The New Year brings the opportunity to take stock and reflect on what you would like to change in your life and set new goals for the year ahead. Often we think about losing weight, giving up a bad habit or getting fit, but the New Year is also a great time to think about your relationship health as well.
“The relationships we have with our nearest and dearest have a huge impact on our wellbeing and our sense of happiness, yet so often we just trundle along with the same old problems and issues without taking the time to reflect on how you can actually improve them,” says couple counsellor and relationship expert, Melissa Ferrari.
The New Year is the perfect opportunity to give some thought to improving the quality of your relationship with your partner. Here are some of Melissa’s top tips to hitting refresh on your relationship to give you a positive and exciting start to the New Year:
1. Date night – the Christmas holidays are often fraught with busyness and tempers can become frayed, particularly if we have spent all day every day with our partners in the family home. When January rolls around, we are often keen to get back to our routines to have the chance for a breather. Setting a date night where it’s just you and your partner, gives the relationship the opportunity to re-group. Coming back together after being surrounded by family and friends and social activities is a great way to re-affirm your partnership. Stan Tatkin, world-renowned couple therapist and author of ‘Wired for Love’ calls this ‘the Couple Bubble’. It means you are acknowledging your uniqueness as a couple. It is saying ‘we are important,’ ‘we are in this together’ and it gives strength and support to you both so you then ready to set out on the next phase of your journey, giving fresh resolve for the New Year ahead.
2. Talk it out – make the agreement to use the New Year as an opportunity to discuss openly any on-going issues you may be facing as a couple. From money, to kids, to holiday planning, every couple has their own jigsaw puzzle of life to make sense of and put together. Plan a special night in where you can cook a meal together, or go for a walk at the park or by the beach – whatever suits you and what gives you some space to talk. If you have deeper emotional issues that you are struggling with, then the New Year is a great time to make a commitment to professional counselling, where you will have the help of a skilled therapist to guide you through your difficulties and help you resolve them and move on. Therapy can be incredibly effective and so many couples who come to see me, for example say they wished they had come sooner.
3. Play time – bills, work, mortgages, cleaning, kids – sometimes it seems we are on a merry-go-round of endless tasks. Often we find ourselves collapsing into bed exhausted at night without having had the chance to consider our own needs, never mind our partners. The New Year is a great opportunity to schedule in some fun too! Whether it’s cycling, sailing, walking or dancing, whatever takes your fancy, choose to do something together. Making time to forget the chores and put down the ‘to do’ lists can bring you back together as a couple, just in the moment, having fun, without the burden of responsibilities. It can be a great reminder as to why you with each other in the first place and by connecting with your partner, you are literally putting fuel in the tank of your relationship, to keep you running along together smoothly.
4. Job list – one of the reoccurring arguments I often see in my work as a couple counsellor is about household chores. It may sound trivial, but years of damaging resentment can build up in a relationship if you are the only one to have ever cleaned the bathroom or vacuumed the floor. The New Year is a great opportunity to address any issues around perceived inequality of chores and put steps in place to change the arrangement if necessary. Even small changes can make such a huge difference to a couple’s everyday life and can prevent all manner of arguments ever rearing their head, giving your relationship a new lease on life.
Melissa Ferrari is one of Australia’s most sought-after relationship experts. Through her private counselling sessions, seminars and couples retreats, Melissa has helped thousands of individuals and couples gain insight into their relationship problems. For more information visit the website: www.melissaferrari.com.au