The new year is a time for taking stock and setting your intentions for the year ahead. Lots of people do this by thinking about what they would like to restrict in the coming year – sometimes it is about dieting, sometimes taking some time away from alcohol. That’s all fine, but it isn’t my jam. I’m a big fan of thinking about what you want to do more of. I think relationships have lots of space for setting intentions together and can be a wonderful place to start thinking about what you would like to do more of in the coming year. Consider whether you’d like to resolve to:
1) Create a check-in schedule
Having a relationship check-in means coming together at a set time to talk through what is happening in your life and relationships. I think it can be helpful for budgeting, making sure discontent doesn’t build-up, keeping each other in the loop, and maintaining the general health of your relationship. At the beginning of the year, it can be helpful to work out what areas you’d like to check-in about. If you are cohabiting, you might want to think about finances/bills and household matters. In many relationships, it is helpful to give thought to conflicts that have happened since the last check-in, travel plans, family stuff, scheduling time together, what’s going on in your working life, other important relationships, and a catch-all ‘misc’ category. Working through what you want in your check-in in the first place is likely to help you to think of what you want to discuss. After all, having a blank page and just working it out from scratch is difficult for lots of folks.
When you’re having your check-in, it is often helpful to begin with a moment of appreciation. It can help everyone to be more generous and kind when you begin by talking about something you genuinely like and appreciate about the other person. I also find it useful to set the date for the next check-in if you don’t have it already scheduled for a regular time. Making a note of what you agree will happen after your check-in is really important, and this should be agreed between you and brought back to the next one. Ending on a note of gratitude is also a good idea. I like to mention something I appreciate about my partner’s engagement in the check-in itself, but your mileage may vary. Word of warning – the first one you do is likely to take a while. This is because it’s new to you and there is likely to be a lot to discuss. They get much quicker and easier if you do them regularly.
2) Adopting a relationship gratitude practice
I love me a gratitude practice, and I think they strengthen relationships and make the repair from conflict easier. They help us to address our negativity bias and to be more mindful of the excellent things about our relationships and our partners. You could have an evening or weekly gratitude ritual when you set time aside to tell each other things you’re grateful for. You could have a jar where you each put gratitude notes. You could write letters, emails or texts with appreciative thoughts. Working out between you how you’d like to feel and what practice would be most likely to get you there is a good way to start.
3) Developing your relationship skills
Some folks think that we develop skills over time just by chance, especially soft skills like managing communication and interpersonal conflict. I disagree. I think we can consciously decide to spend time (and sometimes money) on getting better at relating to other people and coping with our emotions. Some folks develop these skills over time in relationships, and that is great! But sometimes it isn’t enough. Working with a therapist or coach can help. My experience is group courses where you work through concepts with other people are one of the best ways of developing relationship and emotional skills. I run some courses in upskilling people in non-monogamous relationships which you can find here. You could also consider courses like the monogamy detox, which helps you to work through your own preconceptions and find ways to unravel them. If you look through this blog there are also tools that could help you to work through patterns causing conflict in your own relationship and how to address these.
4) Learn how to take breaks (without derailing your relationship)
One of the most important skills for making conflicts better between couples is taking breaks. Unfortunately, they can be tricky to navigate. Choosing to work specifically on taking breaks will help you to work out the signs you need a break, the logistics of taking one, and the impact that it is likely to have on each of you. Some folks struggle because they feel like they are being abandoned or put on the naughty step when their partner needs a break. I talk about some ways of navigating those feelings in this post. However you do it, taking breaks is one of the most effective ways of reducing the damage that conflict can do to a relationship.
5) Explore your sexuality together
If sex is something you enjoy together then setting your intention to explore your sexualities can be a wonderful adventure. There are SO many ways you can do this. Many folks start with a yes/no/maybe list, but that is just the start. Whether it is writing stories together, watching porn, creating a sex menu or writing your own sex manual, you can invigorate your sex life and relationship by being curious and attentive to your sex life. For some people, a therapist or coach might help with this journey. Others may prefer to begin with some of the fantastic books out there such as Ecstacy is necessary by Barbara Carrellas; Come as you are by Emily Nagoski; The Erotic Mind by Jack Morin. Others may explore courses like Urban Tantra; the Wheel of Consent or Mapping your Erotic Values. Figuring out what you’d like to explore, and what works best in your relationship will help you to figure out what erotic resolutions to make together.