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Sacramento Area Therapist Offers Relationship Advice for the New Year

12/28/2015 05:34PM ● Published by David Norby

llustration © prochkailo/

While New Year’s resolutions are still fresh in our minds, it might be a good time to add, “addressing your love life” to that list. With a little bit of planning—and following the 5 tips below—your relationship is sure to see sparks fly in 2016.

1 / Forgive old issues (again, and again).

Not being able to forgive is extremely toxic. Old issues have a way of coming up again and again, poisoning relationships with resentment and entitlement. When wronged, we often feel it’s our right to hold this against those who hurt us. However, as long as unforgiveness is allowed to remain, relationships can’t heal from the past or move forward. Deciding to forgive your partner doesn’t guarantee you’ll never feel triggered or experience negative feelings, but every time you choose not to hold it against him/her, you loosen the grip of the past, freeing yourself to love. 

2 / Give more than you take.

Healthy relationships don’t keep a record of wrongs, thus couples are cautioned against scorekeeping. Albeit sound advice, merely not doing something negative is somewhat of a passive approach; instead, actively strive to give more to your relationship than you take. Research supports this idea by showing that those who focus more energy on giving to others rather than on their own happiness are in fact happier. In other words, give more of yourself.

3 / Hang in there just a little longer.

Whether you tend to lean toward fight or flight when things get rough, make a point to calmly stay in the conversation a little bit longer. With practice, you’ll increase your ability to contain negative emotions and work through them together in a healthy and respectful way that benefits the relationship. This works for those with a fear of intimacy, too! If you tend to pull away when things get emotionally close, hanging in there a little longer helps to increase your ability to enjoy closeness and strengthen your relationship.

4 / Take time out together.

Just like plants need water to grow, relationships need time. When relationships are new, they’re exciting and easy to invest time into; but once the honeymoon is over and routine sets in, jobs, kids and other responsibilities compete for the connection that used to come easy. After years of neglect, couples will drift apart, eventually becoming very different people. Anniversary trips and grand getaways are great, but lasting connectedness grows from consistent time spent together throughout the week. Once-a-week date nights can be a good start for severely disconnected couples, but daily connection time is even better. Sacrifice TV time for each other, and be intentional about how you spend your time. 

5 / Listen smaller, listen deeper.

Feeling seen, heard and understood is important to close relationships. Make your partner feel important to you by listening for the little things they care about and ask about them. Listening smaller makes gift-giving easier too, because you’re paying attention to the little things that may not be important to you, but will make the other person happy. When you’re listening deeper, you’re listening for the message behind the message—the themes—and how your partner feels underneath the content of discussion or conflict. This is not to be confused with jumping to conclusions fueled by your own feelings, but rather listening for your partner’s emotional experience. 

 Bob Parkins is a licensed marriage and family therapist. He can be reached at 916-337-5406, or Photo courtesy of Bob Parkins. Article by by Bob Parkins, LMFT.

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