I don't know about you, but it seems like my inbox right now is overflowing with emails telling me what New Year's resolutions to have and how to keep them. This time of year puts a lot of pressure on us all to make grandiose claims about how we are going to improve our lives in all sorts of ways. But saying and doing are, as we know, very different things.
The truth is that most people will fail when it comes to identifying their bad habits, making changes and sustaining them in the long-term. Change is hard. It's uncomfortable and it takes incredible persistence, perseverance and patience.
As a relationship therapist, I always use the new year to think about the changes I want to make in my relationships as well as supporting changes my clients want to make in their relationships.
But perhaps ironically, I don't recommend that my clients make relationship "resolutions" for the new year. Instead of committing to relationships resolutions that may never stick, I want to invite you to use the New Year to choose a relationship theme instead.
What is a relationship theme?
A relationship theme involves setting an overarching intention for the emotional tenor of your relationship. When you set an intention, you're moving toward a way of being that you aspire to, and therefore go about making change in a mindful and patient way. It also prevents you getting down on yourself every time you "break" a resolution.
In other words, when you choose a relationship theme instead of a resolution, it takes the pressure off having to attain a particular goal, something that is either defined by success or failure. And we all know, of course, that when you think you are failing, you're much more likely to give up altogether. The key is keeping an open, balanced and positive perspective. Hence the setting of intentions — of a relationship theme, rather than a resolution.
Your relationship theme is something you can hold lightly in the background and bring it to the foreground in any (and/or all!) of your relationships, as needed.
So, what are some examples of relationship themes?
Themes are often best expressed with between one and three words. These words are easy for you to remember so you can access them as needed and accurately capture the sentiment of the change you're aspiring toward.
Some examples of relationship themes might include: