I don't make New Year's resolutions. If I want to start something new, give up a bad habit, or just generally improve myself, any time is a good time to begin. New things happen all the time.
Even so, the start of a new year stimulates the imagination. One-one on the calendar seems like a good time to start keeping a journal, to finally get all those vacation photos into an album, or to really get serious about whatever it is I haven't been serious about. It's a time of looking back on the year just completed, to savor the triumphs, regret the failures, and to learn from both. It is a time of wondering about the year to come. What goals will I achieve? What obstacles will there be? Can this year be better than last?
If you are thinking about making some resolutions to strengthen and improve your marriage, here is an expert idea you can use to get started.
The Magic Ratio
John Gottman's research has found that we need a ratio of at least five positive interactions for every negative one in a relationship in order to ensure stability and promote happines. Conflicts and regrettable incidents are inevitable. And the human brain is such that negative events carry much more weight than positive ones. After a negative incident, balance is restored only when many more positive incidents occur. Additionally, we can build up a kind of cushion against hard times, by providing plenty of good will in advance. Gottman sometimes uses the analogy of an emotional bank account. When the balance is high, a few withdrawals won't deplete the account.
To improve the positive-to-negative ratio in your relationship and build up a healthy balance in the emotional bank account, you don't have to do anything extraordinary. What it takes is consistent and regular attention to the small but important opportunities that happen every day. Here are just a few.
Those Positive Moments
- Share a six-second kiss at least once a day. It's a great way to say hello and goodbye.
- Smile when you see your partner.
- Apologize when you make a mistake.
- If you're going out to run some errands, ask what you can do or get for your partner.
- Accept apologies graciously.
- Make sure you are clean and well-groomed when you spend time together.
- Compliment your partner often.
- Reminisce about a fun time you had together.
- Do a few extra chores.
- Bring home something special from the grocery store.
- Present your partner with flowers even though it isn't a special occasion.
- Hug more.
- Leave a short note of love or encouragement in your partner's pocket or purse.
- Make plans together for the future.
- Speak in a friendly voice.
- Hold hands often: When you walk together, when you sit on the couch together.
- When you get up to go into the kitchen for a snack or drink, ask if you can get something for your partner.
- Make sure you don't neglect your partner at social gatherings.
- Try some new activities together on the weekends.
- Don't complain about the things you always complain about.
- Take a moment to call or text your partner during the day.
- Say thank you when your partner does something for you. This applies not just to special things, but to ordinary, everyday tasks, like cooking dinner or taking our the trash.
- Respond positively when your partner reaches out to you verbally or physically.
I'm sure you can find many more opportunities to be positive in your relationship. Be alert and look for moments when you can be inclusive, considerate, kind, and affectionate. Those moments happen dozens of times every day. Once your eyes are open to the possibilities, taking action is easy.