It's that time of year again when you wipe the slate clean, forgive yourself for falling short of achieving the goals you set for last year and start anew with, yes, you guessed it, New Year's resolutions for 2010. But I've got some eye-opening news that might make the usual goals of becoming healthier, happier, richer (or at least less strapped for cash) more of a reality this year. Follow my advice and you won't only lose weight, quit smoking and feel more energetic, you will actually live longer. And the most surprising part about these accomplishments is that they have nothing to do with joining a state-of-the-art gym, working out until it burns, taking questionable age-defying supplements or anything of the sort. Believe it or not, research tells us that the secret to becoming healthier, wealthier, happier and even to outliving our ancestors lies in one simple fact- cultivate and maintain a loving, lasting marriage. The data suggests that people in long-term, happy marriages are among the top 1% of the wealthiest in our country, they live longer, stay healthier and heal faster after surgery. And all this without a Balley membership.
So, with only a few hours left to pen your goals for 2010, I thought I would give you ten down-to-earth tips for boosting health, wealth and happiness by focusing on your primary relationship. Here goes:
#1- Sit down together and set relationship goals
Ask yourselves, "What would we have to do differently this year to feel closer and more connected? Your answers should be specific and action-oriented. For example, you might say, "We will call each other at least once a day when we are at work to check in with one another," or "We will spend a half hour each night talking about our day, or "If we had an argument that day, we will say something kind before we go to sleep."
#2 - Spend more time together
Plan regular date nights that are considered sacred time. I am convinced that the number one cause for divorce is that couples aren't spending enough time together. Everything becomes more important than being together- the kids, work, extended family, hobbies, community responsibilities, and so on. But the truth is, if you don't make your marriage a priority, you won't stayed married over the long haul. Marriages put on the back burner end up in divorce court.
#3- Make sex and passion a top priority
For many, touch is the language of love. And if you're married to someone who's love language is touch, you can say, "I love you" until the cows come home, or make wonderful dinners, be a fabulous bread winner and it won't make one bit of difference. With what we now know about boosting libido, there is no reason that anyone wanting a more robust sex life can't have one. Touch is the tie that binds.
#4- Hold hands and touch affectionately every day
In addition to being sexual, most couples feel more connected when they hold hands, give back rubs and snuggle on the couch. These small tender touches signal love, caring and intimacy.
#5- Take a marriage seminar together to improve your relationship I.Q.
We have learned so much in the last decade about what make marriages work. People aren't born knowing how to have successful relationships. We learn about relationships from our own parents' marriages. And if we weren't fortunate enough to have great role models, and many of us weren't, then there is no reason that we should know how to make a marriage thrive. The good news is that relationship skill-building classes abound. And it's not therapy. You don't have to talk personally about your problems. You just go to learn. Then you go home and apply.
#6- Do something every day for your spouse that isn't your favorite thing to do. Stretch outside your comfort zone
Good relationships are built on real giving, which means that you don't always have to enjoy what you do for your spouse. You do it out of love. And when you do, love grows and reciprocity happens.
#7- Try hard to understand than to be understood
Listen more. Ask questions. Validate your partner's feelings. You will be surprised how much this does for a relationship. The more you try to understand your spouse, the more your spouse will care about your feelings. Also, you will be surprised to see how much easier it is to find solutions when your spouse really feels heard.
#8- Don't let arguments get destructive. Take a time out when things get too heated
Ask yourself, "What is the first sign that a conversation is going downhill?" Is it raised voices, a particular look or body posture? Whatever it is, make a commitment with your spouse that at the first sign of deterioration in your conversation, you will agree to take a time out. Then agree in advance when you will reconvene to re-up the conversation with clearer heads.
Sometimes people don't honor the time out because they feel abandoned. If this is true of your spouse, when you agree to reconnect in a half an hour or so, it is more likely that your spouse will honor the time out because the conversation will be continued. Try it.
#9- Develop a NEW common interest or hobby together
To keep a relationship fresh, it is important to do new things together. You don't need to have a lot in common to make a relationship work. You just need a few things that you love to do together. Why not start something completely new this year. Do something wild and crazy!
#10- Start the year with a clean slate- forgive. Remember, forgiveness is a gift your give yourself
If you have been holding a grudge, it has taken a toll on your life. Now is a great time to decide to let go. Don't fool yourself into thinking that forgiveness is just something that happens, it isn't. You have to decide to forgive. And don't confuse forgiveness with condoning someone's behavior. You are not condoning behavior, you are simply deciding that bearing a grudge is doing you, your spouse and your kids, if you have them, a great disservice. Forgive and watch your life become lighter and more loving. Remember, no one is perfect, not even you!
Michele Weiner Davis is the creator of the Divorce Busting Centers, learn more on how you can solve marriage problems and stop divorce. Follow me on Twitter @divorcebusting, add my Divorce Busting Facebook Page, and subscribe to the Divorce Busting YouTube Videos for more advice and upcoming marriage saving events.