Your successful relationship deserves to remain successful. Every year, droves of people make New Year's resolutions. The most popular are losing weight, exercising, and saving money.
Fewer people resolve to improve their intimate relationships. And those who do may fall victim to the same defeating behaviors that cause so many well-intended changes to go by the wayside before the end of January.
One of the reasons most fail is because their resolution has no action attached to it. If you resolve to save more money, but don’t go any further than that, you set yourself up for failure.
But if you resolve to save money by making coffee at home, then transfer the cost of coffee you didn't buy from a coffee shop out of your checking account and into your savings, you are many steps closer to sticking with your resolution.
Daily practice of this new behavior gradually becomes rewarding both emotionally and financially. The more this happens, the more likely you are to continue it long term.
Applying this same logic to successful relationship resolutions will put you on solid ground toward taking action and developing new habits. Positive change requires both action and a plan to achieve it that has its own rewards.
Touch provides reassurance and, by its nature, creates direct physical connection that reminds you and your partner of your special relationship. Not everyone can touch you each time they see you. Only your intimate partner can do that.
Make it a habit to touch your partner every time you are near her or him.
Use simple, non-sexual hugs and passing caresses each time you are in close proximity. These touches are intimate, enhance your relationship, and non-sexual touch can spark a fire that leads to sexual touch.
However, the purpose of this resolution is not to have touching lead to sex. If casual but caring touch turns sexual too often, it can have the opposite effect. Your partner may begin to feel that you are only interested in initiating sex. Casual touch is only intended to promote connectedness and reassurance, making your relationship warmer and more special.
The quality of kisses can easily change as a relationship develops. I cannot count the times a patient has told me, "I just wish he/she kissed me like when we were first together."
For whatever reason, kisses have a tendency to become more mundane, rote, and quick as a relationship ages.
Kissing is fun. It is one of the single most intimate things you can do just about anywhere. And passionate kisses are solely reserved for you and your intimate partner to share. This dramatically increases the specialness and can lead to huge gains for your successful relationship in terms of connectedness, commitment, and zest.
Make a habit of engaging your partner in a lasting and meaningful dating kiss at least once each day. And vary the time of day, making it unexpected. Maybe it happens as you're leaving for work, when you meet for lunch, when you're watching TV in the evening. Enhance the "Wow Factor" by sneaking kisses all throughout the day.
These kisses may precede sex, but it is important that this be the exception. As with Resolution 1, kiss passionately each day, at unexpected times, without expecting sex in return.
This is a good thing, and your partner is not likely to end up in a counselor’s office saying "I just wish he/she kissed me like we did when we were first together."
"I love you" has a tendency to suffer some of the same erosion over time as kissing does. It becomes a habit and loses some of its early luster.
Saying "I love you" is always a good habit to have, but this resolution is about stretching your partner’s concept of how much you love him or her.
Practice the daily habit of explaining in an outrageous way how much you love your partner.
At different times each day, come up with an analogy, metaphor, allegory, hyperbole, or simile about your love. Like these:
Have fun with it. Get ridiculous with it. Make your partner laugh out loud at the over-the-top things you say from time to time.
This is a very special, powerful, and unique bonding tool. And probably not something you or your partner have shared with anyone else before. Anytime you are doing something novel and enjoyable, you are building strong bonds that pay dividends in many extraordinary ways.
Okay, that's not what it sounds like. What I mean is - don’t get stuck in a rut as you continue to date your partner while respecting your committed relationship.
Many couples fall into the routine of dinner and a movie for date night. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, (and it is much better than not dating your partner at all) adding a little spice will increase your appreciation of your dates. Variety enriches your experiences, conversations, memories, and connection to each other.
Make your date night a weekly event. This should be non-negotiable and only impeded by acts of God.
It doesn’t have to cost anything, and it doesn't even have to occur outside of your home or apartment. It just needs to happen.
Going out as a couple, even one night a week, can be difficult if you're on a tight budget, have small kids, sick pets, or elderly parents living with you. This is completely normal and okay.
When dating as a committed couple, it is the thoughts, actions, and time together that count. You can find a year's worth of dating suggestions here.
It takes quantity time to have quality time. Spend time together doing special things to develop special memories. Create deep bonds that allow you to weather the hard times and enjoy the good times together.
Dating around is probably the hardest of the resolutions because it takes the most effort and occurs weekly rather than daily. If you decide to do it, you may need to work hard to make this one stick, but it will be a big contributor to your successful relationship.
If your relationship has deteriorated, the walls are up, and you're not very close anymore, planting a long, wet kiss on your partner by surprise may not go smoothly.
Every day brings a new opportunity to connect. But if the two of you can't agree to do the previous four successful relationship resolutions, hope is not lost.
Let your partner know that you want to be closer again and that you are willing to take steps to get there.
Consider going to couples' therapy. Call a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist or a Professional Counselor, Clinical Social Worker, or Psychologist who specializes in relationship recovery. Describe your situation and hear what they have to say.
You may save your relationship through a series of honest conversations about how far you are willing to go to make things better, and then following up with action and direction. Work hard to be honest, fearless, and thorough during your sessions. Even if your relationship ends, you will know that you gave it your best.
However, many people are happy they took steps toward restoration. Because they turned their deteriorating situations around and are living in a successful relationship they could have only imagined before.
Visit the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (www.AAMFT.org) and use their Therapist Locator to find a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in your area.
Go to the American Mental Health Counselors Association (www.AMHCA.org) and use the Find a Counselor tool to locate a licensed counselor in your area with a specialty in relationship therapy.
The National Association of Social Workers (www.NASWDC.org) has a Find a Clinical Social Worker feature.
A Find a Psychologist link is available on the American Psychological Association’s web site (www.APA.org).