Down with Resolutions, Up with Goals!

Have you ever wondered what the entire lyrics are to the traditional New Year’s Song, “Auld Lang Syne”? Better yet, have you ever wondered why it would ask, “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” and do you know your answer to the question? How often do you reflect back on “times gone by”? (the English translation of the Scottish phrase Auld Lang Syne) Or do you let each year go by, without pausing and bringing to mind your successes?

New Year’s is a wonderful time of year because it allows us to look ahead into the next year, clean and fresh like newly fallen snow. It’s unmarred by our mistakes and mess ups and feels full of hope for accomplishing our goals. New Year’s is also a time of reflection; a time to look back on the past year and reflect on how we’ve grown, how we’ve stayed the same, and how we were able to accomplish (or why we didn’t) accomplish our goals.

In regards to relationships, both close and acquaintance, this is the time of year where we can take a look at how our personal growth allowed us to create stronger and healthier connections, while also identifying those relationships which we need to let go of, as it no longer serves our best interests.

I’ve got a few questions for you, to help you reflect on how this past year went and plan where you want to go next year, so grab your paper and pencil (or laptop) and get to writing!

What goals did you achieve this year?

Be honest. Countless New Year’s Resolutions fly out the window by January 3rd. The hardest part with New Year’s Resolutions is sticking to them and keeping up a maintenance plan, especially for couples who wanted to feel closer or more connected, by doing monthly date nights or one romantic trip last year. Today, write down the goals you wanted to achieve over these past twelve months and highlight which ones you didn’t achieve. Then, write down why you didn’t achieve them. Was it money, time, lack of commitment, work that got in the way? Was the goal a little too unattainable at this point in your life (run a marathon when you haven’t been able to run a 5K?) Identify your roadblocks so you can strategize on how to avoid them next year. As for the goals you did achieve…

What difference has this made in your life and your relationship?

Was one of your goals to take your therapy private practice to six figure levels (which you can learn how to do if you head over to ThePrivatePracticeStartup.com). Congratulations! Be proud; that’s an accomplishment. Now take a moment to answer the the question above. Did having more financial freedom and flexibility allow you and your partner to take that romantic vacation you always wanted? Did an achieved weight loss goal increase your confidence in your appearance and improve your sex life with your partner? Whatever the case may be, look at how achieving your goals has set you up for more success in all areas of your life. It’ll motivate you to keep up your next set of goals, which are…

Which goals do you want to continue?

Learning about finances and ways to protect yourself and family? Eating healthier? Keep it up! Exercising more? Spending more time connecting with family and friends? Now’s the time to reevaluate your goals and see which ones have turned into healthy habits for you and your family.

Which goals do you want to drop like a bad habit?

This is a tough one because you might think “All my goals are positive” and you’re mostly right, yet it’s possible to go from goal oriented to obsessed if you’re not careful. Striving to reach one million Instagram followers, spending a majority of your time crafting the perfect picture and still not getting the results you want? It might be time to direct your energy elsewhere.

As the year comes to a close, sit down with your partner and have a discussion about where you’d like to focus your attention and energy this year. Is it your health and wellness, your relationship, your family, spending more time fun and leisurely activities, taking up a new hobby, getting control of your finances, your career, or your growth and development.

I know that after the initial phase of excitement motivation and momentum to achieve your goals my start to dwindle, which is why it’s important to have a Maintenance Plan. A maintenance plan allows you to plan for the roadblocks and obstacles that’ll inevitability pop up along the way to achieving your goals, especially when you’re goals relate to you and your partner moving forward and growing together.

As always, if you’re having trouble getting started on your New Year’s Goals, I’m a phone call or click away at 954.401.9011 or Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com.

What Are Your Relationship Rights?

December is Human Rights Month, and Saturday, December 10th was Human Rights Day. You might be scratching your head (as I did when I first looked into human rights) wondering, “What exactly are human rights?” In 1948 the United Nations drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which you can read and download here) as a standard of “fundamental human rights to be universally protected”. Much like we have rights under the U.S. Constitution, we have universal rights that transcend our nationality, such as “The right to life, liberty, and security of person” and “The right to rest and leisure”.

We all have rights as individuals, just like we all have rights when we’re part of a couple and in a relationship. It might seem somewhat difficult to identify our rights within a relationship and while the UN hasn’t written a declaration for Relationship Rights, it’s worth taking a look at what exactly individuals deserve in a relationship.

Ask yourself, “What would I say my rights are within my current relationship? Scratching your head? It’s alright. It might seem like an easy task yet sometimes we forget about our own needs when we’re in a relationship, as we strive to help our partner achieve their dreams and goals. Below are just a few rights I’ve come across in my practice as a couples counselor:

Right to feel loved
It’s what we all want, no matter how young or old; to feel loved. When one partner isn’t feeling loved by the other, it can lead to big problems. It’s important that you’re feeling loved in a way that you recognize, like your love language (if you’re unfamiliar about the 5 Love Languages, you can check out my video on “How the 5 Love Languages Can Help Your Relationship”).

Right to be heard
One of Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is stonewalling and it can be detrimental to a relationship. Stonewalling shuts down the conversation before the other person can be heard. While it may feel like you, or your partner, need that time to cool down during an argument before you say something you regret, if you never come back to the topic, you lose all hope of finding an agreed upon resolution. If you feel like you and your partner need some ground rules for conflict, set them up beforehand, when you’re both calm and open. The ground rules should outline how you want to be treated during a fight, and how your partner wants to be treated during an argument and can include things like: “No name calling”, “No bringing up events that happened over 6 months ago”, “No comparison of how you/I chose to do something”.

