New year, renewed relationship | relationship advice by dr kathy nickersonAs we wrap up 2019, it's time to think about what you really want for yourself and your relationship in the new year...

Do you want to fight less? Communicate more effectively? Feel closer? Have more quality time? Heal from that old injury that makes it hard to trust your partner?

No matter what your goal, the new year is a perfect time to spruce up your relationship. Here are a few things you can do to make yours shiny and bright as we start 2020...

1. Focus on the positive.

You've heard that what you focus on grows, right? So if you only focus on the negatives, i.e., what your partner does wrong, then you'll get more bad behavior from them. This is because criticism does not cause positive behavior changes, it causes resentment to start building and then bad behavior is more likely to increase. Instead, focus on the positives, point out what your partner does right, notice the good moments, give praise and compliments liberally!

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2. Get your ratio in shape.

Speaking of positives, there's actually a magic ratio when it comes to relationships. We know from a lot of research that couples need to have 5x as many positive moments to negative moments in order to be happy. (So the magic ratio is 5:1 of good to bad). Pay attention... how's your ratio? Do you two have 5x as many good moments as rough ones? If not, go out of your way to make this happen. When you have a bad moment, follow it with several intentional positive things. For example, a nasty comment should be followed with an apology, kind words, hug, help cleaning the counter, and 1 other nice behavior of your choice.

Need help getting over a rough patch? Start here.


3. Talk about hopes and dreams.

When we've been in a relationship for a long time, we tend to talk a lot about the business of life: who's taking the kids to soccer, who's going to grocery store, who paid the phone bill, etc. This is so different from how our relationships begin. We begin with talking and exploring what really matters to the other person. So to add some new life to your relationship, stop talking all business and start talking about each other's hopes, dreams, and ideas. See if there are some shared dreams that you can work on together, i.e. starting your own charity. Supporting other's dreams really strengthens your emotional connection.

Want to feel closer and more connected? Start here.


4. Go have some fun together.

You know what we all love? Fun! We love to play games, go on adventures, or try something new. If your relationship feels a little blah, try to curate more fun moments for the two of you. Find a new restaurant and make a reservation. Look for a new hike and plan a day to go do it. Try a new sport that looks like it could be fun... I hear bowling is taking off now! Go and play with each other. Having fun together increases loving feelings and decreases stress.

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5. Break any habits that are not serving you.

The new year is a great time to do a personal inventory... take a look at what YOU do in your relationship. Are there any behaviors or habits that you have that are harming your relationship? If so, what could you do instead that would cause a more positive result? For example, if you notice that you frequently nit-pick at your husband for chores that he doesn't do around the house, try asking him nicely to help and coming up with a schedule. If you swap passive/aggressive behaviors for kind and direct requests, you'll get much better results and you'll both feel better.

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