While you can work on your relationships at any time, the new year is a great opportunity to reset and renew.
Many of us re-evaluate our lives and goals in the new year, hoping to make it better than the last. This year, consider doing a ‘relationship reset’ – which may mean growing, repairing, challenging or even ending relationships that are no longer serving you.
A ‘relationship reset’ can help you reflect on the people closest to you and be more intentional about how you spend time and interact with them going forward. Ultimately, it can lead to having more enjoyable and fulfilling relationships in your life – which we know is hugely beneficial for our mental health and wellbeing. Here’s how to go about it.
Work out your relationship values
What do you value in your relationships? Some core relationship values might include:
Choose which values are important to you, and then think about whether your current relationships are in line with these values. It’s normal for certain relationships to place more emphasis on one value over another.
You could also ask your partner, friend or family member what their relationship values are. Once you’ve done this, see how you could align your relationship more closely to both of your values.
You can then choose to be more intentional about how you nurture your relationship together in the future. For example, if you identify ‘fun’ as a relationship value, try scheduling some time for activities you can do together that you both enjoy.
If you find that one or more of your relationships don’t align with your values at all, it might be time to try and repair it, or end it if necessary. This can be a tricky thing to do, so consider seeking professional help if you need extra support.
Of course, if you are concerned about unhealthy, abusive or violent behaviours in any of your relationships, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
Remember that different relationships fulfil different needs
It’s unrealistic to expect one relationship to fulfil all your needs. Society tells us that once we find the ‘ideal’ romantic partner, they will cater to all our needs, but this can put a lot of pressure and stress on our partnership.
Different people will bring different things into our lives. You might have lots of fun with one friend but be able to be more vulnerable and honest with another. It’s good to be able to identify the strengths of each relationship and match it to what you need. You could even write down all the significant relationships in your life, and one strength of each relationship. For example, your friend Nina may be a great listener, while your partner shows their affection by doing practical tasks.
If you feel that your relationships aren’t fulfilling your needs, or you’re missing close connections, you could commit to meeting new people in the new year. Try Meetup.com or Facebook groups based on common interests.
Consider what’s working, and what’s not
For each relationship you want to focus on, write down two columns – one for all the positives, and one for aspects of the relationship that could be improved. They might be things such as ‘the chores are split evenly’ and ‘they make me laugh’, or ‘I don’t feel listened to’ and ‘I would like more physical affection.’
Take a moment to appreciate what is working and reflect on what’s not. Can you work on or change the things that aren’t working? If you can, make a note of what you might be able to do differently. If you can’t change something, think about whether it’s something you can accept or not. Sometimes it may be necessary to compromise on our values for the sake of our relationships, as we won’t always see eye to eye on everything. Learn how to decide whether to stand your ground, and when to compromise.
Finally, be sure to express gratitude for the things that are working by saying something like, ‘I really appreciate when you call me just to see how I’m doing.’
Reflect on ‘relationship lessons’ from the last few years
There’s no doubt that restrictions and lockdowns over the past few years have been challenging for many relationships. But don’t be so quick to move on and forget the lessons and unexpected benefits that came out of it, which may include:
- Being able to connect with loved ones virtually, widening or deepening your social circle.
- Getting to spend more quality time with your partner or family.
- Improving your communication style or conflict resolution skills.
Spending more time with yourself, allowing you to explore and reflect on your values.
These learnings from lockdown are valuable, so make sure you take the time to consider what you want to take forward.
Have the important conversations
Once you have identified your values, needs, and what is and isn’t working, you can start to communicate them within your relationships. Again, it’s helpful to decide what’s important to you, the nature of your relationship, and what’s likely to result in a productive conversation.
If you are setting a boundary, be clear and firm about what you will and won’t accept – for example, ‘I’m okay with regularly texting, but can’t always be available when I’m working’. If you want to communicate a need, phrase it with an ‘I’ statement – ‘I’d love it if we could make more time to have fun together. Can we have a chat about how we might do that?’.
Having these conversations can be uncomfortable, but you’ll usually be glad you asked for what you need.
Keep checking in on your relationships
Your relationships won’t change overnight. Be patient and remember that your values and needs are important. You deserve loving, supportive relationships.
You can use the above steps to check in on your relationships at any time of the year and adapt and adjust as needed. Relationships are always a work in progress, so make sure you celebrate any small improvements or positive changes.
Take care of yourself
While the new year is a great time to be assessing and improving your relationships, you will need to do this work frequently to have happy, healthy relationships.
Re-assessing your relationships in this way can be challenging, especially if you realise that some of them aren’t aligned with your values. While you grow your existing relationships, don’t forget about your relationship with yourself. Practise self-care by doing the things that make you feel good and practising positive self-talk.