Making and Keeping Couples Resolutions

2019 is here and my partner and I really want to make relationship resolutions, but we keep getting stuck! We have tried in the past to come up with New Year Resolutions, but we never end up following through. Any tips for how we can start the year off right as a couple?

The start of a new year is a great time to jump-start making improvements in your life in the form of New Year Resolutions. Often, these resolutions focus on individualized goals, such as “working out more” or “learning a new language”, but it’s also important to consider what improvements you’d like to make in your relationships. Spending time at the beginning of the year to create resolutions as a couple can set the stage for a healthier relationship in the year ahead.

But!

Creating resolutions is only half of the battle! Studies show that only 8% of people actually accomplish their New Year Resolutions, so setting goals that you can be sure to follow through on is key. One technique for good goal setting is called making your goals SMART.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Specific means taking your goal from a vague and lofty idea and turning it into a focused task. Measurable means attaching numbers or metrics to focus your goal even further and assess progress. Actionable means the goal is something you can actually start working on now; it also means taking large goals and breaking them down into smaller, manageable parts. Relevant means the goal is significant to you and your partner at the current stage of your life. And Time-bound means determining a window of time in which to accomplish your goal.

So, as you think about your goals for 2019, think about them in SMART terms. Making small, reasonable changes is much easier than completely overhauling your lifestyle. Making steps towards reaching your goal should occur at dedicated times that you both agree on, and progress should be revisited after a period of time to make sure you are on track. In other words, you will be more likely to achieve your relationship goals if you continue to check in with your partner honestly about your progress.

Using the SMART technique, you can transform typical New Year Resolutions into meaningful goals for your relationship. Below are some examples that can be used for inspiration, but remember — your own goal setting should be relevant to you and your relationship. 

Typical New Year Resolution: Work out more
SMART Couple Goal: Join the gym across the street and go together twice per week after work

Typical New Year Resolution: Try a new hobby
SMART Couple Goal: Buy a 10 class pass to a ceramics studio and go to beginner classes once per week

Typical New Year Resolution: Travel more
SMART Couple Goal: Plan a week long trip to Italy without the kids within the next year; agree to save $200 per month towards the cost of the trip.

Typical New Year Resolution: Argue less with my partner
SMART Couple Goal: Commit to going to 10 sessions of couple therapy in the next 3 months to focus on communication skills and conflict resolution.

Typical New Year Resolution: Have more fun together
SMART Couple Goal: Commit to going to 10 sessions of couple therapy in the next 3 months to focus on communication skills and conflict resolution.

Here’s to a SMART 2019!

This post was written by Kaitlin Doyle, an independent licensed clinical marriage and family therapist at Emily Cook Therapy in Bethesda, MD. She hopes this article inspires couples to set SMART new year resolutions together. 

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