Posts

Happy New Year! Did you make all your resolutions? What are your goals for this year? Whether you made some or not, I’d like to challenge you to add one resolution: Make this year one of growth for your marriage.

Marriage isn’t easy, but a great marriage is achievable with intentionality and commitment. You can form and keep habits to help you strengthen your relationship and grow your marriage in this new year. 

Here are six good habits to start for your marriage:

1. Be intentional about intimacy.

I get it. Life can be hectic. We all have those times when we let intimacy slip a little. With intentionality, you can make intimacy a central part of marriage. But intimacy isn’t just sex. That’s part of it, but there is much more to it. There are actually five types of intimacy: emotional, intellectual, experiential, spiritual and sexual. When you’re intentional about increasing intimacy in these areas, your marriage grows deeper.

2. Date regularly.

Regular date nights are crucial to a healthy marriage. There are numerous benefits to date nights as well. Here are some of them:

  • Help couples connect
  • Build resilience
  • Increase happiness

Date nights don’t have to be expensive, either. You can get creative and go for a picnic, enjoy a park together, or just grab a coffee or hot tea and chat. Dates don’t have to be limited to the evening, so get creative with what works best for your schedules. If you don’t date regularly, start with once a month and increase frequency to fit your lifestyle. Pull out those calendars and make sure you’re both aware of what each other has going on. Schedule your date nights so you don’t book something else over them. 

3. Express appreciation for each other.

As we navigate the daily grind, it can be easy to take each other for granted. Expressing appreciation helps connect us, and it starts with a simple “thank you.” Science tells us the benefits are enormous. Helping our relationship thrive and making us physically healthier are just a couple of advantages. Make gratitude an everyday habit in your marriage.

4. Play together.

Remember how fun it was to date before you got married? If playing is no longer part of your relationship, it’s time to create a new habit. Playing together can range from just being goofy to playing games together. My wife and I have always enjoyed a good Nerf battle.

5. Make time to talk.

Communication is essential in any relationship, but it’s at the core of a healthy marriage. We must make time to talk daily to strengthen our relationship. Setting aside at least five minutes per day to talk with your spouse can make you both feel more connected and understood. This means sitting down face to face – no technology, no kids – just the two of you. According to Dr. John Gottman, “If you don’t work at communication, the relationship will deteriorate over time, just like a car that’s not taken care of will fall apart.”

6. Share your dreams and goals.

Remember when you were dating, and you’d share your dreams? Well, don’t let that die! Our dreams change as we get older, and that’s ok, but keep sharing your dreams. My wife and I started keeping a dream journal a couple of years ago. Nothing complicated – we just grabbed some notebooks. We started writing down places we wanted to go, things we wanted to accomplish, and any other dreams we had. 

Also share your career, health, and financial goals, or whatever they are. If you set goals for the new year, share those. Be each other’s accountability partner and cheerleader. Your marriage will thrive when you’re growing together. 

Start this year off by forming habits to deepen your connection and strengthen your marriage. Although it takes time to create a new habit, the time it takes depends on you. Your marriage is worth the effort and focus. Don’t give up! Keep working to make this the best year yet for your marriage.

Other blogs:

Couples Who Play Together – First Things First

What to Do When My Spouse Feels Unappreciated – First Things First

5 Keys to Being Thankful in Marriage

6 Exercises to Strengthen Emotional Intimacy in Your Marriage

As the year rapidly comes to an end, many people think about making the next year better. The idea of New Year’s resolutions has been around for thousands of years. The practice of looking back at the past, then forward to what’s to come is the hallmark of creating New Year’s resolutions for yourself and for your family. 

Here are some must-have resolution suggestions for the different facets of your life.

Personal Resolutions: 

1. Practice gratitude.

Believe it or not, an attitude of gratitude and appreciation affects your perspective of the world and what’s happening around you. Gratitude helps you recognize that it could be worse – no matter how difficult something is. 

2. Care for yourself. 

Self-care is a trending term these days. You may actually be resistant to self-care because it can be seen as selfishness. However, at a minimum, it’s essential to make sure that you are eating and sleeping well, and moving. Intentionally taking care of yourself can make you a better person, spouse, and parent. 

