Self Improvement — 14 January 2014
New Year Resolutions

Many people use the New Year as a marker of a fresh era in which to accomplish their goals. Most New Year’s resolutions are related to personal self-improvements that have been traditionally hard to attain. Why do fewer individuals list relationship improvements as one of their New Year’s resolutions?

Aspiring for a better life is a normal human quest. Charting one’s goals and mustering the determination to improve one’s ways is highly personally empowering and supported by society.

Professor John Norcross found that “40% to 45% of adults in the U.S. will make resolutions at the start of the year. Among the top resolutions are weight loss, exercise, stopping smoking, better money management and debt reduction. Only 40% to 46% of those will be successful after six months. Yet, New Year’s resolvers are ten times more likely to succeed than individuals who set personal goals that are not tied to the New Year.”

Professor C. Peter Herman attributes the failure of some individuals’ New Year’s resolutions to “false hope syndrome” which is associated with the belief that achieving a specific goal will fundamentally improve their life, though internally they do not trust that it will.” This mismatch of expectations often derails their efforts, as the execution of the task gets harder.

Clinically, I have heard people express the wish that “Next week, next month, after the end of this work period, my partner will become kinder, more attentive, more loving, more helpful or more intimate with me.” Though it is true that when a mate is going through a difficult vocational, emotional, physical or psychological crisis, his/her attitude and conduct within the relationship may be temporarily atypical, it is often reversible when the crisis ends. Yet, when the pattern is ongoing, expecting personal or behavioral changes of a spouse without any communication is highly unrealistic.

Since changing the nature, emotions or behavior of our mate is unattainable, when we feel lacking in our relationship, it is incumbent upon us to make our own New Year’s resolutions about our personal conduct within the relationship.

Resolutions are internal edicts set up to improve our life, health, comfort, self-esteem and inner tranquility and they can be equally applied to behaviors within your relationship. You may ask yourself whether you have been as kind, attentive, loving, supportive, helpful or intimate with your mate as you hope he/she would be with you? If so, continue to model these traits as you await the end of your spouse’s hard period. If not, you may choose to make your own New Year resolutions of modeling the behaviors you wish to receive from your spouse as you anticipate his/her reciprocal response.

Make your Relationship Resolutions for the New Year…I will:

  • Monitor myself in being kind, considerate, loving and attentive to my spouse.
  • Accommodate my spouse’s previously expressed needs and wants.
  • Lovingly discuss with my partner my unmet needs.
  • Verbally affirm my partner daily and show my pleasure with our relationship.












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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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