12 Relationship Resolutions That Will Make For A Happy 2017
Okay. We know you work on your fitness, health, financial and career goals all year round, but 63% of us make specific vows in January to improve health, wealth and work-life balance, according to YouGov. What about our relationships? Given that there’s nothing more likely to derail a diet or saving plan quicker than a significant other, making a pledge to shore up your love life could help keep you on track with the rest of your resolutions.
The trick is to make specific, obtainable, monthly goals – or to let AskMen make them for you…
Work out together
Working out to lose weight is the most popular New Year’s Resolution by far according to statisticbrain.com, but working out together is a pledge that will boost your relationship energy levels year-along.
Lab studies run by US social psychologist Arthur Aron show that after jointly participating in an exciting physical challenge or activity, couples report feeling more satisfied with their relationships and more in love with their partner.
Competing over sets of burpees in the gym might do it for some, but you can amp up the feel-good factor by taking it outdoors – rock-climbing, a winter sport, or even just a bracing walk, so long as it truly is challenging. The trick is to make sure you raise your heart rates and stimulate your muscles, besides just getting a change of view and patting yourselves on the back for making it off the couch.
Cook a meal together from scratch
Let’s face it – many of us are still too broke in February to make massive Valentine’s Day plans – and still falling shy of our pre-Christmas weight.
As Anne Hodder, Los Angeles-based sex and relationship coach, explains, “Cooking a dinner together at least once a week and starting from scratch is one of the best team couple-building exercises you can introduce into your relationship. The point is to go on the entire journey together – from browsing the supermarket and asking one another what you feel like eating – to splitting up the preparation and cooking tasks.”
Take the embarrassment out of playtime
When spring springs, your energy levels and libido are naturally piqued by the returning light. Well into the new year, it’s time to mix it up between the sheets – time for what sex and relationships educator Kate McCoombs calls ‘the sex lab’.
“The gist of a sex lab is that a couple makes a date to experiment with a specific sex act, toy, or fantasy, without the expectation that it will be successful or not. It’s purely about testing a hypothesis (eg will this be something we enjoy?). Afterwards they take the time to reflect on what they liked, and what they’d improve upon for next time. It’s a useful strategy for increasing variety, as well as increasing communication about sexual tastes.”
Enhance time together with technology
As the social calendar starts to warm up, you might find that your phone needs its own place setting at dinner, and space in the bed. But it doesn’t need to be that way. “This may sound counterintuitive,” says Future of Sex podcaster Bryony C, “but sometimes it’s just not realistic to say you won’t have a phone on once you get home. You can try the ‘no tech in the bedroom’ rule. But how about turning it around by using technology to bring you and your lover together to do something new? Apps like Pillow Play guide you through an intimacy practice to do with your partner for a month (think a meditation app, but for sensuality). The Kindu app suggests new things for you and your partner to explore, and allows you each to rate separately whether you’d like to do it, so there’s no awkward moments. The key is making the technology disappear into the background rather than being the focal point of the relationship.”
Swap sex for touch
In the Pagan calendar, May was the most sexually auspicious month, with May Day celebrated as a fertility festival. So if you’re feeling friskier than usual, take advantage of feeling better connected by saying you love one another more often. Kory Floyd, professor of communication at Arizona State University has found that both receiving and expressing messages of affection improves the health of close relationships – as well as the health of the individuals in them. Back that up with more non-sexual touch: research from the University of Miami has found that things like massage can increase a person’s attentiveness and lower stress hormones.
As the temperatures rise, it’s time to make the most of the warmer nights. Shed everything but the sheets. And it’s not just about another opportunity to frisk it up – sleeping together naked more often has other benefits. As sex educator Anne Hodder says, “We stress the need to build intimacy, but one of the easiest ways to increase intimacy without effort is by maintaining skin to skin contact. This doesn’t necessarily mean being wrapped up in one another’s arms all night – even just torso to torso comes with extra benefits if it’s bare-skinned.” Besides, it’s science. Skin on skin contact causes the body to reduce its production of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Talk about money
Okay, this one isn’t sexy, but take advantage of the heightened endorphins of summer by daring to lay your financial cards on the table. A survey by SunTrust found that mismatched ideas or poor communication about finances is the leading cause of disharmony in a relationship. What’s more, the sooner you get used to dropping the M-word, the easier it will be ever-after.
