resolution focus on one resolution2. Be specific about your New Year resolution

An important factor in sticking to your New Year resolution is to be specific about it. Something too general or non-specific can actually be demotivating. Or worse give you an easy way out that you will regret almost immediately.

For example swap ‘I want to spend more time with my partner’ for ‘I want to set aside 2 Wednesdays a month for a date night with my partner’. The specifics give you something detailed to aim for, make the resolution time-limited and gives you a clear idea of what you need to do to achieve it (pick 2 Wednesdays a month and ring-fence them from work, housework, football, running or a night out with the girls/boys).


3. Makprioritye only one change at a time

It can be tempting to set yourself a few New Year resolutions. Social media does not help as we are bombarded with images of people who have lost weight and got fitter, and spent more time with family and less time at work.

The end result is we feel inadequate for not achieving any of these things and not having more than one resolution.

Decide what your top priority is and focus on that alone. Placing your efforts in one area will reap greater rewards.


new year resolution break it in to small sections4. Break your New Year resolution in to manageable chunks

If you are part of a couple that feels like they rarely spent more than a minute together last year, a resolution to spend an hour together each night sounds like a great idea. But if you were that busy last year, this oversized resolution will likely fail after a month or so leaving both of you feeling despondent. Breaking it down into manageable parts would be a much more fruitful approach.

At first, aim to carve out 10 minutes a day to talk while phones, TVs, tablets and other distractions are switched off and preferably not even in the room with you. Gradually over time increase the amount of time and/or frequency by a realistic amount.

Eventually, the time set aside will become habitual and the overall target of spending more time together will be achieved.


new year resolution do something rather than nothing5. If you can’t face doing it all, do something

There will be days when trying to keep the resolution to take an hour for lunch at work or exercise for 20 minutes will feel like a personal Mount Everest. Instead of giving in and beating yourself up about it, do something.

An early-morning 20-minute jog might be out of the question today, so do 10 minutes instead. If you genuinely cannot take your lunch hour, take at least 20 minutes away from your desk.

Doing something is better than nothing. With something rather than nothing achieved you will be in a better, more positive frame of mind to crack on with your New Year resolution again tomorrow.


new year resolution get a resolution buddy6. Get a resolution buddy

Even with a will power ‘muscle’ that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger blush, we all have days when the motivation needle is on empty. This is when having a resolution ‘buddy’ can help.

Pairing up with a friend or colleague on your quest is a great option. You can boost one another on difficult days and the personal commitment made to each other means you are less likely to skip whatever you are doing. It will be harder to stay in bed for that 6 am run if you know your friend is waiting outside for you!


Is keeping a New Year resolution the least of your worries this January?

The Spark provides counselling to help individuals, couples and families work through the challenging issues they are facing in life. No matter whether you are looking for stress counselling, help with anxiety or marriage counselling you can access help from one of our 13 counselling centres around Scotland.

Find out more about counselling with The Spark or find your local counselling centre.