The start of the year means it’s time for resolutions, or more accurately, thinking about resolutions. They seem good in theory, but they’re usually so weighty and serious that they feel like homework. That’s one strike against them. When you’re a parent, there are others.
“The challenge is four things: T-I-M-E,” says Pat Love, relationship expert and author of Five Forces Destroying Your Relationship You Probably Never Heard Of.You don’t have it for stuff you need to do. You also don’t have loads of energy that making a change requires. Sometimes, you just want to zone at out the end of the day, which is understandable, but it leads to you and your partner getting into patterns where you do everything for the kids and nothing for your relationship. That’s how problems occur and resentments fester. It’s in your best interest to create a few shared goals as a couple. But, goal-setting only works if it’s attainable. That means no scheduling, no quotas, no need to find a babysitter. It’s got to be stuff that’s quick and seamlessly fits into your day. Oh, and it’s got to be fun. Here are a few couples resolutions to consider this new year.
1. Create Activity Jars
That’s right, jars. You each get to fill your own with whatever activities you want. “Pick the TV Show”. “Sleep an Extra 15 Minutes.” “Sex Right Now.” Don’t create any schedule or requirements. That’s merely turning something fun into a have-to and a guarantee that it will never happen, Love says. Your only goal is trying to weave the ideas into your lives. That’s easier than you think. More on that later.
2. When a Bell Sounds, Kiss
Or it could be when the phone rings, a text comes in, or a child says, “Mine.” You’re looking for some trigger that happens regularly but randomly, and while innocuous, it gives a pop of physical connection, something that can easily fade over time. If you want to be even more brazen, do it whenever someone lets out gas. If you’ve been married longer than six months, it’s happening so you might as well use it for good. The kids might be doubly horrified, first from the emanation then the PDA. But there’s too much upside. “Farts are funny,” Love says. “It’s family fun but also couple’s fun.”
3. Prioritize Alone Time
Not for the two of you, but individually, which is sometimes all that someone wants. Start slowly. Maybe a weekend day works well. You take an hour in the morning. Your partner gets an hour in the afternoon. Regardless of how it works, you’re committed to making it happen, because even though there’s always something to do at home, you know that when you leave and come back, you’re replenished. But you also don’t have to leave or do anything in particular. The same goes for what your partner chooses. “My hour is not your hour,” says Robyn Landow, New York City psychologist.
4. Start Wagering
It could be the hold time length, when the plumber will show up, or what word did Grandma just text in response to the photo. Betting makes routine stuff competitive, and the winner could get to pick from the activity jar. But even if it’s just for bragging rights, you’ve created your inside joke. “It’s romantic because it’s bonding. It reconfirms the relationship,” Love says. “It’s what we do as a couple.”
5. Install Penalties
Select a handful of the other person’s low-level annoyances. Leaving laundry on the floor. Not replacing the garbage bag. Flossing outside of the bathroom. Stuff like that. Whenever the discretion happens, the aggrieved partner gets to go to the jar and you must honor the chosen activity. Sure, it might get the offender to shape up. But it definitely changes the mindset. “It’s reframing,” Love says. “Instead of chewing you out, you do something fun.”
6. Text Each Other
It doesn’t have to be anything suggestive, although there’s nothing wrong with that. Just at some point in the day, shoot off, “Funny story. Remind me to tell you later.” You’ve conveyed that there’s no serious talk to dread. Then when you share, make it something fun and inconsequential so now you’ve built a new expectation. “It’s something to look forward to,” Landow says.
7. Share Trivia
Have conversations semi-regularly inspired by something you heard, read, watched, or thought. And if your partner doesn’t respond in kind, ask them to share something equally trivial. The ideal topic should have two components: laugh-out-loud funniness and not a thing to do with children. “Not talking about kids for 15 seconds reminds you of the other aspects of your life that are part of you and outside of heavy-duty parenting,” Landow says.
8. Chart Your Support
Everyone wants to feel that their partner has their back, but sometimes you wonder where it is. Take away the mystery with a chart on the refrigerator and every time you do something that you deem as supporting your spouse, give yourself a sticker. First to 20 wins. (Prize is up to you. The jar is always an option.) A few things are in play. You’re looking for opportunities, and by being overt, your partner feels the support. But if there’s a question of “That’s what you call backup?,” you get to explain. Maybe your partner was missing your intention. Maybe your intention wasn’t as obvious as you thought. You then tweak so your actions resonate, and ultimately, you’re training your eyes on new things. “You get rewired to see what your partner does right,” Love says.
As with all of these resolutions, the goal here is togetherness. So, talk it out. Iterate. Determine what works best for you and progress will be made.
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