January is a month that marks new beginnings. This can inspire dreams for what the year might hold, and the resolve to turn dreams into reality. Maybe you hope to develop positive habits, drop unhealthy patterns or pursue fun adventures.

But what if the thought of a new year feels heavy? Financial stress, economic uncertainty and the looming pandemic can make time feel like something to survive rather than embrace. When these worries weigh on your marriage, the year feels even more challenging for your relationship.

Even with sincere efforts to achieve resolutions, rarely is every goal accomplished. According to an interview with Dr. Simon Sherry, a psychology and neuroscience professor, only 40 per cent of new year resolutions are maintained after the first six months. But rest assured, there is a way to achieve success: “We know that when people make realistic, timely and narrow goals, they have a greater probability of succeeding,” Dr. Sherry said.

By making small, focused goals, you and your spouse can work as a team and use every part of the new year to help bring you closer together.

Resolution 1: Check in with how your marriage is doing

When you take your vehicle for scheduled maintenance, the mechanic usually discovers a few areas that need attention. Some parts only require mild adjustment; other issues may be completely unbeknownst to you, but if left unattended could grow into far more significant problems down the road – even resulting in your vehicle breaking down.

Marriage can be like this. Every marriage has areas that are working well and areas that could use improvement; underlying issues may seem insignificant yet could require far more repair than if addressed sooner. We often don’t recognise these factors unless they’re brought to our attention.

But a routine check-up is less intimidating than you might think! If you want to identify your strengths and discover tools to help you grow, the Focus Marriage Assessment Tool is for you. Each spouse takes the assessment separately, then you go over your results together. You’ll also receive a list of suggested marriage-based resources to support you along the way. The assessment is free of charge, and you and your spouse are bound to learn more about each other – and yourselves.

Similar to a mechanic’s diagnosis, the Focus Marriage Assessment Tool gives you a list of recommendations. Rather than trying to resolve every area for growth that comes up, choose one or two focus points. This will keep your goal manageable and less overwhelming. Click here to take the online marriage assessment.

Resolution 2: Commit to date nights

Like every other part of life, public health orders have impacted the concept of a date night during the pandemic. Going out for an evening and finding a babysitter now have added layers of consideration.

Research shows that shared experiences help to strengthen a marriage. The good news is that date nights don’t have to be fancy or lavish, as long as the focus is on enjoying each other’s presence.

To help you get the ideas flowing, we’ve come up with some fun, romantic ways to spend time with your spouse. Click here for our list of 100+ date ideas.

Resolution 3: Set a specific goal

Is there something you and your spouse would both like to accomplish this year? For example:

  • A home renovation project
  • A holiday or mini getaway
  • A health or wellness routine
  • A financial milestone

Goals have a way of inspiring us to actively make them a reality. When done as a couple, this sense of unity and shared purpose can spill into other areas of your marriage as well.

Remember: Setting multiple goals can be exciting, but it will likely leave you both feeling frustrated and disappointed if you’re not able to achieve them all. As Dr. Sherry says, a tangible action plan will make it easier to accomplish a single goal.

If you find that you have been arguing or struggling to get on the same page, it might be best to avoid a potentially stress-inducing goal like a renovation. Instead, choose something less precarious like a getaway or health routine. The Focus Marriage Assessment Tool can help by shining a light on any areas where you have room to grow as a couple, so pay attention to those areas when picking a goal.

Resolution 4: Learn to resolve conflict

Speaking of conflict and stress: What do you do with it? How do you avoid it? Does conflict mean your marriage is in trouble?

Conflict in marriage isn’t fun, but its presence doesn’t mean that something is wrong in your relationship. Conflict is normal in a healthy marriage. In fact, conflict can even help you grow in your communication!

We want to help you get down to the heart level and understand what’s really going on when you and your spouse have those moments of conflict, equipping you to instead turn it into something that can strengthen your union.

Consider watching this free video series called Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage. Through this seven-part video series, bestselling authors Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley explore the challenging but perfectly normal part of marriage. You’ll be equipped with practical, biblically based advice on how you and your spouse can handle conflict better. Click here to get access to the video series.

Need more support?

Marriage is a beautiful thing, but we know that it’s not always easy, and sometimes can feel challenging and even hopeless. If you feel you need more guidance in your marriage or want to talk through things with a trusted source, you can contact us or find a counsellor in your area. Focus is here for you and your marriage; you are not alone.

© 2022 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Todd Foley

Todd Foley was an associate editor at Focus on the Family Canada.

Tell your friends