I think the New Year is my absolute favorite time of the year. The weather is crisp and cool, most people are over their holiday funk, and everyone is optimistically looking forward to the next year. It’s also a dream come true for a perpetual planner like myself, because the new year offers so many opportunities for self-improvement. But if your own plans for self-improvement don’t include improving your relationship, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.
To help get you started with building your perfect relationship, we’ve gathered up some resolutions for each month of the next year. If you work on these things throughout the year, by this time next year, your relationship is sure to be stronger than it’s ever been before. Don’t worry if you don’t take them on in the same order they appear here – each of these can be tackled in less than a month, and some can be done much quicker than that.
Are you ready for the best year your love life has ever seen?
January: Plan your future together.
There’s a proven scientific correlation between proper goal-setting and success. When you take time to make out your goals for the year, be sure to include your partner’s goals in the mix, too – just to be sure you’re working in the same direction.
Your goals should be important to you, challenging (but not impossible), and there should be a sense of inner reward to keep you motivated along the way. Focusing on 2-3 goals at a time is best, but your list can include as many as ten different goals for each of you. Proper goal setting also includes making them specific, measurable, actionable, and time-oriented – so slap some details and deadlines onto these goals!
Then, write them down, by hand, and put them somewhere you’ll both see them all the time. This will remind both of you of the greater future you’re working toward.
February: Implement a new, good habit.
Now that you’ve taken the time to set your goals for the year, take a look at it. Are there any goals on your list that involve habits? (Hint: Most goals do involve a habit of some sort, whether it’s creating a good one or breaking a bad one.) Pick one new habit from that list, something that applies to both of you, and make time in your schedule to do it.
If you have a difficult time sticking to your good habits (I know I do!), there’s no shame in setting up reminders for yourself. For example, I have an alarm set in my phone at 7 AM every day to meditate, because it’s something that’s important to me. They say it takes about 60 days to set a habit fully into your mind, so be sure you keep it up even after February has ended. You can start adding in your next habit after the first 30 days, though.
Then, once you’re ready, get ready for a lot more togetherness.
March: Make more time for each other.
Even if you’ve both got full schedules, chances are good that there are times you can be there for her without physically being by her side. Take advantage of those times to send her a cute “I’m thinking of you” text, leave a sticky-note love letter on the refrigerator, or run some errand she hates doing before she has to do it.
If that isn’t enough, there’s also a pretty good chance you can manage to spend another six hours every week with her, even if it doesn’t seem like you’ve got any time for one another. All too often we take advantage of the little moments in life, the things that might otherwise slip away from us. Some of these things will need to be scheduled in, but many only take a few minutes at a time. Surely you can give up some social media time for your girlfriend, right?
Once you’ve gotten used to spending a bit more time with each other, get ready – next month holds a mini-vacation just for the two of you.
April: Spend a weekend alone together.
If you’ve both got two days off work and school and are ready to spend some quality time together, a weekend alone requires very little planning. You don’t need a fancy hotel room or a cabin by the lake; your weekend can be as simple as camping out in your own living room.
Want to make it extra special but don’t have a big budget? Cook some of her favorite food items and have a mini-picnic underneath a blanket fort. It seems silly and childish, but who says adults can’t have fun, too? If the mood strikes you, you can even try being intimate together in new rooms in your home – there’s something sexy about getting down somewhere new and different.
Once you’ve given yourselves a weekend of fun, it’s time to start thinking about all the fun you’ll have in the future.
May: Build your trust in each other.
Trust and respect are necessary pieces of the relationship puzzle – if you don’t have trust and respect, you can’t have love. But sometimes there are trust issues standing in the way, on one or both sides, that prevent us from fully opening up to the person we’re with. This month, you’ll be taking some time to focus on any trust issues that may be present, and deal with them to the best of your ability.
Trust is one of the most valuable assets in a relationship because trust helps keep things in perspective. Trust reminds you that honesty is the best policy, and it gives you the peace needed to work through problems. When you can trust that your partner is thinking of you even when you’re not around, your relationship can blossom to all-new heights.
Got a solid foundation of trust built up? It’s time to start talking about positivity and that respect we were just talking about.
June: Express gratitude and appreciation for one another.
Gratitude is a powerful practice. It’s been proven to have positive effects on just about every aspect of your life, and as you continue the practice, it’ll even start to rub off on other people. It’s time to end the cycle of entitlement and obligation and truly be grateful for the blessings in your life – including the person you’re spending your life with.
Once you’ve developed a practice of showing gratitude to your partner, you can also show your appreciation for the parts she plays in your life, and for the parts she plays in her own life. There’s nothing quite like feeling that you’re being appreciated, so be sure that you remind her as often as possible just how much she means to you.
