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Saving the Best for Last: A Therapeutic Year in Review

The end of the year is a time of reflection, and we would like to honor that with a compilation of tips and resources for you and your relationship.

Looking back on 2015, how do you think you did with your relationship? What fights seemed big at the time but now are hardly remembered? How have you grown intimately? Where would you like to see yourselves by the end of next year?

We have written a lot of relationship advice for couples this year, and most recently I wrote about the benefit of relationship resolutions. This follow-up is to help inspire ideas and assist in planning out ways to improve your relationship heading into the New Year. Below are common topics that partners complain about or want to improve along with resources for how you can approach each issue.

I don’t want us to be so affected by fighting. It distances us too much.

During relational conflict, we often fall victim to our survival strategies that develop to protect our vulnerabilities. We forget this is someone we love and lose our ability to empathize. Remember these tips to better manage your anger, and try to avoid passive aggressive behavior during conflict. Communication should occur in a safe space, and that can only happen if you both try to be open and vulnerable with each other.

Conflict is inevitable in relationships, and healthy couples know how to repair any rifts and forgive after conflict occurs. To keep conflict from tearing you apart, learn your partner’s apology language, and overcome your barriers to forgiveness. It is often difficult to forgive, but it is a necessary component to long-term relationship success.

I do not want us to fight every time we talk about money.

Money can be a triggering topic because financial values are often intimately tied to our personal vulnerabilities. Discussions about finances often involve our ideas of power, control, and success. Thus, when things are not going well financially, some are prone to take it quite personally. Increase your awareness of your underlying issues associated with finances, and regularly discuss your financial situation with your partner.

Really, I just want us to communicate more and to prioritize the relationship.

Resentment is the arch villain to relationship health. It breeds emotional distance and allows important problems to go unaddressed, sometimes until it is too late. In her book, Marriage in Modern Life: Why It Works, When It Works, Dr. Malec discusses how improving your ability to communicate openly and routinely can keep resentment from destroying your relationship.

Other times, your communication may need a boost from the routine talk you and your partner share. It can be difficult to maintain interesting conversation with the same person over many years, and it is something you can continue to improve. Take some time to check in with your partner on how he or she currently views the relationship. Help each other understand and initiate the changes you would like to see in the relationship, and follow-up with each other.

How can we bring back the spark?

It is normal for passion to fluctuate in long-term relationships. We crave security in our partners, but passion needs mystery and novelty to thrive. Shake things up by taking new risks or remember these tips to keep the spark alive.

I want to feel more desired.

Over time, we may not try as hard to show our partners how much we desire and appreciate them. It is important to not take this for granted and to openly communicate when you feel insecure or crave something new from your partner. It requires vulnerability, but actively pursuing your partner and discussing your needs can greatly enhance the passion in your relationship.

We never spend enough time together.

A relationship can be replaced as a priority when certain external stressors or responsibilities get in the way. However, it is important to find ways to connect with your partner on a daily and weekly basis. We recommend that couples try Gottman’s method of devoting six magical hours to the relationship in a week because it is both doable and greatly beneficial for maintaining intimacy.

Ever since our baby was born, we have felt so distant. I want to reconnect.

The transition to parenthood can be difficult for couples, as parenthood takes significant time, energy, and focus away from the intimate relationship, especially early on. Be active in maintaining intimacy during the transition, and regularly check in with each other to see what you can do to improve and enhance the strength of your intimate relationship during this time.

I want us to feel more like partners.

From big to small gestures, there are many things you can do to be a better partner, and one of the easiest is to tell your partner you desire to be better and would like his or her input on how you can do so. Beware of keeping score, as healthy couples do not concern themselves so much with who is right or wrong. The priority needs to be on understanding and appreciating your differing perspectives. You did not choose your partner because he or she is exactly the same as you. You chose a partner who is complementary and who is able to fulfill your relational needs.

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