New Year’s Eve is just days away.
If you’re like us, you’re beginning to think about new intentions, resolutions, and habits for 2023.
So we wanted to use this newsletter as a subtle nudge, a reminder to think not only about your individual habits but also about your habits as a couple for 2023.
Your relationship, after all, rests on a vast system of often unconscious habits. It’s a system perfectly designed to create both the good and bad in your life together.
Bad habits create conflict, distrust, hurt feelings, and disconnection. Good habits, on the other hand, cultivate a mindset of radical generosity, winning together as a team, and experiencing more moments of deep connection and intimacy.
So as we approach 2023, we want to invite you to choose one or more relationship habits to build together with your partner in this coming year.
To give you some ideas, here’s a list of our top five favorite relationship habits from the last year.
Here's a trap most modern couples fall into. We plan our lives around the assumption that there's no need for slack in the system. "Why create dead space," we think, "when we can instead fill our days, nights, and weekends with work, activities, and events?"
Here's why. This assumption is just plain false. Kids get sick. You get sick. Your basement floods. Your car breaks down. Your phone gets hacked. Your relative calls you from jail.
Life is full of these unexpected moments and, without building slack into the system, they might just break it.
Earlier this year, we exposed a vast conspiracy against date night. That's right, your kids, your friends, your co-workers, big tech, and geopolitical events are all working together in a coordinated effort to ensure that you and your partner never go on another date night.
The solution? Build new date night habits. It starts with planning date night in advance. But you must then defend it from a world intent on destroying your night together.
Here's another distinctly modern relationship trap: ignoring the moment of transition between being at work and being together as a family.
You'll know you've failed to make this transition if you find yourself face-down in your phone when your partner asks you a question or your child wants to play.
You can shift this habit by creating intentional constraints around how you use your phone during nights, weekends, and other family time. You can also create moments of transition that remind you to shift from the rushed doing mode of work to the more relaxed and present mode of being together.
This might be the most radical relationship habit in the toolkit. It's the Gandhi-style move of responding to your partner's searing resentment or anger with love and generosity.
It’s extreme. It’s counter to our most deeply-wired instincts. And yet this is a move that can dissolve an argument in 30 seconds or less. Because when you break the cycle of anger by responding with genuine love, kindness, and curiosity, you change the game.
Your partner might initially wonder what the hell is going on. They might ask if you’re feeling OK. But, eventually, your love and generosity will become contagious and the argument might dissolve.
We can't give you a list of relationship habits without including sex.
Researchers have long suspected that sex is correlated with relationship satisfaction. However, the research of psychologist Amy Muise shows that the link between sexual frequency and relationship wellbeing stops at having sex once per week.
It's what researchers call a "curvilinear" association. The more sex you have, the more your relationship satisfaction improves -- that is, until you hit once a week. From there on out, relationship satisfaction stays the same, no matter how much mind-blowing sex you have.
So if you want to optimize your relationship, while also experiencing what is perhaps the greatest pleasure available to humankind, this habit might be a perfect place to start.