Studies show that being satisfied with your romantic relationship is one of the best predictors of happiness – even more important than education, income, or having a high-status job.
Resolve to make 2013 your happiest year yet with these bond-strengthening pledges.
1. Cultivate your creativity
It’s no secret that creativity is sexy: Think about how artistic types such as musicians, actors, and writers seem to ooze sex appeal. This year, resolve to keep pursuing your own passions (think: picking up the guitar again or taking painting lessons) and watch that joyful feeling transfer over into other areas of your life.
2. Do one kind thing a day
If you go an entire week without doing anything that is explicitly kind for your partner, it’s a signal that you’re not investing resources and time into the other person. We evolved as a pair-bonding species, meaning the more we bestow one another with sweet nothings, the more attractive we are. And it doesn’t have to be big stuff. Next time you’re out to dinner with a friend, why not bring home dessert for your husband? Or, pay him a compliment about his own rugged good looks while watching the latest Bourne thriller. The littlest random acts of kindness can go a long way.
3. Recognize your blind spots
It’s all too easy to assume that just because you love each other it should always be easy, but no relationship is guaranteed. There will be times where the plates begin to shift in your relationship, rather than fight change, realize it’s just time to come up with some new ways to come together.
4. Keep it classy
While you may be tempted to spill intimate secrets about your husband’s sex habits over a bottle of wine with the girls or reprimand him for not helping with the holiday duties in front of your in-laws, these little betrayals ultimately diminish your relationship. Safeguarding your marriage means knowing when to keep the intimate details mum.
5. Don’t underestimate the power of laughter
Humor seems to be correlated with general intelligence. Funny people tend to be smart, and smart people tend to be good mates because they can solve problems. If you’ve entered a period of bickering, or worse, a resentment-filled stalemate, admitting your foibles with some lighthearted self-deprecation can help you see one another as only human again – which will bring back that “you really get me” connectedness we all crave.
6. Give your partner props
Whether you scored a big promotion or finally lost those stubborn last 10 pounds, don’t forget to share your successes with your partner by acknowledging how you couldn’t have done it without him. Heap on a wholehearted “thank you, honey” when he helps you brainstorm a major proposal, or for watching the kids on Saturday mornings while you’re having a manicure session.
7. Remain Sexy
Yoga pants and an oversized tee may have become standard weekend-wear after 10 years of marriage, but dressing up for your partner like you did when you were dating is a non-verbal – and just plain fun – way to show him that his opinion still very much matters to you.
8. Let your true self shine
If you’re married or in a long-term relationship, your partner probably loves your quirks. This year, try to stop worrying about what other people think and play up, rather than deny, your idiosyncrasies for you partner. After all, they’re likely the reason he fell for you in the first place. And, interestingly, the vulnerability you show by letting your freak flag fly is actually what turns men on most.
9. Share your love on social media
We’re not talking about those overly-gushy TMI updates, but publicly declaring the sweet little things he does signals to the world (and to him) that you’re proud he’s your guy.
10. Accept that relationships have phases, too
Marriages have a certain rhythm, and life changes like a new job or baby may mean some major adjustments are needed. Rather than let things brew until one of you has a meltdown, it’s important to create space to discuss how both of your feelings and needs may have shifted (and remember, men have these little things called feelings, too).
11. See sacrifices as “giving permission”
Putting your partner’s best interests above your own needs at times and thinking like a team member helps you achieve your biggest goal – keeping your relationship strong and satisfying for both people. It’s normal to feel resentful when you, say, leave a home you love to relocate for your husband’s new job, or have to rise early to take the kids to the bus every day. But making these sacrifices with an open heart will make your partner feel grateful and loved – and more likely to “be the bigger person” the next time you need it.
12. Put sex on your priority list
Men often complain about not getting enough sex after a few years of being in the relationship, while women may feel too exhausted to be in the mood. Once you understand that this is actually a pretty typical pattern in early married life, you can move from feeling resentful to getting creative. If that mental shift isn’t occurring on its own, brainstorm a list of all the stuff that’s making you too stressed to get it on, and ask him for help tackling it.
13. Show little expressions of love
Both sexes crave displays of love – and that need never goes away. It is part of our evolutionary psychology. Complaining and nagging are common responses to not getting enough; a better one is to give more – even when it’s done through gritted teeth. It may feel forced at first, but love has a tremendous softening and expanding effect – the more you give, the more it tends to show up all around you.