Couple Resolutions: 

1. Practice “couple” time.

Spending quality time together can enhance your closest relationships. This may look different depending on your stage of life and interests. Be intentional about making time for each other in the new year.

2. Show appreciation.

Show appreciation for your partner affirms that you see them. It doesn’t matter how small the task is. Appreciation keeps you from taking your spouse for granted. Make a habit of trying to find the good in your spouse and watch what happens.  

3. Work on deeper connections.

It’s easy to get so overwhelmed with the busyness of life that we forget to connect. In the new year, be aware of how you can connect with your spouse during these four times in the day: 

1) When you wake up in the morning

2) When you depart for the day

3) When you reconnect after work 

4) When you say good night 

These little moments can totally impact how you build intimacy in your relationship.

Family Resolutions: 

1. Eat meals together. 

For years, dozens of studies have shown that family meals decrease substance use, eating disorders, and depressive symptoms. Family mealtimes also increase academic success and self-esteem. Additionally, eating together strengthens the parent-child connection. Schedule at least four meals to eat together. It can include Saturday breakfast or Sunday dinner. (Now you have two more to put on the calendar.)

2. Volunteer together.

Children can often believe that their wants, needs, and desires are the most crucial thing in the world. Volunteering allows them to get out of their world and help others. You might start small by helping a neighbor or planning to volunteer monthly at a local animal shelter. 

3. Take an annual family trip.

The purpose of a yearly family trip is to take time away from the day-to-day and have focused time together. It’s easy to get disheartened about financing a family trip to, say, a famous amusement park. Instead, focus on adventure and making memories that last a lifetime.

4. Unplug from technology.

Technology has become an integral part of our lives, but it can be a distraction sometimes. In the new year, make a conscious effort at specific times to step away from the phones, tablets, etc. Have a bowl near the dining room table where everyone can place their phone before you sit down to eat together. For a more significant challenge, take one day a month where everyone unplugs. 

5. Schedule weekly family fun nights.

Playing board games or watching a movie together once a week is great for bonding! You can share the games and movies that you enjoyed growing up with your children or discover new ones as a family.

As the new year gets closer, choose an activity from each category. Remember, your goal is to increase the connections in your family by spending time together. Start slow. You don’t have to do it all! Keep your focus on bonding with your spouse and your children. And remember to have a GREAT and prosperous new year!

Sources:

Systematic review of the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth

5 Ways to Start the New Year Off Right

Reflection and intention can help you reach your goals.

One more year is almost in the rearview, and the countdown to the new year is on. Can you believe it? If you’re like me, you may already be thinking about new opportunities and goals to help you start the new year right.

If you’re rolling your eyes at the thought of “New Year’s Resolutions,” let me just state the obvious: There’s nothing significant about January 1 when it comes to goals. There is nothing magical about new year’s resolutions. In fact, research has found that only about 45% of people even make resolutions. (And 35% of those who do quit them before the end of January.)

So, are they even worth it? While resolutions may not be the most successful, there is a lot of benefit in setting goals for yourself. Goals can help you become who you want to be, provide stability and drive you. January 1 gives you a good starting point. The calendar flips to another year, and it’s often seen as a fresh start. 

But, how do we start the new year off right?

1. Reflect on the previous year. 

Healthy things grow. Healthy people are no different, but to grow, we have to see where we are. Start by looking back at the previous year and ask yourself:

What went well last year?

What did I accomplish?

How did my life improve?

What goals did I abandon? Why?

What hurdles did I overcome?

What do I wish I had spent more time doing?

2. Ask yourself, “What do I want to improve upon and why?”

You have the best opportunity to achieve the goals you set for yourself. Be careful not to set your goals based on what another person or our culture says. Your goals are about your health, finances, career, relationships, or whatever you choose. No matter how good a goal is, the success rate is diminished if it’s set for the wrong reasons. Side note: There is no magical number of goals either. Maybe you just need to start with one and focus on it until you achieve it.

