Like any well-oiled machine, relationships require regular attention, care, and maintenance. As you look forward to the year ahead, you may consider ways to invest in your partner and the connection you share and value. Rather than making an overarching resolution to guide all 365 days, it can be more meaningful to make micro-monthly goals instead. This way, you allow you and your one-and-only to reinvest in your relationship and/or marriage each month.
We spoke with relationship experts on their best advice for 12 resolutions to create a healthier, happier couplehood in 2022. You can try a new one each month and keep old ones going if they are beneficial. There’s no one-resolution-fits-all method for all couples, so make sure to discuss what’s helping throughout this next lap around the sun:
January: Try not to share mundane irritations.
When you find that person you can tolerate day-in and day-out for your lifetime, you grow more comfortable with them over time. This means you likely remove your emotional barriers, but also your filters. Thus, it’s easy just to spew out whatever you’re thinking when you’re thinking it. Being honest and vulnerable is essential, but constantly sharing your irritations with your partner can cause a negative shadow over your relationship, says Evie Shafner, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
As an example, she provides this all-too-common scenario: Your partner forgot something you asked them to do, so you might say something demeaning like, “Why are you so forgetful?” Or “I can’t count on you for anything.” “If you think of your relationship as a garden metaphor, sharing these irritations is like throwing trash and empty cans in the said garden and never cleaning it,” she continues. “After a while, no one wants to spend time there.”
Rather than airing out all of your grievances to your partner, Shafner says to focus on managing your insides, the story you are telling yourself, and coming up with kind, forgiving statements you can say at those moments. “Unless it’s something really serious, most things are not that big of a deal—but your relationship is. It is a powerful meditation exercise to notice when you’re about to lose it, and catch yourself,” she adds.
February: Set aside a unique time for money discussions.
If you share finances with your partner, discussing your income streams, bills, investments, retirement goals, spending habits and budgeting are part of your monthly considerations. And while keeping on top of finances is vital to maintain a household and prepare for the future, it’s not exactly enticing to bring up the topic of a large crest card before you crawl into bed. That’s why it’s better to resolve to only talk about your financial situation during a designated time — and not on date night, suggests Susan Trombetti, a matchmaker. By setting aside a specific hour to go through your money matters, you actually build your trust in one another, and you cut down on fights.
“Just because you are both saving for a house doesn’t mean that you can’t both decide you want a camper to travel the coast and take weekend trips,” she continues. “Plus, it’s a check-in to make sure the finances are on track. First marriages often end over money, and it doesn’t need to be this bad topic you tend to stay away from.”
March: Address your recurring disagreements.
Even if you adore your partner, mostly agree with their choices, and enjoy their company, every relationship has elephants in the room. In couple-speak, it’s those disagreements that keep coming up about the same topic but never seem to get resolved and continue to be equally infuriating every time they arise, explains Tennesha Wood, a dating coach, matchmaker and the star of #Blacklove.
To finally work through them, she recommends writing down your ideal solution and having your partner do the same. Then comes the most challenging part: finding where to compromise, even if it means not getting your way. From here, you can make some ground rules for fighting that will hopefully help you both feel more comfortable. Wood says these should include the following:
- What you won’t do, like yelling or raising your voices.
- When it’s time to walk away and come back to the discussion later.
- How you will speak to each other.
- How you can isolate the disagreement from the rest of the relationship.
April: Pause to express your appreciation.
While you may be quick to complain when your partner drops the ball on something, you may be slow to thank them when they step up. Maybe it’s as simple as dealing with the plumber when your basement suddenly leaked or getting up to let the dog out at 7 a.m. because they knew you didn’t sleep well. In many ways, appreciations are the counterpoint of giving criticisms, and they help make you and your partner feel more connected to one another, Shafner says.
“You are the mirror in which your partner sees themselves, so let them see an image of themselves that is fabulous,” she says. Pause, stop your partner, look in their eyes, smile, and express how you feel, like:
- “You’re great!”
- “I’m so happy I married you.”
- “You’re the cutest thing that ever lived.”
- “You’re great in the sack.”
- “You made my day better today.”
- “I appreciate you.”
May: Prioritize date night.
