9 ways to strengthen your relationship in the new year

PixabayRelationships have their seasons — times of bliss and times of challenge.
  • Whether or not your relationship is struggling, almost everyone can benefit from a few relationship tips for a strong start in the new year.
  • INSIDER spoke to a relationship expert and discovered that bettering yourself on an individual level can actually have positive effects on your relationship.
  • Focusing on your own role is a vital step in bettering the relationship as well as decreasing the urgency for sameness and spending time together.

All relationships have their ups and downs, even the best ones, which means we could all probably benefit from a January-reboot. And though all couples are different, there are a few universal fundamentals that could make you and your partner’s relationship even better.

In speaking to a relationship expert, INSIDER discovered that there are several ways to improve your relationship that not only benefit you as a couple but also you individually, which may come as a surprise.

Here are a few expert tips on how to strengthen your relationship in the new year.

Adopt a growth mindset.

Chris Greenberg/GettyDon’t just grow as a couple but individually as well.

It’s important to adopt a growth mindset, according to Anthony Chambers, Ph.D., chief academic officer of The Family Institute and director of the Center for Applied Psychological and Family Studies at Northwestern University.

See your relationship as an opportunity for becoming a better version of yourself, Chambers told INSIDER. Often, the best learning about who we are occurs when we are with a romantic partner.

Don’t focus on changing your partner — focus on yourself.

Ivanko80 / ShutterstockDo things that make you feel good.

One of the most vital steps in improving your relationship is by focusing on your role as an individual, Chambers said. It’s essential to concentrate on what you can do to change, not on what you can do to change your partner, he explained. Ultimately, the only person you have the ability to change is yourself.

“Think about how hard it is to change yourself. To think you are going to change another human being is likely not going to work,” Chambers told INSIDER.

Spend time together.

Flickr/Chris HibbsIt’s important to have shared experiences.

In order to nurture the friendship, it’s important to spend time together, according to Chambers. This is the foundation of the relationship, he added.

Couples who do things together become more bonded and in turn, learn to enjoy each other’s company. When you have these shared experiences, it gives you something in common and that just feels good.

Decrease the urgency for sameness.

Flamingo Images / ShutterstockEmbrace each other’s differences.

In other words, don’t try to get your partner to be just like you, according to Chambers. A central task of any relationship is the management of differences.

“Managing differences requires flexibility, not rigidity. Thus, it is important to accept and embrace differences,” Chambers told INSIDER. Remember that differences are not good or bad, he added, they are just differences.

Focus on happiness, not fairness.

Adam Berry/Getty ImagesDon’t expect everything to feel fair.

Unfortunately, many relationship problems spring forth from focusing too much on fairness. The relationship ends up becoming more about scorekeeping and no longer about love and happiness.

“We have the right to be right, but there is a low correlation between being right and being happy,” Chambers told INSIDER. In a relationship, he explained, being right is often not enough. Next time you are tempted to pull out the scorecard, try to look at things from a more positive outlook to move past the unfairness.

Be a team player.

Hinterhaus Productions/Getty ImagesAcknowledge that your decisions impact your partner and vice-versa.

Being in a relationship is like playing for a team sport, he explained, meaning no matter what one partner does, it will have some impact on the other partner and vice versa. And the rules for winning at a team sport, like doubles tennis, is different than the rules for winning at an individual sport, Chambers said.

In the same way, it’s important to think about whether you are spending time and energy competing with one another in your relationship or cheering each other on to achieve your goals together.

Slow down communication when in conflict.

Motortion Films / ShutterstockDon’t respond out of anger.

Continuing with the sports analogy, Chambers said, when managing conflict you should play catch, not tennis, meaning take a step back and wait before reacting in your anger.

“Slow down the communication and repeat back what your partner said to make sure you heard it. Then make your point,” Chambers told INSIDER.

Minimise the money problems.

PX HereHave a money plan.

This tip is more directed towards married couples, as having financial problems is one of the top reasons couples get divorced, according to Chambers. There are three important principles for minimising divorce over money.

One is believing that there is one pot of money to take care of the family without it mattering who makes more or less of a contribution. Another principle is transparency, meaning both members of the couple have knowledge of where the money is located, Chambers said, and how much money is in savings and investments. And finally, both members of the couple share in the decision-making power in terms of how money is allocated.

Read more: Most couples avoid talking about money – here are 5 reasons to do it tonight

Get help if your relationship is struggling.

ShutterstockConsider couple’s therapy.

“If you find your relationship is struggling, then get help. [Approximately] 70% of couples who seek couple counseling report higher relationship satisfaction,” Chambers told INSIDER.

Just remember that it is important to find a therapist who has received extensive supervised training in working with couples, he recommended.

Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

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