Even when you practice gratitude and appreciation, though, problems can still arise – read on to start dealing with them.
July: Work through a frustration.
Dealing with big relationship issues quickly can mean the difference between life or death for the relationship itself – but sometimes there are smaller issues that get under our skin, without causing enough problems to actually deal with them. This month, you’ll be focusing on the things that frustrate each other, but haven’t been a big enough deal to fix yet. After all, if you’re working towards your relationship goals, don’t you want to make things as amazing as you possibly can?
Make no mistake, though – even the small issues are going to be a big change. Say, for example, your habit of leaving the clothes in the dryer frustrates your partner to no end. It’s going to take a lot of willpower on your end to break that habit – your partner can’t tell you to do it. You have to choose to make the change. It’s going to be hard, but I’m sure you each have one bad habit you can voluntarily give up for your partner’s happiness.
Once you’ve gotten through a tough month of habit-changing, it’s time for a little more fun together – perhaps you can start planning this one ahead of time.
August: Make a memory together.
You’ve done the hard, hard work of setting better habits, making more time for each other, strengthening your bond, and you’ve kept up on your day-to-day life. That’s a lot of work – it’s time to relax for a while and spend some time together again. Make a date to go to the local amusement park, a museum, or perhaps even a road trip – whatever strikes your fancy, you have the chance to create.
I highly recommend documenting these memories, as much as possible. I like to splurge and buy photo books when I can afford to – whether simple albums that the pictures slide into, or elaborate bound books with captions and backgrounds. The joy of flipping through those photos means so much to me, and there’s something extra special about physical paper photos instead of pixels on a screen.
(Looking for a great photo book for a fair price? Mixbook has great quality and international shipping available – I’ve gotten books from them a few times in the past.)
September: Improve your relationship with her family and friends.
Near the beginning of a relationship, forming a bond with her friends and family can be difficult. There’s nervousness about whether they’re going to like you or not, and that stress is not good for making a first impression. But now that you’ve been together for a while, it might be a good time to reintroduce yourself to them, and work towards a better relationship with them. Your partner will love knowing that all the important people in her life are getting along better.
If she’s not close with her family, you can still form a bond with her friends. It’s not necessary that you love all of them, but you should be nice to all of them, and you should like at least a few of them. It might take some time to get used to her cousin Jimmy’s crazy antics when he’s drunk or the way her best friend thinks you’re secretly a straight girl (ugh) but they’ll come around eventually.
It’s important to make sure she doesn’t feel cut off from the people you can’t see eye to eye with, though, and that’s what October is all about.
October: Give her room to have fun.
Sometimes, we just really don’t want to do the same things that our partner does. Often one of us will end up sacrificing in this situation, which isn’t fun – so make sure you let your girlfriend know that you don’t want her to sacrifice the life she wants in order to spend her life with you.
By giving each other room to work on your own thing, you’re reminding yourself of the individuals you were before you met – the individuals that attracted you to each other in the first place. If she likes pottery but you’d rather be at the gun range, why force yourselves into each other’s activities? You’ll only be a bummer if you’re bored, so it’s best to take a step back sometimes.
Got that done? Maybe you’ll find some fun new hobbies to do together, too – there’s nothing saying you can’t branch out and try new things you both enjoy.
November: Come up with an inside joke or a secret language.
You’ve spent some time apart, and you’ve spent some time together – surely you’ve learned something interesting to share with one another. November is all about forming a secret language or inside joke shared just between the two of you. It doesn’t have to be anything with a huge significance, but it should be important and memorable to the two of you.
I can’t clarify your inside jokes for you, but I can tell you that they don’t usually come from planned events – so spend as much time as you can doing the mundane things together, too. Sometimes there are gems hidden within the everyday moments that seem boring at the time. Spend some time making things more entertaining for the two of you, and find the humor in all its secret hiding spots.
After you’ve spent some time laughing and sharing secrets, it’s a good time to remind yourselves of who you want to be next year, too.
December: Learn to do your own thing.
Congratulations – you’ve planned out an entire year’s worth of relationship-building activities! Now it’s time to recharge your own batteries and focus on what you want to accomplish next. Set your plans for next year, and compare them to make sure they mesh well – but then give yourselves permission to break away from the codependence of the relationship. I promise, it’s for the best.
You’ve spent all year growing closer together, and reinforcing those bonds with a little bit of separation is so helpful to the process. Make plans to grow into the best version of yourself – not just for your partner, but for you. If your relationship is already on the right track, the version of you that’s best for you will also be the version that’s best for your relationship – take pride in knowing that you can plan a future together without being joined at the hip.
For an extra challenge, feel free to repeat the process next year, too – there’s no such thing as perfection, and there is always room to improve. Take care of yourself, and each other.