by Sheri E Ragland
As the year comes to a close, many couples are eager to begin the New Year with progress. Progress is achievable, but it doesn’t happen without the right planning. Plan for progress by defining strategies that will take you both as a couple where you want to go. One way to begin positive change is to reflect on 2015. Think about the successes and failures of your relationship during 2015 in light of planning for the future. It is a successful strategy my husband and I practice each year because it helps us to focus our planning on a few of the most important goals for the New Year. Let’s start with reflecting.
So, you both are at the end of the year. You made it! It is time to wind down and then reflect on 2015 before you think about defining goals for 2016. Together, think carefully about some key areas that did and did not work for your relationship and discuss them. These key areas of your relationship may include communication, sex, finances, spiritual development, spending time together and so forth. Just focus on a few critical ones for manageability. Together, compile a list of a few specific questions around those topics and answer them. Write and print your answers to the questions. Take a couple of days to answer the questions and follow up with a discussion. For example, if communication, finances, spiritual development and spending time together are areas you want to focus on, create a few questions that will specifically address those areas. Your answers will determine what areas need to be addressed with strategies for improvement. Below are examples of questions and answers that will help guide you through the process.
- Example of Question 1: Did we discuss and resolve issues calmly and respectfully? If yes, then what you are doing is working and you should continue to use those strategies. Try to remember how you resolved the issues and continue to use the method as a guide for future discussions. If you discuss and resolve issues sometimes, then look at the root cause of the disagreement and find strategies to address them that will work for both of you. Remember positive discussions and how you resolved the issues together and use them as a roadmap for handling other disagreements. If no, find strategies that target your issue, such as conflict. Read about successful strategies for managing conflict and communication (Ni, 2012). Then, learn how to manage conflict in your relationship in order to move forward. If you are unable to resolve conflict, then you may need the help of a pastor, counsellor or licensed professional to assist you both. There is nothing wrong with seeking help to move your relationship forward.
- Example of Question 2: Is God central in our relationship? If yes, continue to study the scriptures, pray and attend church together regularly. The key is to be consistent. You can download the free Holy Bible App of short plans for relatable topics. The plans will provide you with short themed stories supported by Scriptures. Daily plans take about five to 10 minutes. Study and discuss the plans as a couple. By doing so, you ensure the spiritual significance of your relationship. If sometimes, then you should define ways to improve your relationship with God as a couple. If no, think about what you can do to incorporate God into your life. It is relatively easy. Study the Word of God, pray and attend a church with Christ-centered teachings. Spend time with other Christians who are positive and encouraging. Use the Holy Bible App to learn and grow as we.
- Example of Question 3: Did we reach our savings goal? If yes, then you are on track and should consider the strategies that worked for you moving forward. You can continue with your current savings plan or increase your savings. If you saved some money but did not reach your goal, think about why you did not reach those goals. Did one or more emergencies occur that prevented you from doing so? Or, did you overspend in one or more areas of your budget? If yes, then maybe you should lower your savings fund and consider starting an emergency fund to align with your lifestyle. Or, cut back on extreme spending, if possible. Define a savings plan that does not become a hardship. However, it may be a challenge to save at times. Part of getting ahead means making some sacrifices. If no, then look at spending habits based on total income and debt and create a budget for managing your finances consistently. You can tweak it until you define a budget that you both feel comfortable with. Once you have created a budget, define a realistic savings plan that aligns to your lifestyle. If you are having a difficult time crafting a budget and savings plan, you may need to decide if it is worth your while to consult a financial advisor. Consider doing so, if it is feasible and will progress you both.
- Example of Question 4: Did we plan time together consistently? If yes, continue to keep your love alive through dates and spending time together frequently. Spending time together strengthens your relationship and allows you to bond with your spouse or partner. If you plan time together sometimes, then you may need to increase the time you spend together. Discuss it with your spouse or partner and don’t neglect each other because it may lead to other issues. If no, then discuss things you can do together and do them. Plan time alone together for a couple of hours weekly, twice a month or monthly. Just be consistent and enjoy each other without interruptions and that includes texting and calls.
I have provided you with examples of questions for consideration. I chose the questions because they are important to my marriage. I do think the questions provided are applicable to most couples. However, you can both devise questions that are relevant to your relationship based on the simple question and answer format provided. Take time to answer the questions. Discuss the questions and answers to see if you are both on the same page. After the discussion, define your areas of strengths and weaknesses. Then, develop a plan to continue with the strengths and address the weaknesses. Be patient because change may take time. The plan should be assessed throughout the year to see if you are on track with meeting your goals. Tweak the plans together if necessary until you see progress that works for both of you. Reflecting is a noteworthy exercise to carefully think about the best ways to move forward together in the New Year. Eliminate the barriers to progress and implement plans to advance. It is called smart planning!
Ni, Preston (2012). How successful couples resolve conflicts: Disagreements can actually bring couples closer today. Psychology Today.