Right to respect
Easy, right? Wrong. Respect is so much more than just saying you have it for your partner; it needs to be shown. It’s tempting when we get together with a group of friends or other couples, to begin the mutual complain-fest. “He sleeps in too late on the weekends” or “She never does the dishes after dinner”. We think it’s bonding with our peers when can share a mutual dislike for something and while propinquity (or similarity between things, like shared political beliefs) might help you develop a friendship, it will do nothing for your relationship. When you open the door of complaining about your spouse/partner to others, and in front of others, you allow other individuals in your life (friends, family, co-workers) to walk through that door as well. You might think, “Only I can complain about my spouse and I get upset if someone else does!” although that’s not always your saving grace and you set the precedent for how others treat your spouse.

Right to safety and security
Domestic violence, whether it’s physical, verbal, emotional, or financial, is illegal and no matter the circumstances everyone has the right to safety within a relationship. If you feel unsafe in your current relationship, it’s time to get help. It can be a long process, as the average individual tries over seven times to leave an abusive relationship, and it may involve much planning and therapeutic work on your part, but consider the price you pay for staying in a relationship where there is an abuse of power, control, and violence. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is a great resource for anyone looking for more information or help and has a quick button if the page needs to be closed without detection.

In honor of Human Rights Month, I want you to take a moment and right down your relationship rights. You don’t need to include many, just as many as you feel you deserve in a relationship. This can be something you do on your own or with your partner. A review of your marriage vows, or rewriting, can be an excellent starting place to begin and remember what you agreed to when you chose to join this person. Put a positive spin on this exercise and focus on the rights you already have in your relationship, the rights that are strong, and then begin to build from those rights. As always, if you and your partner find yourselves struggling, I’m just a phone call or click away at 954.401.9011 or Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com. I would love to hear what rights you came up with for your relationship. Drop me a line!

4 Ingredients for Your Relationship

The holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving, is often accompanied by family recipes for certain dishes or meals. Perhaps there’s one dish that only a certain family member can perfect (or that you love when they make it, even if you’ve got the recipe). Recipes provide us the blueprints and guidelines for how to achieve that delicious pumpkin pie, roast beef, or grandma’s special… you fill in the blank.

If only other things in life came with a recipe book. Parenting, relationships, etc.  I mean how many times have you heard, “There’s no manual for raising kids!” and they’re right. We struggle to find ways to be successful and happy in our relationships, our careers, child rearing, and much more.  And while it’s true there is not “one size fits all” approach to a healthy relationship, we do know that healthy relationships and marriages are backed by science (no really, I tell couples this ALL the time), just like the perfect recipe.  4 Ingredients Blog

When you think about your favorite dish, and its recipe, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the person who gave you the recipe. Perhaps it’s the first time you made the recipe and how it turned out (good or bad). Perhaps it’s the entire experience of making the recipe, standing in the kitchen with your loved one and following the process, adding a cup of something when instructed.

Often, families have one particular recipe that becomes tradition for the family. It may have started with a grandparent, great-grandparent, or even earlier. Over time, the recipe begins to change ever so slightly, through different types of ingredients available (maybe that brand of tomato sauce or chicken stock was replaced a while ago and now you’re using store brand), or even just to suit the taste of younger generations (maybe you only put half the amount of sugar or salt, because that’s the way you like your tomato sauce). Although the recipe has undergone a transformation, its core is still the same.

Much like the family recipe, your relationship has a recipe as well, and it’s one that will change overtime. You and your partner were once dating and there was a certain recipe to those early days. Maybe one of you would drive to pick the other one up from their home and you’d go to see a movie together. That was your recipe for a Friday night. After you married, or moved in together, maybe the Friday night recipe changed to making dinner together and renting a movie to watch on the couch. For older couples who’ve become Soaring Eagles, the recipe for Friday nights might look even different still.

No matter where you are in your relationship, I’ve got a quick and easy recipe for you to follow to keep your relationship strong, healthy, and full of love and connection.

Recipe for a Healthy Relationship

5 Daily Kisses

Physical contact can be one of the first things lost in a long-term relationship or in a relationship that’s struggling. The initial passion fades and even the sexual aspects of the relationship can become routine. I’m a big proponent of including connection throughout the day, whether it’s physical, emotional, or verbal.

5 Relationship Rituals a Week

The Gottman method highlights the importance of having a ritual in your relationship, whether it’s saving “Good-bye” before heading off to work and “Hello” again when coming together at night. This ritual creates stability and familiarity within the relationship, a sense of comfort and peace.

4 Talking Tips

Communication is key in any relationship. When you talk with your partner, especially about something difficult, remember to be: express your feelings with kindness and a win/win attitude, acknowledge or express what you appreciate about your partner, and of course reflect and validate.  Allow these tips to be at the forefront of any discussion you have with your partner.

2 – 3 Friendship Building Activities

Many couples share with me how disconnected they have become overtime.  Much of that is lost in the habitual day by day robotic way we begin to do life.  You have to have fun, spice it up, be spontaneous or silly.  Fun things to do – go to a movie during the week, play a fun family game, have dessert for dinner, break the rules a little, relax and enjoy.  

There you have a quick and easy recipe for a healthy relationship. If you think your recipe with your partner needs, a little adjustment, don’t hesitate to contact me at Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com or 954-401-9011.