New years are exciting, but this excitement can vary from person to person. Some people had a great year and look forward to the new year following suit, while others had a terrible year and can’t wait to get the year over with to start fresh. Last year was one of those years for me.
Almost every aspect of my life was frustrating — everything except for my relationship, that is. A loss of income caused a financial storm that impacted everything in my life. We lost our home, lived on a friends’ basement floor, stayed in hotels and in the spare rooms of family members’ homes. When the year came to a close, it didn’t look good, and honestly I didn’t have much hope it would get better.
But throughout it all, there was one shining light: my relationship with my wife. It seemed the tougher things got on the outside, the tougher we got on the inside and the more we came together. Now, as this year closes, we reflect and see a completely different perspective. Career and finances are doing great, and our relationship is what I call the B.O.M.B!
As I reflect, I notice a few things that helped our relationship sustain through circumstances that are the beginning of the end to some relationships or at best damage them almost permanently. What helped us will help you as well. And it can lead you to your best year ever as a couple.
Here’s how …
10 Ways to Make This Your Best Year Ever as a Couple 1 of 11
Reflect and identify relationship trends before looking ahead 2 of 11
When you reflect on your year, you will notice some common trends. Some trends were good for your relationship, and some were bad. Before you start making resolutions, setting goals, and determining your direction for the new year, figure this out. Once you know the trends, you will know what worked and what didn't work. You can then move forward from that point.
Forget resolutions. Choose something profound to focus on 3 of 11
Several years ago I decided to go away with new year's resolutions. Instead, I decided to create one theme or focus for the year. This is one guide to direct my year, help me make decisions, and to use as a focal point when I got off track. It has worked wonders! Instead of making resolutions, create a theme for your relationship. You can base what you do in your relationship on this theme. Our theme for this year is to make us a priority. So when we have conflicting choices, we choose the one that aligns best with our focus, or theme.
Read (or write) a relationship book together 4 of 11
The act of reading together is a great way to unwind. And when you read books that help your relationship it is a double win. My wife and I can definitely do better at this, as we have not made it a priority. In addition, with my wife's help I'll be publishing a marriage book in the new year called, The 7 Rings of Marriageâ„¢. Whether you are a writer or not, the practice of reading together will benefit your relationship.
Get sweaty together and physically challenge yourselves 5 of 11
This past year we got sweaty together. My wife, who doesn't really enjoy running, agreed to run a 5k with me. We trained together for about 4 weeks and then completed a 5k together. We ended up exceeding our expectations! Then we started working out in the early mornings by starting the training video Insanity. Both challenged us in different ways, and an appreciation, respect, and support for one another has followed. We are planning more of the same in the new year, including completing Insanity, and running more 5ks and/or longer races.
Be open and prepare for change 6 of 11
My wife and I were born and raised in the same town, and we have lived in our current city since college. Our state is what we know. But this year, we opened the door to something different. We actually considered moving to a new state. A state nowhere near where we live now. And we were prepared to just about drop everything to do it. It came very close to happening, but the opportunity that was going to help us do so was put on hold. But that process, and excitement, of getting completely out of our comfort zones, and starting something new, engaged us and brought us together.
Be aware of where your relationship is today 7 of 11
We have been through ups and downs in our marriage. We have experienced several different stages in marriage. One night we sat down and reflected on this, and I decided to write about each stage of marriage we experienced. As we talked and I wrote, we realized where our marriage is today, and how important this stage is to us, our kids, and other marriages. Knowing where your marriage stands today will help you continue to grow together, and eventually experience all there is in marriage.
Get away from everything together 8 of 11
We went on a weekend retreat together in late spring. This was a few months after our income began to grow again, and we solidified our housing situation. Things were better but still tough. At first it seemed the timing of the retreat was bad as a lot was going on, but the minute we arrived we began to think differently. That weekend retreat was a huge breakthrough for our marriage. What we shared and experienced impacted the rest of the year and beyond in our relationship.
Be diligent about finding mentorship and fellowship 9 of 11
This past year was the year of the marriage mentor and the couples small group for us. At the retreat we met a couple who has served as counselors, mentors, and friends. We began to meet with two different small groups of other married couples, and in one of the groups we have another couple who serves as marriage mentors. What we are learning through these relationships has been invaluable to us.
photo credit: Jackie & Stephana Bledsoe
Don’t be afraid to say no 10 of 11
My wife and I enjoy helping other people. Sometimes we do so much outside of our relationship that it hurts us. We learned this year that we cannot be afraid to say no. Our relationship comes first, and sometimes our decisions may lead to other people being disappointed. But at the end of the day, it is me and my wife (plus our kids). We don't want to be selfish, but we have to nurture what is the foundation to everything else in our lives.
Plan big and expect big things to come 11 of 11
As mentioned earlier, I'll be writing a new marriage book with help from my wife. That is one of many big and exciting things we plan to do together. We'll also be going on our first cruise together. We are really excited, and sharing in that excitement is great! We expect both experiences to make our marriage better and make this year our best year ever as a couple!
photo credit: Jackie & Stephana Bledsoe
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