There’s a reason why ‘date night’ is always a resolution recommendation from career experts. Too often, couples become consumed with the duties of daily life—caring for children, maintaining the house and mortgage, meeting work demands — that they let romance become last on their list. Nearly all duos are guilty of it, but take this as yet another reminder to maintain your date nights, Trombetti says. “Don’t trade your spouse for your friends or go away too many back-to-back weekends on a girls or guys trip without making sure you have spent time with your person,” she urges.
June: Be playful physically.
Not all ‘playtime’ with your partner has to be sexual in nature. Instead, the simple act of moving your body, having some giggles, and re-connecting with your partner in a new way can boost your connection. That’s why certified holistic wellness coach Kama Hagar recommends retreating to your childhood roots by playing hopscotch, jumping rope, or even climbing a tree. “Play is crucial to wellbeing and connection, but adding that physical element makes it that much better,” she continues. “Maybe it’s cartwheels in the grass, an impromptu dance party in the living room or a play-wrestling match on the carpet. All those endorphins we release when we get active not only relax us, but they allow us to connect more deeply and even get more turned on.”
July: Don’t argue in your bedroom—or after 9 p.m.
If you hold in your frustrations all day, then blurt out everything you’ve pent up at bedtime (and in the bedroom no less), it’s a sure-fire way to start a big juicy fight, warns Amber Trueblood, a licensed marriage and family therapist. So while you may be tempted to air out your grievances so you can go to bed without a heavy chest, it won’t have a positive impact on your relationship. As Trueblood explains, when either partner is hungry, tired, stressed, or distracted, trying to discuss something difficult might leave you both feeling emotionally disconnected and incredibly frustrated. A better solution is to have your arguments outside, phone free, during the day. “The fresh air, lack of distractions, and physical movement will help you feel more emotionally connected, heard, and understood in 2022,” she adds.
August: Be intentionally still together.
Many times we associate ‘intimacy’ with sexual activity. However, there are many ways to be intimate with your partner, some of which don’t require any discussion at all. As a resolution in 2022, Hagar recommends sitting in silence together. “Whether it’s enjoying a meditation together, a quiet walk in nature or a cup of tea enjoyed mindfully without words,” she says. “Give yourselves the gift of that pause together.”
September: Change what you wear to bed.
Another fun way to shake up your relationship and foster new rituals and connections is to change what you wear to bed. Trueblood recommends going to bed with one less item of clothing than you typically sleep in.
“Skin-on-skin at bedtime often leads to more physical intimacy, which can help ease tension and facilitate a deeper emotional connection,” she explains. “The endorphins you release during intimacy can help reduce stress and anxiety as well.”
As she explains, actions speak louder than words, especially in the bedroom. If you usually wear pajamas or an oversized t-shirt to bed, try wearing just underwear and a tank top, then cuddle up with your love… and see what happens naturally.
October: Ban your smartphone from couple time.
There are times when scrolling through social media is a welcome practice—maybe after your long workday or when you’re mindlessly watching television to disconnect your brain. However, when you are actively trying to be in the moment with your partner and connect, looking at your iPhone will only make them feel distant from you. As a resolution for 2022, Trombetti recommends duos vow to be more present with each other when they are together. “This means that if you are in a room together, don’t just be in the room together but learn to engage with each other and not your smartphone,” she continues. “Put the phone down and look each other in the eyes when you speak and not at the phone. You can’t be present at the moment with your SO if you are constantly answering someone’s text, playing a game, or emailing your boss.”
November: Dwell in your dreams and aspirations together.
If you can’t imagine your future with your partner, then you’re missing out on some fun experiences. As a way to build your connection right now and also get you excited for the years (and decades!) ahead, Trombetti recommends discussing something meaningful to you — whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime vacation or the urge to switch careers. “It’s just a conversation that goes beyond the routine superficial to make sure you are connecting,” she explains. “You need to know what your SO’s hopes and dreams are, what they still find funny, and the little things they want from you, whether it’s to join them for a glass of wine on the couch after work or just a shoulder massage.”
December: Cut out ‘hints’ and be direct.
Trueblood says all too often, couples hope or hint at what they want in their relationship. Then, hurt feelings and frustration often abound when that need isn’t met. Since no one can be a mind-reader 24/7, Trueblood recommends couples to say what they want directly and make sure they’re being kind, specific and mention the benefits to you and your relationship. For instance, ‘Would you finish cleaning up the kitchen tonight while I finish editing these articles? Then, we’ll be done at the same time and can watch a movie together!’