January 7, 2013 catherinetownsend

My 25 Relationship Resolutions for 2013 on Elle.com

aspen new year eve bw

We’ve all been here before: We start the year with the best of intentions to lose weight, save money, or stop drinking, only to start February on the couch with champagne and cupcakes. Resolving to improve our relationships in little ways, however, is more realistic than we think. Below are 25 of them—whether we’re single, dating, or deeply committed.

1. Apply CEO logic to your relationship. Mega-successful people don’t dwell on their failures; they treat them as learning opportunities. Think: What if that bad breakup was the best thing that ever happened to you?

2. Shut the bathroom door. You can’t maintain sexy mystique if he can see hair remover on the sink or talk to you while you are on the toilet.

3. Say you’re sorry. Love means always having to say this. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, we worry too much about being right and forget that we’re on the same team. But you never “win” a fight if the other person walks away miserable.

4. Go to your girlfriends instead of your man to vent. For women, talking about problems releases the “feel-good” oxytocin hormone and lowers stress levels, while men just get tired and frustrated. Go to him when you need suggestions for a solution.

5. Snuggle more. When it comes to long-term relationship health, snuggling is just as important as sex. Both release the “cuddle” hormone oxytocin that makes us pair-bond, but snuggling also lowers stress and blood pressure, feels good, and makes you feel connected.

6. Eat and work out like you’re single. Of course we want someone who loves us “no matter what,” but living in sweatpants with pizza delivery on speed dial sends the message that we’ve stopped putting in the effort.

7. Talk about money. Pretend you are getting a pre-nup (and if you are getting married, get one for real). Throw everything on the table: Ask about income, debt, and financial goals. Financial incompatibility is a leading cause of divorce, so you’d be wise to know if you plan out every purchase while your significant other stuffs bills in the back of a drawer.

8. Figure out what you want. Remember that relationships aren’t slot machines. Continuing to invest in something that isn’t paying out doesn’t increase your odds of hitting the jackpot in the end. Instead of waiting around for something to change, be honest about what you want—with the people you are dating and with yourself.

9. Ask questions. Fear is the reason why people wait years to find out that someone doesn’t want to get married or have children. The question you’re most afraid to hear the answer to is the one that you should definitely ask.

10. Ditch the ridiculous deal breakers. It’s great to have high standards, but if your list of qualities to rule people out is more than a page long, you’re probably being too picky. Break up with the fantasy guy who lives in your head and accept that the perfect man for you will not be perfect. This is okay, because you aren’t either.

11. Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s toxic. Instead of pitting yourself against your friends’ Facebook posts, look in the mirror: How have you grown in the past year? What have you learned? What do you hope to achieve?

12. Be logical. Falling in love activates the same dopamine reaction in the brain as cocaine, so remember that during the first few months of a relationship you are under the influence of infatuation. Remind yourself to be rational, ask questions, and really listen to the answers. Even the ones you don’t want to hear.

13. Stop focusing on whether or not a first date could be The One. Pretending you’re meeting a friend can help prevent you from picking apart his flaws in your mind and will make you more confident and relaxed—which is also very attractive.

14. Stop multitasking. Put down the phone during dinner, be an active listener, and don’t think about your inbox during sex. Resolve to be more fully present for your relationship.

15. Make this the year that you really put the past behind you. Forgive the ex who cheated or friend who let you down. This doesn’t mean that what they did was okay; it means that you are choosing to let it go and be free. If you are holding on to guilt, make amends and forgive yourself for past mistakes.

16. Have adventures together. If you are bored, stop being boring. Learn a new language, take a trip, or just ride a roller coaster. The important thing is that you never stop having fun.

7. Give. Small gifts year-round keep that warm, fuzzy holiday feeling going. Something as simple as a massage or picking up his favorite dinner after a stressful day can strengthen intimacy.

18. Do nothing. When in doubt about what to do, sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. After an angry confrontation but before you send an angry text or email, ask yourself: Are you acting or just reacting? Often the need to “do something” is often driven by emotion, so you may get better results by waiting until you can make a more rational decision.

19. Mind your manners during arguments. It’s hard to be polite in the heat of the moment, so set ground rules ahead of time. This means no name-calling and no fighting in front of other people.

20. Learn to live in the moment instead of obsessing over “having it all.” This is an illusion anyway because our lives are constantly in flux. More job or relationship security usually equals less freedom, and there are benefits to being on both sides. So whether it’s your amazing boyfriend, your adventurous single life, or simply the ability to completely control the TV remote, find something about your life that you can appreciate right now.

21. Clean out your emotional life. Give yourself permission to delete your toxic friends, ex-boyfriends who can’t commit but always appear when you meet someone who can, and anyone else whose caller ID automatically makes you hit “ignore.”

22. Schedule sex—or at least a (wink, wink) “date night.” It may sound un-sexy, but the more you have, the more you will want. This is also a great excuse to buy more killer lingerie.

23. Go to bed angry. There’s no point in dragging out a fight when you are exhausted or emotionally wrecked. Sleep on it, and you may wake up with a fresh perspective.

24. Compliment your significant other often. It’s easy to point out what someone got wrong, but how often do you take the time to say thank you for a job well done? It will brighten their day and motivate them to do it again.

25. Figure out your fertility options. If your biological clock is ticking and having children is important to you, research fertility options. This could mean freezing eggs, having an ovarian reserve test, or considering life as a single parent. Implementing a Plan B will make you more confident about the future regardless of your present relationship status.

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