Tools for Couples Happiness — 09 January 2011
Year-end assessment of your love relationship

At the beginning of a new year many people look back and assess their last year’s financial, vocational and personal accomplishments. It is a befitting time to add your last year’s reflections and new year determinations about your couple relationship.

The intent of a year-end relationship assessment is not to relive the uncomfortable moments or rate each other’s behavior, but rather to celebrate the positive aspects of your union and devise improvements for enhancing the less pleasing ones.

It is common for all beings to remember their disappointments about unmet needs more readily than their satisfaction with the gratified ones. The reason is that being non-rewarded creates frustrations and pain and may even rattle our worth and lovability. In defensiveness, we may react by retaliating rather than problem solving toward increased relationship harmony.

When couples can regard their relationship not as an avenue for personal need fulfillment, but rather as an ever-evolving growth process for mutual satisfaction, they can devise a method for enhancing their personal and couple’s happiness.

Being able to discuss your relationship with acceptance and love can assure greater promise for your relationship success and durability. Research by Ted Hudson and colleagues found, “the neglect of intimate and affectional interaction with a partner may have significant repercussions for relational harmony.”

Professor Howard Markman of the University of Denver writes in “Fighting for Your Marriage,” “I’ve found that couples who score higher on measures of teamwork are couples who also score highly on general marital satisfaction, commitment, confidence in the ability to constructively solve relationship problems, and communication quality.”

Undertaking a year-end evaluation of your and your partner’s relationship behaviors and doing it with kindness will boost your sense of teamwork and marital satisfaction, as well as empower you and strengthen your bond.

There are five major helpful questions to consider in reviewing your performance and your relationship satisfaction: 1. How pleased are you with the attention you gave and received from your mate? 2. How well did you communicate and how well were you responded to by your partner? 3. Were you a good teammate and did you value your spouse’s contributions? 4. Did you give and receive emotional and physical intimacy? 5. Did you both practice and receive solid commitment from each other?

• State your individual relationship pleasures and list three areas for improvement.
• Rate yourself first about areas of change you desire prior to asking your mate to help you become more satisfied. “I realize I have not been physically affectionate enough with you this year as I miss more loving gestures from you.”
• Express your needs in a positive way. “I would love it if we could spend more time once a week in a couple’s activity that did not involve the home or the children.”
• Affirm each other’s requests and state which ones you are willing to concentrate on this coming year.
• Periodically and uncritically review your successes toward increased marital joy.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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