Considering Your Resolutions: What About Your Relationship Goals
by Jan Yager, Ph.D.
When I ask women and men what their resolutions are for the new year,
typically the response is, “Lose weight,” “Make money,” “Exercise more,” or
“Handle my time better.” Rarely do I hear, “Listen more attentively to others,”
“Be a more responsive friend,” or “Show more patience with my loved ones.” Yet
the relationships in our lives are as pivotal to our health and happiness as our
diet, exercise habits, or work goals.
Creating Relationship Resolutions
Think back over the last year. Ponder your friendships, how you got along with
your parents, siblings, and even your extended family, as well as with your own
children. What about your relationship with your romantic partner? Was the
openness of your communication as well as the intimacy that you shared what you
both seemed to want and need? How about the relationships at work including
those you work with, for, and those who work for you? Even consider the quality
of the relationship that you have with vendors or service providers. Did you
take the time to say “thank you” when exceptional service was provided?
Are you pleased with how you were treated by those in your personal life or at
work? Did you feel appreciated? Respected? Understood? If not, what are you
going to do about it so that there can be positive shifts in your relationship?
Is it something you did? He or she did? Did you put enough time and energy into
each relationship that matters to you? How are your listening skills? Do you
listen to what someone else is saying, whether over the phone or in person, and
then react, or do you find you’re already thinking about what you want to say in
response before the speaker is even finished? Do you find you’re cutting others
off in mid-sentence or before they have completely shared their thoughts?
Taking a Relationship Inventory
How do you feel about the number of friends you have in your life as well as the
quality of those ties? How about your romantic relationship? If you have one, is
it fulfilling? If you do not have one right now, are you making finding a
romantic partner a priority goal in the months or year ahead? Are you the parent
you’ve always wanted to be or do you have work to do on your parenting skills?
If you always wanted to become a parent but you have not yet achieved that goal,
what are you resolved to do to make that goal more likely?
Susan* is a 24-year-old single marketing associate at a medium-sized firm. Right
now she is very content to put all her energy into her career, her friendships,
and her family. She is not too concerned about finding a romantic partner. Her
attitude is if it happens, fine, but she’s not putting that much time or effort
into trying to find a date or a mate. She knows it is very much tied to her age:
her career is her key concern right now. Here is Susan’s relationship
resolution: “To show the people who are important in my life how much I
appreciate them. I don’t think I do enough of that.”
I am sure we would all agree that Susan’s relationship goal is a wonderful one,
something we would all like to do in our own lives. Susan has a second
resolution that is even more specific and notable: “To make time for them.
Really getting together. Phone time is nice but I like face to face time.”
How many of us use “I’m busy” as the excuse for putting off those visits with
friends or family members that are so meaningful? Of course e-mail is fast and
convenient, but you can’t hug an e-mail. You can’t hear an e-mail laugh or
giggle when you’ve said something witty.
Do you and your romantic partner go out on a “date” at least once a week, even
if you’re married and especially if you have young children at home? Resolve to
make time for that all-important “couple time,” for having fun together, and for
continuing to explore each other, and to grow as individuals and as a romantic
Write It Down
In your journal, if you keep one, on a piece of paper, or even in your computer
in a file that you label “Relationship Resolutions,” with the date to
distinguish each year, concretize your relationship resolutions by writing each
one down. Keep the number of proposed resolutions to just a couple; no more than
two or three. You’re more likely to accomplish each and every relationship
resolution if you keep it to a manageable number.
How Will You Measure Your Success?
In addition to making your resolution distinctive and clear, writing it down,
and keeping it to just a couple of specific goals, also find a way that you will
measure how you have achieved your goals. For example, if you want to listen
more to your teenage son or daughter, perhaps your resolution might be to go out
to dinner once a week, just the two of you. It will be a clear goal and you will
easily be able to measure your success by checking your appointment book and
making sure that your commitment to having dinner together with your teenager is
always included in your weekly schedule.
If your relationship resolution is to start a new friendship with someone who
shares your current career goals, you can note the steps you will take to find
such a friend. Write down educational or professional activities that you might
attend where someone who shares your work goals might also be in attendance. Or
you might join one or more new associations and volunteer to be active on a
committee where a likeminded fellow member might in time become a new friend.
Recognizing that you have at least one new friend who shares your work interests
will be the measure that you succeeded in that relationship goal.
Happy New Day! Each and every day offers us a chance to create, and implement,
resolutions that can direct our energy toward change. Relationship resolutions
provide a chance to apply that skill toward the people that matter in our lives
(in addition to the diets, business goals, fitness, health, spiritual, and
financial resolutions, which of course also matter).
*Susan is a pseudonym to protect the identify of the true-life example used in
Jan Yager, Ph.D. is the Connecticut-based author of When Friendship Hurts,
Friendshifts, and Who’s That Sitting at My Desk? among other books. A
sociologist, friendship coach, and speaker, for more information about her,
please visit her websites: www.drjanyager.com and www.whenfriendshiphurts.com
Disclaimer: This column is not intended as a substitute for seeking out the
services of a counselor, therapist, coach, or mental health professional.
Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Jan Yager, Ph.D. All rights reserved.