New Couples, Veteran Couples: Here are a few suggestions for the ritual of joint resolution that we call the New Year. When the ball drops this even numbered New Year be prepared.
- Talking Heads: Vow to aim for eye contact when you have verbal exchanges as much as possible. The walking out of or into other rooms while sharing details of daily living, shooting comments that crackle with anger or hurt as you depart to work, or turn off the light at night, even compliments on the fly, need to be delivered directly to the recipient. And for several critical reasons: to show respect to each other; to get the details right; to allow time for the other to integrate the information being shared and provide a response. Many of these exchanges are designed to avoid legitimate contact and, as such over the years, create havoc with mutual respect and intimacy. Your choice this year is to not let your Coupledom pull these stunts. Stop, Look and Listen!
- Triangle Traps: This resolution is indispensable for every couple. Resolve to out all triangulations in your Coupledom life. I Spy a Triangle should be a new couples’ game. And then resolve together to extricate the Coupledom from the sticky poison that triangles exude.
- Transparency: This is a tough one but resolve to aim for as much transparency as possible. In a Coupledom that means that financial books should be shared regularly; secrets about other family members that might confuse loyalties should be avoided; and when compromising closeness or trust, past histories should be revealed – if they are harmful to intimacy and honesty. Your first loyalty, once you sign on to the shared life, should be with your partner. Be brave and share shame.
- Having Fun: I know, easier said than done, but this aspect of the shared life is especially crucial to the health of the relationship. The definition of what is fun should be created by both parties, sometimes taking turns. And should be as regularly scheduled as checking to see if you need more milk. If you are home rearing little kids, have a tight budget or one of you is infirmed and home-bound, the rules still apply. The range of choices can be limitless. If you don’t create a texture of pleasure frequently enough, the lining of love will wear out.
- Comforting and Grieving Together: Take a vow this year, a particularly tough one in our country for many, to learn how to comfort each other when pain strikes or grief enters your worlds. This is not so easy as it sounds. If you don’t know what would be comforting to the other, take the time this year to ask them and learn. We lean toward sharply distinct styles of self-soothing and consoling others. Some folks want space and time. Some want talk and hugs. Together figure out how to speak in a language of caring that both recognize when loss and hardship hit your Coupledom.
- Learn Something New Together: Nothing stimulates the Coupledom more than a newly discovered common interest. Children and grandchildren can be strong forces that bind and keep the energy alive in the Coupledom. But it is exceedingly dangerous to exclusively rely on the stimulation of their evolving lives to provide either the glue or the new and exciting in yours. You are safest searching and discovering places, causes or hobbies that draw your coupledom towards something that infuses the relationship with vitality, and each individual with renewed interest in the other.
- The Sex Resolution: One of you may not be happy with the quantity, the other, the quality, or the lack of both, but no matter. The most important thing in this New Year is to break the ice or quell the noxious flames of hurt and finger pointing with a vow to talk about how to make it better, not perfect, but better. Removing the taboo and outing the problem as shared and human will take your intimacy a long distance away from the hallows of 2013.
Happy 2014 To All. May We Be Blessed With Joy.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W. L.C.S.W. 2014