“Make it normal to talk about money,” financial analyst Liz Deziel says. “Don’t overthink it. People put it off, but that makes it a bigger deal. Aim for calm and casual.”
And if you’ve been together a while and are planning on combining more of your lives, pledge to talk about it once a month for five or ten minutes. A regular quick conversation will take the heat and fear out of it, while ensuring you’re both kept on the same page about any difficulties or worries your partner is having.
Go on separate holidays
This is for those of you that are knee (or nappy) deep in domestic bliss. It sounds totally counter-intuitive but separate holidays are a way to reconnect with your own interests, relax without being scrutinised, read, recharge, and come back with a sexy tan, ready for that skin-on-skin reunion. Hell, if it’s good enough for Mary and Giles from Gogglebox…
Just be sure you’re confident in yours and your partner’s intentions, and are not necessarily putting yourself in temptation’s way. As sexpert Tracey Cox puts it, “Know your weaknesses and your partner’s, and go somewhere appropriate.” If you find yourself more liable to misbehaving around your single friends, reconsider venturing to Mykonos with them.
Learn to communicate with yourself
Autumn is a time to shun the summer sangria for a glass of red wine and deeper, personal reflection. After all, how can you do better by her without doing better by yourself? “We all know that communication is a key element in successful, satisfying sexual relationships,” says presenter and sex educator Sunny Megatron. “But what we often don’t realise is the first step to being an excellent communicator happens before any interaction with a partner occurs. You have to be self-aware enough to identify and articulate what your fears, desires, fantasies, and feelings are first. If you can’t do that, jumping right into attempting to improve communication with your partner will be difficult.”
Have a deeper argument
Arguments are an inevitable part of relationships; what isn’t inevitable is the shouting, accusing and lingering resentment that tends to accompany them for many people.
As Mike Lousada, Psychosexual Somatics therapist explains, “When there’s conflict in a relationship it’s because there is an unmet need. Most people get stuck at the level of discussing the behaviour – either what the other person did or didn’t do. This tends to leave us going round in circles and can so easily end up in a he said/she said situation which is unhelpful.
“Instead of working at this superficial level, dig deeper and offer up your partner a vision of what they could gain to benefit from a change in behaviour. For example, say you feel your partner doesn’t pay enough attention to you, you could try explaining: ‘If you paid attention to me, I’d feel that you cared for me and if I felt that I’d be more able to open up to you and show my love for you’. Instead of blaming, this lets the other know our deep intention or need. When we communicate from this place we’re far more likely to have our needs met.”
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Edge around the issue
The nights are dark, the fraught schedule of Christmas is drawing near and your boss required everything to be done yesterday. No wonder stress is crushing your boner. But that’s no excuse to let physical intimacy slide. Enter – vaginal edging, a sure-fire way to give your body a rest while keeping her on fire.
As intimacy coach and massage therapist Colin Richards explains, “Using plenty of lubrication, the technique involves deep insertion of fingers but rather than just making a pumping motion, you explore the inside of her with confidence and care. By reaching around and seeking the deeper recesses of her vagina he can stimulate areas that a penis can’t.”
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Plan your spontaneity
The party season brings a dizzying calendar of truncated work deadlines, family responsibilities and social commitments, so finding genuine ‘free time’ for one another at the end of the year is no mean feat. But at the same time, relationship experts tell us that timetabling date night can kill the spontaneity that helps love thrive. What’s the compromise?
Planned spontaneity, of course. Whether it’s a romantic dinner or a random love letter slipped into a briefcase, according to a survey conducted by dating expert Jo Hemmings, “Unexpected gestures of love led to twice as much intimacy such as kissing and cuddling and 33% more sex.”
However, while men relish being knocked for six, women tend to be less spontaneous and benefit from some small clues or hints about the activity in question. So be sure to leave her a trail – preferably in the form of luxury scent or underwear – if you want her to let loose, come midnight.