The beginning of the year is the perfect time for an emotional checkup. Yet few of us add our relationships goals to our New Year's resolutions. But we should because everything stems from our foundational happiness.
First, how we feel about ourselves and then how we feel in our relationships.
In relationships, we tend to focus a lot on the other person. We try and get them to understand what we need, want, and are saying. And somehow if they don't hear us the first, second, and third time, we keep repeating ourselves. As if that will make a difference.
It usually doesn't.
If someone respects and cares about what you are saying it won't take that long to reach them. Yet we get caught up in dynamics and patterns. Something isn't working and we each keep reacting the same way to whatever it is.
A better approach might be an individual one. Asking reflective questions of ourselves might lead to more productive results. At the very least, a more comprehensive view of our entire relationship. Because these questions shift away from focusing on our spouse and more on ourselves.
Three questions for yourself and for your spouse.
How do I feel when I am with you?
My marriage counselor is a psychologist. He told me something early on but honestly, I couldn't hear him. I was still too immersed in being a fixer. I had been one all of my life. It was hard to correct. Therefore, instead of digesting his wisdom, I kept focusing on how I could get my husband to care and how I could rescue my marriage.
Eventually, I took in his words.
"A healthy relationship is not based on how a person feels about him/her. It's based on how do I feel when I am with this person?"
This was a relationship shapeshifter for me.
It wasn't about my husband, or how he wasn't listening to me, or how he was behaving. It was about me. How did he make me feel? Not just in the complaining to our marriage counselor way, but deep down.
The truth was I didn't feel good a large part of the time. I felt lonely. Like I was living with a person but parallel playing. I felt frustrated. What was important to me was rarely important to him, it was never important to him. He didn't make me feel valued, he made me feel like an obligation. I didn't feel heard, I felt frustrated. I felt like I was fighting to be acknowledged.
Had I listened to our counselor early on, I would have had the answers to my marriage.
But I viewed therapy as the lifeline to our marriage even when my husband stopped going.
What made you fall love in with me?
I knew how I would answer this question but I was shocked to hear my husband's answer.
I fell in love with him because he was disarmingly funny and treated people with respect. It could be a waiter, someone at the post office, no matter where we were or what stranger we encountered, he would ask their name. I was enamored by what I believed to be genuine kindness as he engaged each one in conversation. He was charming. Kindness and respect are at the top of my values.
I've always been extremely conscious of how we treat others, especially those we don't know.
It was disappointing to learn my husband's response.
I found it out by accident. During our marital problems, my sister and husband went out to lunch. They were close and she was trying to assist us. Ever the inciteful one, she asked him this question.
"She was pretty and she had a lot of friends," he said.
I couldn't believe it. Are you kidding me? This was his response?!
First, let's address how shallow it is. And next, it had absolutely nothing to do with me or who I was. He didn't say I was caring, or funny, or kind, or anything else. Just essentially that those two things would make me a decent lifetime wingman.
Of course, I was asking these important questions much too late.
These are questions we should be asking ourselves early and routinely.
Do I feel loved?
This is such an important question. We should absolutely want the one we love to actually feel loved. And every one of us deserves that. Love sustains us.
Ask yourself, "Do I feel loved?"
Have your spouse ask themselves, "Do I feel loved?"
And if the answer is no, why is that?
Is it easily rectified? Say in terms of the book The 5 Love Languages? Where you can determine which particular language makes you feel the most loved? Spending time with one another, physical touch, words of affirmation, etc.
Or with improved communication? Explaining to one another deeper reasons why we might not feel incredibly loved.
Most importantly, rather than putting demands on one another which we often tune out or dismiss, this is much harder to ignore. The average loving, empathetic person will no longer be combative. Instead, they will be left not wanting their spouse to feel this way.
These three highly individual questions can provide an excellent emotional checkup.
They can establish a starting point for your relationship resolutions. And establish a deeper understanding of where your partnership stands. A good thing to know at any time of the year.
But the New Year is an especially great time for positive beginnings and good intentions.