3. Set SMART goals.

Ever heard of a SMART goal? SMART is an acronym coined in the Management Review Journal in 1981. It means specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. It’s a business model for setting goals, but it translates well to other types. Here’s a brief explanation of a SMART goal:

  • Specific: Your resolution should be absolutely clear. Instead of “I want to get in better shape,” say, “I want to run a 5k in 3 months.”
  • Measurable: You need a way to measure your progress. Depending on your goal, you may have to search, but look for a tool to measure your progress. Choose a method that you’ll stick with.
  • Achievable: If it’s not attainable, you’ll probably give up too soon. Don’t try to jump too big, too fast. If there’s a big, lofty goal you want to achieve in the future, that’s great. Break it down into smaller goals and take those on. It’s a lot less daunting to say you want to lose 5 pounds in 2 months than to say you want to lose 50 pounds.
  • Relevant: Does the goal matter to you? Is this something you want, not anyone else?
  • Time-bound: Every goal needs a timeframe. The timeline must be realistic. Set a target achievement date and set benchmarks along the way. 

4. Build a support system.

Achieving goals is a lot easier when you surround yourself with people cheering you on. Come alongside friends or family, and all agree to share your goals and support each other. Accountability will push you to keep at it. If you need to, find an online group with similar goals and journey together.

5. Write it down.

This seems simple, but there’s power in writing your goals, perhaps in your planner or on a sticky note in a prominent place. Make sure they are somewhere highly visible so you can read them over and over. And you can check off that goal once you achieve it. 

Go ahead and set those goals for the new year. But take the time to make a plan. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” 

Other resources:

Gratitude Challenge

How Failed New Year’s Resolutions Can Affect Marriages – First Things First

Relationship Resolutions – First Things First

10 Resolutions for a Healthy Marriage – First Things First

How Failed New Year’s Resolutions Can Affect Marriages

If you don't reach your goals, it doesn't mean your relationship is a failure!

So, how are those New Year’s resolutions going?

According to data collected in 2018 by the fitness app Strava, January 17 is when many start to give up on their resolutions. By early to mid-February, many have thrown in the towel. What does this mean for you and for your relationship? 

If you set goals as a couple, maybe to rein in finances or invest in your marriage, failure can seem detrimental, especially if one spouse is ready to give up. At the same time, the other wants to push forward. When both partners aren’t on the same page regarding goals for their relationship, resentment can develop. One person throwing the towel in may lead the other to think they don’t care or are lazy. So what do you do?

A failed goal doesn’t mean that your relationship is a failure. 

Remember, your relationship’s health is most important. It may be time to press pause on the pursuit of the goal and reevaluate. Have a conversation about why one or both of you gave up. Communication is a necessity! Don’t wait. Talk. 

Ask yourselves if the goal is a mutual interest or if one spouse wants this and the other went along trying to support it. My wife and I have the goal to be a healthier couple physically. We want to be healthier for our kids, but we don’t go about it the same way. I may have my eyes set on running a marathon. She may be pursuing healthier eating habits and consistent cardio workouts. We support each other and are each other’s #1 cheerleader. We’re committed to helping each other reach our goals. 

Don’t worry; January 1 doesn’t hold any magical power when it comes to goal setting. 

You can adjust and start fresh on whatever day you choose. (YES!)

Here are some questions to ask if you feel like your relationship goals aren’t going as well as you hoped this year:

  • Who do you want to be as a couple? As a spouse?
  • What is the motivation for the goals?
  • Do you have a plan?
  • Are the goals realistic and achievable?

Knowing the why and how is essential to accomplishing the goal. Identify who you are as a couple and your identity, then work the plans out from there. Maybe as a couple, you want to influence others to prioritize their relationship by having consistent date nights. That’s your goal. How do you work it out? Schedule your date nights and make them a priority on your calendar. Other people will recognize this, and you may influence another couple to do the same. 

Realizing a goal is about who you want to be as a person; achieving it is a journey, not a pass/fail. 

You can and will make adjustments as you go. Adjusting is not a sign of failure but a sign of growth. Commit to working together and supporting one another.

Don’t let failed resolutions affect your marriage. Step back, have a conversation, reset your goals, and plan for success. 

