Six Good Habits to Start for Your Marriage in the New Year
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.
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
Must-Have New Year’s Resolutions for Your Family
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.
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.
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.
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!
Systematic review of the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth
5 Ways to Start the New Year Off Right
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.”
How Failed New Year’s Resolutions Can Affect Marriages – First Things First
Relationship Resolutions – First Things First
How Failed New Year’s Resolutions Can Affect Marriages
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:
6 Ways to be Happy, Healthy and Content in the New Year
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.
- 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!
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?
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.
Some people eagerly anticipate the arrival of a new year, trying to find purpose and hoping for new opportunities. Others feel stuck in a rut and could really care less.
At the ripe old age of 28, Dr. Jeff Fray, psychologist/consultant, had met all of his life goals. He earned his doctorate and built up a practice that included eight or nine counselors. Yet he felt like he was living life on a treadmill.
From the outside looking in, one might assume Fray had it all. Instead, he felt trapped like a wild animal in a cage with bars of insecurity, money, fear of failure and rejection, and lack of purpose.
“I certainly wasn’t experiencing life to its fullest, I was in a rut.” said Fray, “ I thought I had purpose, but what I really had was ambition. I had a plan in my mind of how things were supposed to go. What I have learned is, when people have ambition instead of purpose, they have a vision for the future. But if that vision isn’t working, they often wind up manipulating people to fulfill that vision to which they have attached their sense of worth and purpose.”
After some soul searching, Fray decided he felt tired of living in the cage. He and his wife made a radical decision to sell their home, camper, cars and the practice he worked so hard to build. They purchased a 50-foot sailboat. After 18 months of preparing and equipping, they set sail on the journey of a lifetime.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, but beyond a shadow of a doubt it was the right one,” Fray shared. “For a year and a half we sailed with our three children who were 4, 9 and 12 at the time. It was an opportunity to re-engage as a family. We had just 300 square feet of living quarters, but we had a huge backyard. We home-schooled the boys, which led to some interesting moments for sure!”
Other than a one-week chartered “test-sail,” the Frays had never sailed before, so the first several weeks were literally baptism by fire.
“Our first night out of the harbor we were up all night saving a boat from sinking,” Fray remembered. “One week later, we saved another boat. Within the first two weeks, our alternator broke, which meant we had no electricity, and then our hot water heater rusted through. We missed our turn into Georgetown Harbor in the Bahamas and took the boat up on a reef. The only thing that saved us was that the tide was coming in and the current moved us off the reef.”
The Frays had their sights set on sailing to the Dominican Republic and many other places. But after the adventures of the first two weeks, they felt tempted to stay put.
“The harbor is beautiful and there are hundreds of other families who live there and home school their children,” Fray said. “One night, new friends came over to our boat for dinner. They told us that this harbor is known as Chicken Harbor and is where the dream of the southern Caribbean gives way to the good enough.”
In his quest to find purpose, Fray realized a critical piece of information. “Life is hard. When people get to a safe place that is better, like Chicken Harbor, it is tempting to say, ‘Safe is good enough’ and you end up missing out on the ultimate purpose for your life.”
The Frays stayed in the harbor one week to make boat repairs and then headed out. The first night, they ran into another storm and began the testing again. As time went by they persevered many other trials, including adjusting to living in very close quarters.
“In 300 square feet, we had to learn to honor and respect each other,” Fray recalled. “You couldn’t escape conflict. We developed our team at a whole different level. Every family member had a role to play. Our 4-year-old took the first watch every night with his mom. The 9-year-old was our mechanic and our oldest was the first to get his dingy license so he was captain of the dingy taking us back and forth to land. We all had a sense of purpose.”
Their year-and-a-half adventure took them to many places most never get the opportunity to see, including uninhabited islands where Christopher Columbus landed, huge waterfalls in the Dominican Republic, and the remote coast of Venezuela.
“It was amazing,” Fray said. “During our time at sea I came to the realization that my purpose is to do the next thing wholeheartedly the rest of my life. While I don’t recommend everybody do what we did, I can tell you it gave us the opportunity to examine our priorities and discover our purpose, which gave us a road map for the future. Years later, our family is still impacted by our sailing sabbatical.”
On the cusp of a new year, is the rudder of your life ambition or purpose? Do you feel trapped in a cage? If so, it is never too late to make changes. The beginning of a new year presents a great opportunity to establish a new direction or build on an existing strong foundation. Don’t be afraid to enter uncharted waters, which may be the course to newfound purpose in the coming year.