Sex Spoken Here: Relationship Resolutions
Welcome to my virtual therapy room! I am Dr Lori Beth Bisbey and this is Sex Spoken Here. Remember that this podcast deals with adult themes so if you don’t have privacy you might wish to put on your headphones. Happy New Year! This week most people are making their New Year’s resolutions to try to get the year off to a great start. Each year at this time, I like to make relationship resolutions.
When I work with couples, I spend time helping them to create a solid foundation to their relationship that includes clear routines and rituals.
Both routines and rituals help to create a solid rhythm for the relationship. Rituals mark occasions in our relationships. We use ritual to help create a safe and sacred space in which to celebrate or grieve. Ritual provides us with ways to connect and reconnect. Routines are equally helpful. They provide a framework that keeps a relationship stable, helps people to be clear about roles and responsibilities and makes it easier for us to re-connect after conflict.
Traditional new year’s resolutions set out our intentions for the coming year.
Often they are focused around health and well-being. The most common ones are losing x amount of weight, going to the gym (in order to lose x amount of weight and/or tone or build muscle), and quitting smoking and/or drinking. People are more likely to follow through on their resolutions and keep them up if they frame them as goals and create action steps that lead to the goal instead of just intentions.
In long term relationships, reviewing agreements and commitments and talking about desires, wants and needs is important if your relationship is to stay successful and to grow with you. Reviewing this annually means that you are much more likely to catch issues early and be able to resolve them than if you only review when a problem arises.
To make this easier, I created this framework for relationship resolutions.
Step 1: Review your expectations
All relationships contain expectations. Many times, these are unspoken and this is the source of many upsets and chronic conflicts. In my work with people, I recommend examining expectations and making them clear and explicit. Initially, this means that you have to look at your own expectations of your partner (or a potential partner). To do this thoroughly, you have to look at expectations in relation to all areas of your life together. For example: Expectations in relation to how your partner looks, takes care of themselves, looks after their health (including mental health), drug and alcohol use, diet (vegan? Meat eater?), time spent with you, time spent with family (yours, theirs), time spent with friends (yours, theirs), employment and finance, sex and intimacy, cooking, house cleaning and repairing, religion and spiritual, activities, holidays, children, future goals. This is not my full list but should give you an idea of how detailed this activity can be. For anyone interested in the full workbook, email me at mailto:email@example.com.
Step 2: Review your agreements
Review any agreements you have made. Make sure highlight the ones you have kept and celebrate these. The ones that have been broken should be examined and re-negotiated. For anyone interested in the full workbook, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Step 3: Set your goals for your relationship for the year
Set goals for the mundane through to the extraordinary.
Examples of mundane goals:
Mary will do the ironing every week.
John will rinse dinner dishes and put them the dishwasher and wash all pots/pans each evening before bed.
Mary will walk the dog every morning.
John will walk the dog every evening.
Examples of enjoyable goals:
Mary and John will have sex at least twice per week.
Mary and John will take a weekend away every 8 weeks.
Examples of extraordinary goals:
We will go to a relationship retreat.
We will take a honeymoon trip.
We will attend a swingers club twice during the year.
We will go to relationship coaching or therapy.
When you set goals, note if they are long term, short term or full year long goals. Be clear about who is doing what for each goal. If it is a goal that requires both of you to do something in order to reach the goal, you will address each person’s responsibilities when looking at action steps. Be clear how you will know the goal has been reached. For a goal that has a number attached to it (like ‘Attend a burlesque show on two date nights’), it is easy to see how you will know the goal has been reached. For a goal like ‘Create a brilliant sex life’, it is harder to tell if the goal has been reached unless you both define how you will know that you have reached the goal. Think about how you will feel, what reaching the goal will look like, what will happen and/or be accomplished, what will it sound like. Write a detailed description of what reaching the goal looks like. For anyone interested in the full workbook, email me at email@example.com .
Step 4: Set action steps for each goal.
When creating action steps, make sure the steps are manageable chunks. For example: For the goal: ‘We will attend a swingers’ club twice during the year.’ ‘Book the tickets’ is a manageable step. Listing no action steps would make the goal potentially unmanageable. Make sure to be clear who is responsible for which action steps. Be clear how you will know that the action step has been completed. Make sure you order the steps well. Some people like to make maps or flow charts. For anyone interested in the full workbook, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Step 5: How will you manage conflict or difficulty around the goal?
If you are having trouble making progress towards the goal, how will you manage this? This is where you want to come up with how to deal with conflict, re-negotiate or if you will decide to abandon a goal. You can also look at incentives here to make it easier to make progress towards the goal.
For anyone interested in the full workbook, email me at email@example.com .
Step 6: How will you celebrate reaching the goal?
If the goal was a mundane one, celebrating completing it is a great idea. If you do all the chores you agreed to in the first quarter of the year, what will the reward be? If you complete the whole year and do all the chores, what will the reward be then? Make sure to spend some time talking about what you each find rewarding. Look at tangibles (food, drink, shoes, video games, jewellery etc.), experiences (spa visits, holidays, sporting events, tickets to concerts etc.), somewhat intangibles (King/Queen for a day, a massage from your partner, special sexual favours from your partner). For anyone interested in the full workbook, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Some people find that it much easier to do this work with the help of a coach. For others, the help of a coach becomes essential when they run into conflict.
Here are my tips about when you should prioritise getting some help:
When you have a conflict, there is violence
Violence in a relationship is not acceptable. Professional help can teach you other ways to manage conflict that are safe and productive.
You cannot approach a topic without an argument
If you argue every time you approach a particular topic, it can be very hard to break this pattern without someone who is neutral to help change the cycle. A relationship specialist can help you identify the pattern and teach you a variety of ways to manage conflict that avoid a cyclical argument that never reaches a conclusion.
When you have a conflict, it becomes personal.
Personal attacks cause trust and intimacy to decrease. They make conflicts last longer and cut deeper. Personal attacks are harder to forgive and good will disappears for longer so re-connecting is harder.
When you have a conflict, it becomes heated
Heated conflicts are harder to manage. If you have skills to reduce the temperature, then professional input is probably not needed. If you find reducing the temperature difficult or impossible, then you would benefit from professional help.
Conflicts don’t resolve.
Lots of couples have the same argument over and over again. Some have the same issue arise no matter what the argument is. This can make it hard to approach your partner to resolve a difference as people begin to dread the never-ending argument. A relationship specialist can help you learn to let go of the past emotional charge and methods of arguing constructively.
Having a neutral third person who has expertise in sex, intimacy and relationships as well as communication and negotiation will make all of these tasks easier. One of the most valuable outcomes from good relationship work is the acquisition of new skills which you can apply to all areas of your life.
Routines and rituals are often built out of our goals.
Relationship resolutions can be the start to building out a structure and foundation. Structures are important because they reinforce the stability of the relationship when times are stressful. They act as our touchstones so we can explore as we know we have stability and love in our relationship back home. They make it possible to weather difficult patches in the relationship as they remind us that our partners have our backs, that there has been stability and can be again, that there is a strong foundation to return to.
Today I spoke about relationship resolutions, goals, intentions, action planning, expectations and agreements, routines and rituals.
If you were triggered or if this resonates with you, do email me at email@example.com .
Thanks for joining me for Sex Spoken Here with Dr Lori Beth Bisbey. Write to me with suggestions for the show, questions you want answered at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow me on twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Check out my YouTube channel: Dr Lori Beth Bisbey.
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