(Health) Whether you only just became exclusive or have been with your S.O. for years, chances are your relationship could benefit from a January reboot. Of course, every couple is different–but we asked relationship experts to reveal the top New Year’s resolutions they think most duos could tap to make their connections stronger. Read on for six ways you and your partner can make your relationship even better in 2018. Because who doesn’t want to be #relationshipgoals?
Ask more questions
This year, stop assuming you know everything about your S.O., says Holly Richmond, PhD, a Los Angeles-based sex and relationship therapist: “Especially with partners we’ve been with for a while, we get to a place in our heads where we think we know all the answers. But they might actually surprise us. Always give your partner the chance to surprise you by asking them more questions.”
Not sure what to inquire about? The phrase “there are no dumb questions” applies. Richmond says it can be as simple as Where do you want to go for dinner tonight?—because it might not (gasp!) be their favorite sushi place—or What kind of sex do you want to have tonight? Any question that provides an opportunity for you to learn something new is a good one.
Put a hard stop to your workday
You put in 10 hours at the office, head home to scarf down dinner, then hop back online to finish work until you crash. If that routine sounds familiar, it’s likely your sex life is taking a hit, says Angela Skurtu, couples therapist and co-creator of the About Sex Podcast.
Make a pact with your partner to disconnect from work duties as much as possible come dinnertime. Spending the evening focusing on each other will make you feel more connected—and just might put you in the mood too. “The cure to better sex isn’t in some magic pill,” Skurtu says. “It’s in spending quality time with your partner and really setting boundaries around work.”
Try something new in the bedroom
“Whether it involves kink, swinging, or shared fantasy play, make a commitment to expand your sexual repertoire this year,” says Lawrence Siegel, a Florida-based clinical sexologist. If you’re worried your S.O. will be offended by the suggestion, explain that your desire to experiment is simply a testament to the quality of your relationship.
“It doesn’t mean you’re dissatisfied with the relationship or your partner,” says Siegel. “Rather, because you feel so comfortable with them, you want to share new experiences and explorations.”
Added bonus: Trying new sexual techniques often involves trusting each other and learning to be comfortable together even if the activity is slightly uncomfortable at first. “The benefits are in the journey and the sharing of the experience,” Siegel says.
Relationships aren’t all rainbows and unicorns, and arguments are inevitable. To make your disagreements more constructive, resolve to fight fair this year, suggests Alexandra Katehakis, PhD, clinical director of the Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles.
“Below-the-belt fighting consists of name-calling, interrupting, bringing up the past, distracting from the issue, and shaming or blaming your partner—all of which tear at the foundation of your relationship,” she explains. Instead, fight fairly by calmly stating your concern, talking about your feelings, and sharing the impact the issue is having on you.
“Own your feelings by using ‘I’ messages rather than ‘you’ messages, which are inherently blaming,” Katehakis recommends. For example, I feel like we haven’t been spending as much time together lately. Why do you think that is? “When you construct the problem as the problem, and not your partner as the problem, you can work together against it, so you both feel seen, heard, and understood.”
Express more gratitude for your S.O. in 2018: “Wake up and tell your partner something about why you appreciate being next to them every morning,” suggests Siegel. “Imagine how wonderful it would feel if you started each day hearing that you are truly appreciated by the person you care about most.”
Even better, research suggests that being deeply connected to your partner can help decrease stress hormones like cortisol, and your connection might help protect you from depression and dementia down the line.
Schedule extra-special date nights
Instead of just doing a standard dinner date, designate one night every month (or more, if your schedules allow for it) that one partner plans something special for the two of you to do together, suggests Siegel.
“What’s planned should be a surprise,” he says, “and something that is intended to turn you both on.” It could be anything from setting up a bubble bath or booking massages to a night out role-playing as if you’ve never met before (then going home together, duh).
“Whatever the date ends up being,” says Siegel, “mark it on your calendars and assign it the same level of importance—if not more—as you would a business commitment.”
By Anthea Levi