Other blogs you may want to check out on this topic:

It’s been a different kind of year, to say the least. You’ve changed, adapted, adjusted, and dealt with disappointments, uncertainties and the unexpected. But you made it. And as a family, you made it together. Here are 20 fun ways to end 2020 on a high note with your family.

These ways will help you connect with your family and remember what’s most important.

  1. Give to essential workers—thank you notes, gift cards, prepackaged treats, coffee, etc.
  2. Build and play a music playlist with songs each family member has listened to most in 2020.
  3. Family Karaoke with songs from 2020.
  4. Practice your 20-20 vision by naming what you’re most thankful for in 2020.
  5. Learn a new game the family can play together in 2021. Teach it to others and create a new tradition. 
  6. See how many family and friends you can get on to one video call. Have a simple encouraging message that your family can share with everyone who gets on the video.
  7. Get hot cocoa and go on a holiday lights tour in your car.
  8. Write letters to family members. Include family updates, pictures, highlights of the year.
  9. Read a book together as a family.
  10. Create and write a family story together.
  11. Build a fort and camp out in the living room. Each family member chooses a TV show or movie, and the family watches it together.
  12. Make s’mores in the kitchen using a microwave, stove, or oven and share funny memories from 2020. (No burns! Be careful!)
  13. Cook a favorite family meal. All hands on deck to prepare the meal.
  14. Look online and create a special family meal together: buy the ingredients, make plans, cook it together and of course, eat together.
  15. List what you’ve learned about yourself or your family from A-Z. A: We’re Appreciative of each other. B: We’re Bad at Board Games. C: Cook good meals, etc.
  16. Have a family awards ceremony. For example: Best Attitude, Loudest Snorer, Longest Shower, Most Adaptable, Best Hand-Washer, Best Sharer, Most Improved Attitude, Most Improved Cook, Best Helper, and come up with your own categories!
  17. Cardboard Race Cars—build a race car out of cardboard and race around your home.
  18. Build a maze or tunnels through your home out of cardboard. 
  19. Use cardboard to build forts and have a family fun time: paper battles, Nerf gun battles, pillow battles, blow-dart battles using straws and Q-tips, etc.
  20. Create your own New Year’s Eve Party. Make your own ball drop, streamers, and countdown clock. With younger children, you don’t have to wait until midnight to watch the ball drop.

Bonus:

Make a large sign wishing neighbors a Happy New Year. You can drive through your neighborhood honking your horn so neighbors will look out and see the sign. Post on family social media accounts. Include an encouraging message to lift their spirits.

The circumstances aren’t what we remember most as a family most. It’s how we deal with the circumstances that color how we remember events. Instead of focusing on what you didn’t have or get to do during this challenging year, help your family recognize how you grew and are better for it.

While being happy and content in the new year may seem to be elusive sometimes, many people believe it will come to them through some external means like finding the right job, the right spouse or making a certain amount of money.

“If only I had a better job.” 

“If I could just find Mr./Mrs. Right.” 

“If I just had a higher-paying job.” 

Research indicates this is not true.

Sonja Lyubomirsky and her team at the University of California-Riverside reviewed 225 studies involving 275,000 people, and they found that people aren’t happy because they are successful.

Instead:

  • They are successful because they are happy.
  • Happy people are easier to work with, more highly motivated and more willing to tackle a difficult project. As a result, they are more likely to be successful.
  • Happy people appear to be more successful than their less-happy peers in three primary areas of life – work, relationships, and health.

While many people seek happiness through people, things, work, etc., the research suggests that happiness does not come from someplace or someone else. Those things or people might contribute to a person’s happiness, but true happiness comes from within. And this is still true when it comes to being content in the new year!

“Happiness is a choice,” said Dr. Patrick Williams, clinical psychologist and master certified life coach. “In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl said that what kept him alive in the prison camp was knowing there was one freedom no one could take from him – his thoughts. He chose to make the best of a terrible circumstance.

