With all the stress that comes with the holiday season, it's no secret that this time of that year can be a little tough on couples. Not to add any more pressure, but there's only a couple of weeks left in the year. If you want to start the new year off right, it's time to make sure your relationship is in good shape. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do with your partner between now and the end of the year, so you can start 2020 off strong.
"Our brains are wired for stories, meaning they seek to create a beginning, middle, and end in every situation," Risa Ganel, licensed clinical marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "This makes the end of one year and the beginning of another a natural time to write the story of your relationship."
According to Ganel, one thing you should do with your partner between now and Jan. 1 is to take time to review your year together. Find a quiet time in the middle of all the holiday craziness and take turns completing this sentence: "Remember when we..."
"Share the memories that stand out to you," Ganel says. You can even look through the photos you took over the past year and reminisce about all the fun activities, trips, and moments you shared together.
Don't limit yourselves to just the good moments either. According to Ganel, your story includes both the triumphs and the struggles. "True intimacy means experiencing all feelings, not just the positive ones," she says. "Don't get back into any upsets, just note them as a reminder. Make 2020 the strongest year ever for your relationship by reviewing where you've been and then exploring where to go next."
Here are some other things you should do with your partner between now and the end of the year, according to experts.
Forgive Each Other
"At least once a year, couples need to clear the slate," Michele Lisenbury Christensen, relationship and sex coach, tells Bustle. "If you’ve got resentments or frustrations with your partner, this is a great time to release those." It's better to recognize your feelings of resentment and let them out before it gets worse. According to Christensen, holding it in will do nothing for your relationship. Your partner can't change if they don't know that something is wrong. So airing out your feelings and then forgiving each other will help you start 2020 off right.
Talk About Your Sex Life
If you don't talk about your sex life regularly, it's a good time to do it. "Sex and intimacy are a critical component for most relationships," Kristen Thomas, certified sex coach, tells Bustle. So think about how your sex life has been. What's been working for you and what hasn't? Do you need to hit the reset button on your routine? Then, share with your partner. According to Thomas, you should aim to do it in a way that sounds like you're expressing what you want, and not what you miss or don't want. For example, "I've been thinking about that one time we did that one thing...would you like to try that again?" "Break past the barriers that have stopped you from expressing what you want so that you and your partner can start having the mind-blowing, connected sex you want," Thomas says.
Add Stress Relieving Activities To Your Busy Routine
December is a busy season and can be very stressful. It's important to encourage each other to participate in stress relieving activities. As Rachel Elder, licensed mental health counselor who works with couples, tells Bustle, "No one wants to enter into the New Year exhausted and overwhelmed, and only you can prevent that from happening." Some good examples of stress relieving activities you can do together include giving each other massages, taking a walk together, and playing a game. If your partner would rather relax alone, that's OK too. "Sometimes what is relieving for you is not relieving to your partner," Elder says. "But you can still encourage them to do it and be positive about it."
Schedule Time To Do Something You Both Enjoy Doing Together
It's so easy to get caught up in the business of the holiday season that your relationship gets pushed to the side. If you're struggling to find time to spend together, schedule time for it. Put it on your calendar, mark it as important, and stick to it. "One thing a couple can do to stay on track and start the new year off right is to intentionally schedule time together doing things you enjoy," Dr. Ellen Ross, PsyD., licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in relationships, tells Bustle. "Keep your date night, and if you don't already have a date night, build one in."
Check In With Each Other About Things That Can Be Improved
"Relational health at the end of the year is imperative," Dr. Kendra A. O'Hora, Ph.D., licensed clinical marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "While there's nothing magical about Jan. 1, the buzz of the New Year puts many couples into the goal setting spirit."
It's the perfect time to check in and ask yourself, does my relationship need a tune up? According to O'Hora, relationship health is no different than your physical health. Checking in with each other should be a normal yearly thing to ensure that it's in good shape. Talking to each other about things that can be improved can be really helpful. But if you're having trouble communicating and you could use some help, talking to a counselor once a year might benefit your relationship. "If you and your partner are not established with a couples therapist, get an appointment on the schedule and tell them you're interested in keeping the relationship strong versus coming in when it's already hurting," O'Hora says. "We call these 'tune up' appointments."
Prioritize Intentionality, Emotionality, And Intimacy
If you want your relationship to be strong in 2020, O'Hora says to make these three words your relationship mantra: intentionality, emotionality, and intimacy. "Healthy relationships prioritize these three things," she says. Intentionality is the "bullseye" of your relationship. If you don't have relationship goals, it's time to set them. Emotionality is the foundation of your relationship, and keeps you feeling safe and secure in your bond. According to O'Hora, it's a good time to brush up on your basic empathy skills, increase emotional awareness, or enhance your emotion vocabulary. Finally, intimacy is all about knowing your partner inside and out. "The greatest gift of a romantic connection is the depth that you have for one another that no other person on the planet gets to have," O'Hora says. Out of all three, creating intimacy should be a top priority for you and your partner, now and any time of the year.
The next couple of weeks can have a way of testing your relationship when the holidays arrive. So these are some expert-backed things you can do between now and the end of the year to keep your relationship going strong. The best part is, it'll help you start the new year off right.
Risa Ganel, licensed clinical marriage and family therapist
Michele Lisenbury Christensen, relationship and sex coach
Kristen Thomas, certified sex coach
Dr. Ellen Ross, PsyD., licensed clinical psychologist
Rachel Elder, licensed mental health counselor
Dr. Kendra A. O'Hora, Ph.D., LCMFT, owner and therapist at HarCo MFT & Wellness Center
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