January 1, 2020
It is 2020! While it doesn’t feel all that different from 2019 thus far, there is a lot of buzz and excitement about the new year and new decade. I had a friend point out that technically the decade ends with zero and the new decade begins with the number one. So, whether you are ending the decade, beginning the decade, we are at the beginning of the new year.
Now I am not a resolution person. Because I know that "new" doesn’t last. New is exciting and different, but we are all creatures of habit. We eventually shrink back into the patterns we are comfortable. What most behavioral experts recommend when it comes to change and resolutions is the idea of improvement, not new or different. Looking at what you have been doing and seeing what you can do to improve it. And if you are truly gung-ho on changes, pick small changes and do them consistently as opposed to huge changes all at once. The goal is to create a habit. So that when you try more new stuff and then subsequently shrink back to the old, that “old” is actually a new that you established previously. It sounds like I am lost in an Avengers time travel movie.
I’m interested in getting better.
But the focus is better not different. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-Fil-A once said, “I’m not interested in getting bigger. I’m interested in getting better. If we get better, customers will demand we get bigger.” Couples often fall into the trap of wishing their relationship was different. They should instead be looking for better. Assuming that what you have now is good, work for better. The desire for new often leads to thoughts of a completely new situation (or new partner) instead of working on the relationship you are in. One of my favorite authors and preachers is Andy Stanley. He often points out the common denominator in your past three relationships, your past mistakes is you. (Check out Andy’s book here). In reality, it is not really a new relationship we need, we just need our relationship to be better. So, make that your goal this year: how can I make my relationship, the one I am in now…better?
Here are 20 suggestions that you can do right now to make this year or any year in your relationship better:
1. Go on a date. Yes, this week. If you already do this weekly, you are ahead of the game and your relationship is already in a pretty good place. If you are waiting to date until your relationship gets better, you have it backwards. Dating is the lab, the workshop for relationships. We date to improve our relationships. Click here to read my blog article on dating.
2. Take a marriage assessment. If you are wondering or worried about the dynamics of your relationship, don’t leave it in your head. Put some objectivity into it and invite another set of eyes to look at your relationship. Have someone lead you through an Assessment process like SYMBIS. We do these for married and engaged couples alike. It is not just counseling; it is a reflection from what you already think and feel.
3. Take a weekend getaway. January is the desert between the holidays and Valentine’s day. Plan a weekend away. The holidays were exhausting and getting back into the year is often grueling as well. For a great weekend away idea click here.
4. Taking a cooking class together. Knock out the date and the new all at once. I have done this and it’s a lot of fun. Now, my recipes never turned out as well as the night I was in the class, but that’s another story.
5. Read a book as a couple. One of my personal goals in 2020 is to read 20 pages a day. That has more to do with leadership stuff and putting the smart phone down. But this is also important for couples. Learning together is amazing and learning about each other together is even better.
6. Do Karaoke night together. The church where I pastor got an amazing gift a few months ago. A parishioner gave us a Karaoke machine. Now when they called and said they were bringing it, I had visions of this small machine. But they brought us a full sound system, monitor and computerized setup. It was a huge professional machine, ready for a nightclub and now we had it. While I had my doubts, the first few times we used it at events, it quickly became one of the most popular things we offered. Everyone seems to love it. So find a place that offers karaoke. All it takes is a little bravery and maybe a drink or too and you can have a very fun evening out.
7. Rewrite your vows based on today. In many of our wedding ceremonies, we talk about a wine box or a box designed to hold letters to each other or in fact their actual vows. These are amazing keepsakes and should be re-read every anniversary. For a twist, sit down and write them out based on your lives right now. While they may be similar, the “update” process might also be revealing.
8. Figure out your love language. Visit www.5lovelanguages.com.
9. Go to a museum together. Your town has a museum. In fact, if you are close to a large town or city, there may be a few of them. Most people visit them in other cities on trips, but rarely go see the stuff 20 minutes from their house. A museum brings up all kinds of new and different conversations. What do you think is art? What is beautiful? What is talent? What do you know or remember from school or study?
10. Be a tourist. Following number 9, go see the stuff around you. Because it is always there, we don’t “see” it. Be a tourist for a day in the city closest to you.
11. Reenact your First Date. Or pretend to meet for the first time. Replaying your first date could be fun. Is the place still there? Still open? Or pick a new place and go in like strangers with the goal of asking your spouse or fiancé out. Make sure you say yes, and don't let someone else take your chair!
12. Sporting events. Any sporting event as a couple or with a group of friends is a day well spent.
13. Take a dance class. At the wedding reception, there is nothing more central than the first dance of the couple. The only thing that makes it better is watching the couple that actually prepared for it a little. Guys, why does she watch Dancing with the Stars? Why is there a new reality show about couples having their first date on the dance floor? Because they like this. Take note.
14. Take a pottery class. Anyone remember Ghost? Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore?
15. Road Trip. Now you probably just finished one over the holidays, now plan one that you are excited about.
16. Go to a local theater. My brother works at a small theater in Atlanta. They are very talented and always put on incredible performances. The biggest challenge of their theater or any theater is getting people to come. Don’t let the movies be your only "go to."
17. Take a mental health day. Take a Saturday and do nothing. Really...nothing.
18. Get a couple’s massage. A few weeks ago, a wonderful older member of my congregation gave me a gift card for a massage. Actually, she got it for me in May and it took me until November to go and actually get it. And I didn’t think it would be all that exciting. As I went in, I thought, “who pays for this?” I left wondering "how I can fit this in my budget?"
19. Fill out a Memory Book.(click here for the one we recommend). There are tons of things we think we will never forget, especially about our partner. But we do. Keeping a memory book is a very cool thing. There are only two people that have lived your story, write it all down. In my position I do a lot of wedding and funerals. On the funeral side, while often sad, one of the highlights is to hear the love stories of long married couples. Either the husband or wife recounts the story of how they met, fell in love, where they got married, etc. It’s always a beautiful story. On the flipside, when someone has forgotten, or the children or grandchildren don’t really know it. It’s a true opportunity lost.
20. Progressive Dinner. Get appetizers at one place, dinner at another and dessert and coffee at the final destination.
Whether you use these or come up with your own ideas, strive to make your relationship better in 2020.