10 Tips for a Better Relationship in 2012

Simple changes can make 2012 great for your relationship.

Posted Jan 04, 2012

Start your new year by implementing these changes in your relationship, and 2012 could be a good year, indeed!

  1. Live respectfully.  No matter how frustrated you are, it's always better to be respectful to your spouse than not.  Make it your charge to act respectfully, and ask that you be similarly treated.  This means watching your tone of voice, speaking about your own needs rather than your partner's shortcomings, and remembering to find the positives in each other.  Living respectfully also means respecting yourself (see #2).
  2. Take care of yourself.  Forget fad diets.  Just eat healthy food (as much as you want), get enough sleep and exercise.  Remember you're special, and every once in a while, treat yourself to something that reminds you of this fact.  Don't give your life over to chores and tasks all the time (see #3).
  3. Start thinking about death.  Seriously!  Perhaps the only thing in life that cannot be changed or added to is the fact that some day we will all die.  This means that each day you live is another day subtracted from the total time you have.  Time, in other words, is a rare commodity, making it very valuable.  Don't waste your precious time just doing chores and tasks, or staying in a job you hate!  Do what's important to you!  In a relationship, that usually means spending time together doing fun or fulfilling activities.  It also can mean making sure you have a bit of together time each day.  Cancer survivors are great at understanding the value of time and paring away the extraneous - serious illness has a way of helping you do that.  But you don't need to be sick to value your time more (see #4)
  4. Rethink "I've got to..."  It's amazing how easy it is to get caught up in an "I've got to (fill in the blank)" mentality.  Yet a really honest assessment suggests that many "got to's" are actually "choose to's."  Your life will be richer and more satisfying if you understand the difference so you can place higher priority on the "choose to's" that are genuinely interesting and fulfilling.  For an excellent approach to better understanding your priorities, see Dr. Ned Hallowell's book, "CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap!"  In the middle is a chart you can fill out to better understand the value that your activities provide relative to the time and effort you expend upon them.
  5. Cut back on information overload.  Information overload is so much a part of our lives now we don't even think about it, but it steals time directly from our relationships.  Here's a humorous example that underscores the all-encompassing nature of more information - the weight of the best selling cookbook of 1968 was 2.8 pounds.  The best seller in 2010 weighed 4.8 pounds - an increase of over 70%.*  You may chuckle, but more information means more time needed to digest it and make choices.  Prune information overload everywhere in your life (yes, even the cookbooks!) and you'll find more room to breath, to think, and to pay attention to those you love.
  6. Look at the bright side.  A change in attitude can complement your pruning work.  An easy way to be more positive is to think in terms of "I get to" instead of "I've got to."  The classic example of this is paying taxes.  One version is "Ugh, I've got to pay my taxes."  The "get to" version of this is "I'm lucky to have earned enough money that I get to pay taxes."  If it works for taxes, it works for just about anything!
  7. Educate yourself.  Are you struggling with anger issues?  Communication problems with your spouse?  Adult ADHDDepression?  There is good information available to help you find new ways to address your problems.  Do a bit of research (to narrow the possibilities, of course!), and talk with your doctor and/or friends about great resources.**
  8. Enlist your spouse.  Discuss these ideas, make a rough plan about what you're going to try to do together to make 2012 the best year yet, and make a vow to be more attentive to each other in some way each day.  The positive reinforcement you give each other will help you build momentum.
  9. Oh, yes, have more sex.  Even if you're not in the mood at the moment, engage in sex.  You'll probably get in the mood, and then you'll both benefit from the connection and "feel good" chemicals that sex releases.  If you are both "too busy" then schedule time to have sex together.  Or, another alternative, set a rough goal in your mind about your desired sexual frequency.  If yours is "once a week," for example, by day 6 you should be thinking about ways to initiate intimacy...even if that just means rolling over when you're still groggy to start things up.
  10. (In the spirit of cutting out and pruning...there is no #10)

*Source:  Wired Magazine, Sept. 2011 p. 38

**To start you out, couples struggling with ADHD can find great resources at my website, www.adhdmarriage.com.  One of the best books on Anger is Harriet Lerner's "The Dance of Anger."  Male depression is well covered in Terrence Real's "I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression."