Don’t get lazy in love: Even the strongest, healthiest relationships could use a little fine-tuning every now and then.
Below, marriage therapists from around the country share six tips on fostering a more loving relationship in the New Year.
Give each other the best of your time rather than whatever’s left at the end of the day.
There’s a huge difference between quality time and whatever you allot to your partner after an energy-zapping day at the office.
Don’t spend another date night slumped on the couch, drifting to sleep to the sounds of “Parks and Rec.” This year, make a point to create the space and intention for quality time together, said Talia Wagner, a marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles.
“Start by just being present with each other, interested in what the other has to say,” she said. “Stop folding the laundry or watching TV when you relay the day’s events to each other. Give one another your undivided attention, be engaged and then, later, when you suggest hanging out and watching a movie or going out dinner, your partner will be more likely to say yes.”
Have quarterly “How can I help you achieve your dreams or goals?” meetings.
Your partner is your biggest fan, your ride or die, and your sounding board ? and the same should be true for them. To remind your S.O. just how much you’re rooting for them, create a quarterly ritual in which you ask them what their current career goals or aspirations are. Then ask what you can do to help them make that happen, said Laura Heck, a marriage and family therapist in Salt Lake City and the co-host of “Marriage Therapy Radio.”
“When your partner is the wind behind your sails, you not only feel supported but cherished, loved, appreciated and validated in who you are as a person,” she said. “These are components necessary to a loving, satisfying relationship.”
Take time to check in on how you feel about the relationship.
It’s easy to go into the relationship equivalent of cruise control after years together. You do so at the risk of becoming complacent, though, said Susan Pease Gadoua, a therapist and co-author of The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels.
Stay active in your relationship, check in with your partner and self-reflect to make sure you’re both still happy and content, she said.
“In some instances, you might need to speak up about what isn’t right,” said Pease Gadoua. “This can be challenging, but it’s a good skill for you to have and you can learn a lot by how he or she reacts to your feelings.”
Make a new year’s resolution specific to your relationship.
We all do one thing that absolutely irks our partner: Maybe you leave globs of hair in the shower drain or forget piles of plates in the sink. Maybe you interrupt their stories, or phub them at dinner.
Whatever it is, resolve to cut back on it, for your partner’s sake.
“Choose that one thing to change and then commit yourself this year to changing it,” said Winifred Reilly, a marriage and family therapist in Berkeley, California. “You could tell them you’re resolving to do that ? or, better still, don’t say a word about your intention and see how they respond.”
Treat your relationship like the prize it is
Finding a worthwhile life partner is rough going these days. (Don’t believe us? Ask your closest dating-app-using friend.) Cherish what you’ve created together and be very deliberate in letting your S.O. know how special they are, said Becky Whetstone, a marriage family therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“One of the biggest complaints I hear in my office is lack of attention to the relationship,” she said. “Too many people think they can put their romance on a shelf and focus on other areas of their life. I absolutely assure couples that if they don’t put their relationship at the top of their list of priorities, just behind their own self-care, things will start to deteriorate.”
Be a little selfish.
Feeling guilty about taking that girls’ trip to Austin or buying that kind of pricey CrossFit pass? Don’t. Taking time for things that leave you feeling rejuvenated ? whether it means exercising or spending time with your friends ? pays off dividends in your relationship, said Tina Tessina, psychotherapist and co-author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free.
“Guard against sacrificing too much by making sure you care about yourself, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually,” she said.
If that sounds a tad self-centered, balance it out by looking out for your partner and making sure they’re taking care of themselves, too.
“Caring about yourselves in these areas is the best way to ensure that your relationship will thrive and no one will carry too much resentment, which is the only emotion that can destroy love,” Tessina said.