Every year, we make New Year’s Resolutions to improve ourselves.   We may seek to improve our health by losing 10 pounds or giving up caffeine.  We may try to gain more knowledge by reading two books a month.  Or we may try to improve our finances by giving up our Starbucks habit or by cooking dinner at home every night.  Interestingly, our resolutions tend to revolve around self-improvement.

But what if we sought to improve our relationships?  How would our lives change if each year we resolved to improve how we relate to those closest to us?  If we did, our lives would dramatically change for the better.

Below are some New Year’s Resolutions that you might make to improve your most intimate relationship – your relationship with your spouse.  Consider adopting some of these resolutions and see your marriage blossom in the new year!

Resolve to Appreciate Your Spouse

It is easy to take your spouse for granted. Life can get busy.  We have jobs, household responsibilities and perhaps children.  In all the hustle and bustle, we sometimes can forget how blessed we are to have someone with whom to share life’s journey.

Worse yet, sometimes we can go down the path of negativity.  We then may obsess about all the areas where our spouses are lacking.  Well, here is a news flash: You aren’t so perfect either!

Frankly, if your spouse treats you with kindness and respect and is a responsible person, then you have absolutely nothing to complain about.  If that is your situation, instead of picking apart your spouse’s imperfections, consider all the good things that he or she does for you.  And then tell your spouse why you appreciate him or her.  There is no greater marriage booster than words of appreciation!

Resolve to Respect Your Spouse’s Contribution

We live in a world in which we tend to value money over anything else. So, very often in marriages, we place a higher value on the person who makes more money.  That person is given more decision-making power.  That person’s contribution is given more respect.

The problem is that this is a misguided way of viewing a spouse’s contribution to the marriage.  The issue is that money only gets you so far.  Money pays for bills, which is very important.  But that is the beginning and end of the value of money.  Your actual standard of living is determined by a whole host of other things.

For example, you can make a million dollars a year.  But if you live in a messy house, your kids are running amuck, and you never eat a home-cooked meal, your standard of living is awful.  So, if your spouse makes sure that you have a beautifully decorated and clean home, your children are loved and cared for, and he or she prepares healthy, gourmet meals every night, respect that contribution.  Realize that your spouse is the reason for your high standard of living.

Resolve to Find Ways to Be a Team

The happiest marriages are those in which the couple is working toward a common goal. When a couple works as a team, it creates a bond between them.

Often that bond is created when couples have children.  They then work together with the goal of raising happy children.  Good parents jointly seek to provide their children with a peaceful, stable home in a safe community.  They work to raise money so that their children can have a few extras, like music and sports lessons and college educations.  Parents also spend their time together making sure that their home is a beautiful place for their family to live.  That joint project of raising happy children can turn two spouses into a terrific team.

I’ve also seen couples work together to serve their community.   There are couples at my church who have made serving the congregation their joint project.  We have one couple who makes sure that the sanctuary is heated (or air-conditioned) and ready with candles and bulletins every Sunday morning.

The key is to do something together that is selfless.  When couples jointly engage in selfless activities, they grow together in maturity and decency.  And that truly strengthens a marriage.

Resolve to Care for Your Spouse

If you want to have a happy marriage, eliminate the words, “Can you…” Can you pick up some milk at the store?  Can you pick up my dry cleaning?  Can you call the plumber about the sink?  There are few words more irritating than the words “Can you…”

Don’t burden your spouse with tasks.  My husband and I have a terrific marriage because we never say the words “Can you…”  We don’t come up with tasks for each other.  Instead, we each are focused on our own responsibilities, and on what we can do for each other.

My husband and I strive to make each other’s lives easier – not harder.  For instance, my husband will take my car to the car wash without even mentioning it.  If something is broken in the house, he fixes it without calling attention to his accomplishment.  He is the master of quietly “handling things.”

I have the luxury of working from home, so I likewise try to make my husband’s life easier.  I ensure that the house runs smoothly.  I make sure the laundry is done, our home is tidy and peaceful, and that we have good food to eat.

My husband and I care for each other, and are very careful not to burden one another.  To be happily married, the key is to focus not on what your spouse can do for you, but what you can do for your spouse (to paraphrase JFK).

So, this year, I encourage you to make some New Year’s Resolutions for your marriage.  Give some thought as to how you can strengthen this most important relationship.  If you do, your efforts will be paid back tenfold, and you will have the best year yet!

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