Use the New Year to Set Intentions for Your Relationship
Everyone knows about New Year’s resolutions. Even if you don’t typically make your own, you’ve likely heard countless people talking about eating better, going to the gym more, giving up smoking, or any of a million personal goals they might set.
Have you ever thought about creating goals like this with your partner, though? I’m not talking about working out together, either – this is about setting intentions for your relationship.
What does that mean?
Intentions, Not Goals
The first thing to note about this is the word “intentions.” While having goals can be inspiring, it can also feel deflating when you fall short. When this happens in your relationship, and it’s a goal both you and your partner have made together, it can be easy to fall back on blaming each other.
To avoid this, I recommend sitting down and coming up with intentions. In terms of your relationship, intentions are more of a direction that a goal post. They are behaviors that you want to change or promote. These can be anything from wanting more sexual intimacy to making arguments less caustic.
The point with intentions, though, is that you’re not saying, “I want to have sex five times a week instead of one,” but rather something along the lines of, “I’d like to work on being intimate with each other more often.” It is something that you both agree to work on improving – an acknowledged process.
Speaking of which….
Make Setting Intentions Itself a Process
Set aside time to sit down and talk about what each of you liked and disliked about your relationship over the past year. Your questions might cover themes like:
Spending time together
Deepening your connection
Your level of intimacy
First, answer the questions separately. Then, share your answers with each other.
Look at where your answers differ and where they match. Talk about those areas where your goals overlap, and make a plan for how you can work together to achieve them. If you have a significant number of questions where your answers diverge, you’ll want to have a dialogue about those, too, and how you can converge more in the year to come.
Be Mindful in Your Communication
These types of conversations aren’t always easy. Come up with a set of ground rules that start with both of you promising to converse in a mindful way – taking turns, listening, not interrupting, and remaining present in the moment. This might sound easy from a distance, but you’ll find it takes considerable effort to adhere to these rules when you care about topics being discussed. So, give each other a lot grace.
When responding or making a suggestion or request, focus the conversation on your relationship and what both of you can do. Keep things constructive rather than focusing on how your partner is frustrating – or even things you want them to improve. In other words, use phrases such as “We need” or “We could” to involve both of you.
Why? Because this creates the sense of working as a team – not one person needing to change or fix themselves.
Remember to Keep Expectations Realistic
The New Year may happen overnight, but real relationship change doesn’t. Remember that you are setting intentions, not goals.
Altering behavior is a process, and you should expect to check in and adjust the plan every few months. At those times, take a moment to celebrate successes, then talk about how you can continue to improve in areas where things didn’t quite go the way you’d hoped.
Along these lines, it can be helpful to set smaller resolutions. These can act as mile markers along the way to bigger changes, so that it’s easier to see and recognize the progress you’ve made.
A Relationship Isn’t an Endpoint, It’s a Journey
Part of the reason I keep speaking in terms of process and adjusting along the way is that this shouldn’t be about reaching a final stop. There is no “endpoint” in an ongoing relationship – and an ongoing relationship is what you want, right?
Your goal (I know, I know) should be to continue to find ways to make the journey better for both of you. Happy intention-setting in 2024 and beyond!