The Heart-To-Heart Your Relationship Needs Right Now
It’s easier than you think.
With the new year here, many have likely made New Year’s resolutions or intentions and reevaluated their lives regarding jobs, fitness goals, financial aspirations, love life, and so on. Speaking of the latter, it just so happens that the new year is the perfect time to do a relationship reset — just ask the experts.
“The new year is a time for ‘out with the old and in with the new,’” Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking, tells TZR in an email. “In fact, January is known for having the highest number of divorce filings. I always think it’s the juxtaposition of holiday magic tossed in with the reality of being slammed in the face with unhappiness that makes people really understand that they want to end their relationship.”
Therapist Keischa Pruden, a licensed clinical mental health counselor supervisor and the owner of Pruden Counseling Concepts, agrees, saying the beginning of the year is traditionally the time when people are more reflective and ready to make serious changes in their lives. “This is also the time when people are more open to opportunities for change and growth, whether it be from a self-help book, life coach, or psychotherapist,” she tells TZR in an email. So taking time to reevaluate your romantic relationship falls under the umbrella of potentially making some life changes.
Relationship coach David Bennett agrees, but with a caveat. “While the new year is a great time to reevaluate anything in your life (your relationship, career, etc.) to see if it is working or not, it's a good idea to do a ‘check-in’ regularly — not just once a year,” he tells TZR in an email.
But do you have to do one right now even if your relationship seems to be fine? “I am a firm believer in whole wellness — biological, psychological, social, and spiritual,” Pruden says. “In order to determine if a relationship reset is needed, it is important for a person to reflect on how the relationship affects their life as a whole. Does it promote wellness and enjoyment in every area of their lives?”
Ahead, relationship experts get into how you can go about doing a relationship reset — and how to do so naturally, without freaking your partner out in the process.
Why It’s Important To Assess Your Relationship
Lisa Velazquez, self-love coach, dating and relationship expert, and founder of Lisa Talks Love, says January is a great time to reset your relationship since you can reflect on the chapter of your romantic life from the previous year while it’s still fresh in your mind. “What worked will be clear, and so will the lessons of what didn’t work for the relationship,” she tells TZR in an email. “A new year is also a time of momentum to set the tone for what you want and commit to it together. Rather than some random resolution, it can be a powerful intention that's a compass for your healthiest and best romantic relationship. And when you're in a relationship, you have this opportunity for a fresh start on the same page.”
And even if you think everything’s great in your relationship, it’s still a good idea to really see how it’s going in various aspects. “Too often, I see people staying in relationships because they fear going out and starting over, and that's a mistake,” Julie Spira, dating expert and award-winning dating coach, tells TZR in an email. “The longer you stay with someone who doesn't make you smile and bring you joy, the more time you will waste being in an underwhelming relationship. And then you could miss out on meeting someone amazing who makes your heart skip a beat and has the same relationship goals.” Speaking of which...
Evaluate Your Relationship — And Your Relationship Goals
Bennett says that although it is cliché, a pros-and-cons list can be helpful when evaluating your relationship. “List the positive things that the relationship brings to your life, but also the negatives,” he says. “Many people stick with relationships out of obligation or because it's easier to stay in one than leave (especially if you share resources, like a house). Over time, the positives in a relationship can disappear (like regular intimacy and doing fun things together), while the negatives can be amplified (like more and more fighting).” But honestly evaluating the positives and negatives can help you see areas you can work on if you choose to stay in the relationship, he adds.
Spira says another key aspect is to evaluate your relationship goals. “Suppose you thought you'd be getting engaged over the holidays, but your gut is telling you your relationship is stagnating, or you're even drifting apart from your partner,” she says. “Having a talk about your goals will make sure you're in sync and on the same page moving forward — or give you the out you need to exit the relationship.” She says that without having these meaningful conversations, your partner might assume you're happy with the current status of your relationship — and that won’t benefit either of you long-term.