As you think about being content in the new year ahead, perhaps you are considering some changes in order to be a happier person. Here are a few things to think about:

  • Love and accept yourself for who you are. This does not mean change isn’t necessary. Recognize that we all have our strengths and opportunities for growth. Beating yourself up over your weaknesses does not contribute to being happy. All of us have gifts in something. Treat yourself kindly and acknowledge that you are a work in progress.
  • Be accountable for your actions. Instead of blaming others for all that happens to you, accept responsibility for your choices. While you cannot change the past, you can impact the future. Make an intentional decision to do things differently.
  • Stop trying to change others. The only person you can change is yourself.
  • Determine your priorities and live by them. Living out someone else’s dream for your life can be a major source of unhappiness. For example, a young man who had been swimming since he was small started having headaches every time he prepared to swim in a meet. He was an exceptionally good swimmer and there seemed to be no good explanation as to why he kept getting the horrible headaches. One day, his mom commented that she just didn’t understand these headaches because he loved to swim. He responded, “No mom. I don’t love swimming. I am good at it, but I don’t enjoy it at all.” Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing.
  • Start with abundance in your life. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, look at what you do have – a roof over your head, clothing, food, etc. Someone once said, instead of looking at whether your glass is half-empty or half-full, just be thankful you have a glass.
  • Define happiness. In his article, Why Happiness Isn’t a Feeling, J.P. Moreland says a classical understanding of happiness is virtue and character, a settled tone, depends on internal state, springs from within, is fixed and stable, empowering and liberating, integrated with one’s identity, colors the rest of life and creates true/fulfilled self. What is your definition of happiness?

“The reality is this, if you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back and a roof over your head you are richer than 75 percent of the world and if you have money in the bank, in your wallet and some spare change, you are in the top 8 percent of the world’s wealthy,”  Williams said. “Happiness is a matter of perspective, it has nothing to do with the trappings.”

Looking for relationship resources? Click here!

Image from Unsplash.com

The YMCAs and Planet Fitnesses in town and all the other gyms are packed full this week with all those who made New Year’s resolutions to lose some pounds, to better their physiques, and to get healthier. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Did you set some goals for this year? I hope they weren’t all about diet and exercise! Did you make some Relationship Resolutions?

Read more

Many people are looking to do some cleaning out at the beginning of a new year. Whether it’s a detox body cleanse or binge-watching “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Netflix, people are interested in freeing themselves from toxins in their body and letting go of material things that seem to hold them back from living their best life.

A relational cleanse could also be helpful. Start by asking yourself, “What did I drag into this new year that is holding me back?” It could be things like:

  • bitterness and resentment
  • a toxic friendship
  • lies you have taken on as truth about yourself
  • childhood experiences that still haunt you
  • a lack of forgiveness of yourself and/or others
  • disappointment that weighs heavily on your heart
  • despair that things will never change
  • an addiction
  • a job you dislike, or something else.

Are there people who suck the life right out of you every time you are around them? If so, why do you choose to hang with them? How would your life be different if you moved on?

What purpose does unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness serve? Holding on to emotions may seem powerful in some way or that it is actually impacting the other person, but it’s really killing you instead. Letting go of the poison doesn’t excuse the behavior; It gives you the freedom to live.

What about disappointment and the complications of life?

Spouses walk away, jobs end, unexpected illness hits, children make poor choices, and sometimes the biggest disappointments come from the ones you care about the most. Is collecting and carrying around disappointments helping you move forward? Sometimes you look back and realize that one of your biggest disappointments taught you one of your greatest life lessons. But, if you can’t figure out how holding on to disappointments is helping you be your best you, then it’s time to let them go. Doing this might feel like letting go of a very heavy weight.

Excessive spending, gambling, alcohol, drugs, food, sex, pornography, video gaming, exercising, work and cutting are just a few of the addictions people often find themselves battling. Acknowledging that any one of these has a stranglehold on your life is the first step toward dealing with it and moving forward. Addictions are often bigger than what we can handle on our own, so don’t be afraid to seek professional help to get you moving in a healthy direction.

Oftentimes, the hardest part is recognizing that we each make a choice, consciously or not, to continue hauling stuff around that isn’t helpful or healthy for us. Making an intentional decision to stop dragging around unhealthy relational things and start tidying up your life can give you a completely different perspective on a new year and your life. Opportunity lies ahead.