We are at the beginning of a new calendar year and, as any beginning, it comes with new resolutions and wishes for a better future. Throughout the history of humanity and nowadays, the new year is celebrated by many cultures* in many wonderful ways. No matter how we celebrate new beginnings, we adorn them with hopes and dreams for a better year. This year we long for a “normal” year, whatever that might mean, a year with fewer uncertainties, fewer demands for constant alertness for survival, and more opportunities for exploration, curiosity, and connection. 2021 is no different than other years and yet wholly different!
The new beginning heralded in by the COVID-19 pandemic many months ago, brought with it astounding challenges for couples around the globe. Fortunately, this is only half of the story. According to a study led by Sonja Lyubomirsky, when it comes to happiness, 50% of our happiness and joyfulness is likely influenced by personal immutable factors, our “set points”, such as our genes or our temperament. The other 50% is determined by circumstances, over which we have little control, paired with our attitudes and actions, over which we have complete control.
What you say and do matters
Knowing the power of our actions influencing our attitudes and beliefs, the resolutions we make to act ourselves into better thinking might have more impact on getting 2021 off to a better and more normal start.
Being resolved or intentional about what you do will absolutely presage what follows. If you feel joyful and abundant in your relationship, there will be joy and abundance. When you feel resistant and scarce in your relationship, you will find rigidity and limitations.
End All Blame, Shame, and Criticism
In Imago Relationship Therapy, we often recommend that couples take a pledge for Zero Negativity. This may feel daunting to agree to remove all occasions of shaming, blaming or criticizing your partner. But imagine what it would be like for you to never be on the receiving end of someone else bad mood, distemper, or just plain negative emotion.
This is not to say that there will never be a negative emotion had or expressed between you, but if your intention is to not discharge your negative emotions on your partner, to express them with an awareness of their origins and roots, your partner is far less likely to take them personally, and far more likely to be empathetic and present with you in your distress.
Resolve and Intention
This may feel like a tall order, particularly coming off of the last 9 months! But little by little, day by day, one warm, engaging gesture at a time, we can find ourselves back to the space in which we first declared our love for each other. Here are a few ideas on how to get there.
Build awareness of the present moment at least once per day
- Make time for a mirrored daily appreciations dialogue and end with a one-minute hug.
- Take time to acknowledge that you are moving into your work mode and out of the “at home” mode. Kiss each other “good-bye,” wish each other well, plan to meet for lunch.
- Have clarity about when you start and stop work and pay attention to what you are doing when. Dinner spent reviewing your emails is not the same as one where you both check your phones in a basket before the meal.
Understanding and dealing with your unique contextual and individual vulnerabilities.
- Knowing your story and your partner’s story can go a long way to helping us remember that 90% of your response to me is about you and 10% is about me. And vise versa! If I know your story, I can keep in mind that something I said or did might have awakened an old feeling for you. The more curious I am about that, the more likely that you will feel understood.
Create a personal and relationship vision for the coming year.
- Having a vision for what you hope to do is a way of keeping us on track with what we want. If we can imagine it, describe it, and make it “SMART,” we can probably achieve it.
- Vision exercises are also great for short term decision making. Let’s get a new car-draft a vision of what you mean by that statement and then dialogue about it. Agree to keep everything you both agree on!
- Vision planning makes every event, vacation, or milestone better by getting clear about your hopes and expectations.
Practice Imago Dialogue to increase awareness and deepen understanding
- Use dialogue to flush out what is behind your differences or resistance.
- Use dialogue to flood your partner with what is right in your relationship
- Use dialogue to navigate the tough topics: sex, money, and rock and roll!
Reframe situations, building bridges, not walls
- Try to avoid generalizing: stop using always and never
- Stick to one topic at a time
- Be curious about what in this topic is triggering for you
- Look for what is right in your relationship
- Notice the ways that you can connect with each other
- Turn towards each other when in need
Make a pledge to Zero Negativity
- If only for a day at a time.
- End all blame, shame, and criticism
- 21 days and we form a new habit. 66 days and new habits become habituated in our bodies. 90 days and our brains rewire to a new way of being.
Choose to be generous and kind, and to express gratitude
- A daily practice of gratitude contributes to health and well-being.
- The more you do anything the more that thing happens. Funny how that works.
- Have a great day, unless you have other plans.
As you head into the new year, consider what your intentions are, envision what you want, and resolve to take one small daily action to get what you deeply want in your relationship. It is never too late to start your day over. Starting here and now, you have everything you need to take the next right step.
If you need help in setting up your specific goals and/or reaching them, give us a call. If you want to transform your relationship and are looking for a jumpstart, try a Getting the Love You Want weekend workshop. We look forward to a year of warm connections. Huzzah for 2021!
*Aboriginal Murador new year, Ra’s as-Sanah al-Hijriyah (Islamic New Year), Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), Diwali (Marwari and Gujarati New Year Day), and Chinese New Year.