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Now that we‘re well into 2010, how are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Setting goals in the love department is just as important as losing weight or getting your finances in shape. So even though you may already be working on other resolutions, don’t put your relationship on the back burner.

Instead of accentuating the positives, the advice from couples’ research often focuses on minimizing the negatives - don’t nag, don’t withhold sex, don’t overreact, don’t try to control. But why not focus your love resolutions on the do’s instead of don‘ts? Positive emotions can open you up to new possibilities.  So, if you want to actively enrich your love relationship, here are some tips on how to go about it:  

1.*Express your gratitude often.*  Remembering to thank your partner may sound overly simplistic, but it can help bring to mind their good qualities. Compliments serve as positive reinforcements at the very times when you may be taking each other for granted.

2.*Inject humor and laughter.*  Lightheartedness is often one of the first casualties of a busy and hectic family life. Keep fun alive by joking around or using pet names with your partner. Making time to be playful with each other can often lead to greater intimacy.

3.*Compromise works in most conflicts.*  Be direct, yet open and flexible as you make your way through disagreements. Putting yourself in your partner’s shoes and truly understanding the other point of view can help resolve a conflict more easily and quickly.

4.*Remain connected.*  A gentle touch or a quick hug can release oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates bonding as well as reduces blood pressure and stress levels. When you‘re feeling tense, an affectionate moment can help you feel closer, loved and even more relaxed.

5.*Celebrate good times.*  Respond enthusiastically when something positive happens to your partner. Make the most of it by asking relevant questions and being complimentary. Studies have found that celebrating positive events predicts greater relationship satisfaction than commiserating over negative ones.

6.*Pay attention to you.*  Investing in your own happiness will take the pressure off the relationship as the main source of your wellbeing. Take positive action in your own life. You’ll have a better attitude, be more interesting to your partner, and your relationship will reap the dividends.  

7.*Stay engaged.*  It’s easy to get stuck in a routine, operate on automatic and not notice the changes going on around you. Paying attention to what’s different about your partner may surprise you, as well as help to increase your attraction, motivation and connection.

8.*Bring out the best in each other.*  Studies show that when partners more closely resemble each other’s ideal selves, they fare better as a couple. List your personal goals and the qualities you like most in your significant other. Chances are there’s an overlap between the self you aspire to and the aspects of your partner that you appreciate the most.

Changes in relationships are like any personal change - to be successful long term, you need a clear idea of what you want and a good reason to keep going. Although improving your partnership may seem overwhelming sometimes, it’s really the little things that matter. Expensive gifts and exotic trips are nice, but they‘re not as meaningful in the long run as simple acts of gratitude and kindness. Long after you’ve opened the last present or downloaded the vacation photos, that reservoir of goodwill will keep nourishing your relationship. Commit to sustaining your 2010 love resolutions – you won’t regret it.

(C) Her Mentor Center, 2010

Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. and Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are family relationship experts who publish a free monthly newsletter, Stepping Stones. Whether you‘re coping with acting out teenagers, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law, we have solutions for you. Visit our website, [Link Removed] Relationships.blogspot.com, for our free e-book as well as practical tips about parents growing older and children growing up.


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