Performance psychologist Haley Perlus, Ph.D., says that when you’re assessing your relationship goals, there are several key things to think about regarding the dynamics of your relationship. For example, “How you argue is crucial,” she tells TZR in an email. “Do the arguments stay on topic or do they become nasty, toxic, and off-topic? Can at least one of you bring an argument to a halt?” It’s also beneficial to look at your decision-making style and how certain aspects of the relationship are delegated. “People come into a relationship with different skills,” she says. “Perhaps one person has a flair for interior design while the other is better at managing money. But if one partner wants to take over everything and micromanage, that can be a red flag.” It’s also helpful to look at whether you’re compatible when it comes to couple time versus “me” time, she notes. This can include nights out with friends, whether you’ll take every vacation together, how you’ll spend free time on the weekends, and if you’re comfortable with your partner having friends of the opposite/same sex.
How To Broach The ‘Relationship Reset’ Topic
So you think deeply about your relationship and it’s time to talk to your partner. But how do you do so in a genuine fashion and without them getting defensive? Velazquez says to make it as simple as talking about New Year’s goals with a fun twist. “When you communicate, be curious, chill, and enticing,” she says. “Most of all, remember to listen and hear each other out. Respect and compassion are key when sharing desires.” Pruden adds that it’s important to be open and honest, as well. “As therapists, we often share effective opening sentences with our clients who are struggling in their relationships,” she says. “You can try saying, ‘I was wondering if you have noticed _____,’ or ‘I have been feeling _____ and wanted to know if you felt the same way?’ or ‘Can we do a relationship check-in?’ Avoiding ‘you’ statements will decrease any defensiveness the other person may feel when talking about relationship issues.” And she says to keep in mind that your significant other may not feel the same ease talking about their feelings as you do. “So take it slow, use ‘I’ statements, and be prepared for what your partner tells you,” she says.
Spira adds it’s also necessary not to come into the conversation from a position of fear. “Don’t predict the outcome of the conversation in advance,” she says. “When you speak from the heart, the answers will become crystal clear.” She says you can start by telling your significant other how much fun you’ve shared together over X number of months/years/over the holidays, but since it’s a new year, you’d like to start thinking more seriously about the future. “Be specific about your intent, whether it’s saying, ‘I’d like to start living together within the next six months. How about you?’ Sure, you’ll be putting your partner on the spot, but if they feel the same way that you do, wouldn’t you like to know?” If they waffle, she suggests giving them time to think about their answer, then continue the conversation in a couple of days. “If your partner backpedals, you’ve got your answer, and it’s time to start over,” she says.
Perlus says you can also ask your partner questions like: How do you think we could be better together? Who of our friends do you think has the best relationship and why? What do you view as a weakness in our relationship that we could work on? Are there things about me that you feel I could improve for the betterment of our relationship? Are there things you feel you could work on?
Why It’s Important Not To Stay In A Subpar Relationship
After you look at how your relationship is going and if there’s hope for its future, you may realize it’s not going to work out. “No one should ever stay in a subpar relationship,” says Trombetti. “Usually you do it because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or get back out there, and these are never good reasons. You need to feel happiness and joy, and the former only breeds contempt. It will never get better and will only get worse.” Bennett agrees. “Many people mistakenly believe that if they just reach the next milestone (like living together, engagement, marriage, etc.), or give it more time, things will get better,” he says. “However, without work, relationships rarely improve over time. If anything, they usually get worse and worse, as the unhelpful patterns become more and more prominent, while many of the positives (like strong attraction) fade. If a relationship is subpar now, it is much better to either address it to improve it or end it before even more time passes.” Velazquez adds that “if you stay when your heart is not in the relationship, it can also take a toll on your mental health and quality of life, which can lead to depression.”
Perlus, too, says if you know you are settling, you will begin to resent your partner for not being who or what you really want. “This may lead to picking fights, lashing out, and infidelity,” she adds. “Not only is it not fair to the other person, but you also are not being fair to yourself by not finding a partner who is better suited to what you want in life. However, before you cast aside a relationship, ask yourself if you are being unrealistic and looking for a fairytale, a nonexistent ‘perfect’ person.” Velazquez agrees, saying to keep in mind how you behave or default in romantic relationships that may contribute to issues you two are having. “It's not all your partner,” she says. “Self-awareness is the first step to breaking any unhealthy dating and relationship patterns to have the love life you desire.”