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Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions. They resolve to lose weight, quit smoking, quit drinking, earn more money, exercise regularly, or spend more time with their families. Unfortunately, these resolutions are often forgotten by February. This year, instead of setting yourself up for disappointment, try giving yourself and your marriage “a gift for the year.” A gift for the year is a decision to make a commitment to work on and change some particular aspect of yourself so you will develop a sense of empowerment, relaxation or some other positive feeling throughout the year and be proud of yourself at the end of the year.

In healthy marriages, individuals work on themselves as well as their relationships. When individuals take steps to improve themselves and overcome their issues, they feel more excited about life and continually bring a renewed, flourishing energy to their marriages. Through this energy, couples are continually rediscovering each other, allowing them opportunities to see and appreciate each other in new ways. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of couples seem to achieve the creation of this enhancing energy. Many couples get stuck in their marital journey and don’t develop strategies to continually bring new life to their relationships. Let’s meet a couple I worked with in marriage counseling.

Pete and Brenda Choose Gifts for the Year

Pete and Brenda were very happy together for the first several years of their marriage. They loved outdoor activities and enjoyed tennis, hiking and just strolling around their neighborhood together. They made love often and had regular, enjoyable conversations. They had some ups and downs, but they appreciated the good things about each other and effectively resolved their differences. Gradually, things began to change as they spent more and more time together. Brenda “fell off the pedestal” as Pete started to notice some of her flaws. He said to himself, “Gee, she rambles on about her job for too long.” Brenda had also put on several extra pounds and kept talking about going on a diet, but she kept procrastinating. Pete wondered, “Why can’t she follow through on what she says she’s going to do?”

Brenda tended to keep the relationship moving by bringing up difficult topics which helped the two of them have meaningful talks and become closer. But she noticed their conversations were getting pretty repetitive. Pete only talked about their finances, his boss, the state of the economy and his tennis game. Brenda called them “his favorite four,” and she was getting bored. She wondered about their future and what had happened to all the good times. Brenda and Pete had heard about the concept of a gift for the year and decided to try it.

Pete decided to give himself a gift for the year by gaining knowledge. He wanted to learn more about what was happening on the political scene and vowed to read up about what was going on at least twice a week. Pete’s new interest motivated Brenda to do more reading because she enjoyed learning about current events as well. It wasn’t long before Pete expanded his conversation topics beyond his four favorites, and this made for some interesting new conversation between the two of them. Pete felt good about his new knowledge and the new energy that was evolving in their marriage.

Brenda decided to give herself a gift for the year by taking on her procrastination problem. Instead of just thinking about dropping some weight, she began to take concrete steps to achieve it. She signed up to attend yoga classes three times a week at her health club and got stronger and leaner. Instead of feeling like she “had to go the gym,” Brenda felt she was giving a gift to herself. This one decision made a terrific difference in their relationship. She was enthused about her classes, experienced more energy and felt better about herself. Pete was excited about her new energy and her toned, healthy body.

Getting Started

When you choose your unique gift of the year, consider what kind of change would enhance and nourish your life. The gift should be something you give to yourself regularly, but it doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Inherent in the concept is the freedom to start over and over because we’re not perfect, and it’s natural to temporarily break new habits. If you fall down, you can pick yourself back up at any point during the week or month and set a new starting point.

Here are some things you can do right now to start nurturing yourself:

  • Take an hour a week to just rest
  • Give yourself the gift of regular exercise
  • Enjoy your children more by spending three more hours a week with them
  • Create the time to make nutritious meals
  • Take a date night with your spouse
  • Find an enjoyable new hobby
  • Look for a new job
  • Decide to regularly get rid of unnecessary clutter

Other areas that you may want to cultivate include the following:

  • Learning to share your authentic feelings
  • Developing assertiveness
  • Keeping agreements
  • Developing self-esteem
  • Breaking patterns of procrastination
  • Learning to stand up for yourself (I have worked with many couples in relationship counseling who have learned to connect with their feelings and speak up and this has made a significant difference.)

If you have trouble getting started or continuing with your gift, read an entertaining or inspiring book, or consider making an appointment with a counselor or therapist. Even brief marriage counseling can make a big difference.

Recommended reading:

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver
  • Tell Me No Lies by Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson
  • Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Daniel G. Amen
  • The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
  • Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

You deserve a gift for the year, even if you don’t think you’re worth it. A gift to yourself can bring more joy and abundance to both you and your marriage. Remember…

There is hope, there is help and it’s just a phone call away. Call 408-358-9679 for a complimentary phone consultation.