If you can bring yourself to thank instead of correct and criticize, you’ll be amazed how soon the compliments come back to you, how soon peace reigns in your household and how much more likely it is that he replaces the toilet paper when he uses the last sheet.
What was I doing around ten o’clock on New Year’s Eve?
One of my resolutions from the previous New Year’s was to learn how to make my own pickles. All of my resolutions had failed so miserably, I had to accomplish at least one. A friend of mine found a recipe online for quick pickles, they took less than an hour, and they tasted pretty good with the excuse-for-champagne I was drinking.
Pickles are one thing, but there were some other resolutions I failed to pay homage to that really bothered me. Resolutions that concerned my well-being, the way I take care of myself. Nail-biting, not enough time spent painting, that sort of thing. The friend who gave me the pickle recipe had it worse, though. And there was no quick recipe I could send her for a last-minute resolution redemption. She had resolved to save her relationship, and she was in the same place, just hours from the clock striking twelve, as she had been a year earlier.
In a relationship that had always been riddled with instability, there were now at least two main identifiable problems. First, her boyfriend was no longer interested in spending time with her outside the realm of their immediate relationship which, for the past eighteen months, had consisted mostly of parenting an unexpected but happily received baby girl. Secondly, her boyfriend had little interest in spending time with her in ways that one would expect out of this sort of relationship, and he blamed his lack of interest in her sexually on the few extra pounds she had gained since she’d had their daughter.
I’ll wait for you to finish grinding your teeth.
My friend’s main problem is that she still loved her boyfriend, took his behavior as a matter of course, and felt terrible about herself in the process. Her resolution a year ago was broad: to make things better.
This year, over homemade pickles and a three-dollar bottle of Andre sparkling wine, she and I got a little more specific about relationship resolutions:
Take On Self-Improvement Together
You know, as if not appreciating the curves of the woman who brought his child into this world wasn’t bad enough, my friend’s guy was busy working on his own beer baby the whole time he was busy not spending time with her. Pool is not an aerobic exercise, as it turns out. While I felt my friend was just as beautiful as ever, I knew she felt out of control of her body, and that taking control would give her self-confidence. I suggested she not only join the gym, but she get him a membership too. And I offered to babysit while they were there. Take that. No excuses.
Pick Your Battles
This is huge. This advice goes for any relationship, under any circumstance; it is the chicken soup of relationship advice. There is absolutely no need to squabble over insignificant earthly issues: Did you eat the last piece of String Cheese? Did you use my Color Enhancing Shampoo? Did you feed the squirrels my last few cashews? Those are expensive! Nothing is more expensive, I’m telling you, than the arguments that are borne from the most ridiculous of disagreements. I have an aunt that, if she thinks a family member misused a word, pulls a dictionary out of her purse. Invariably, it ruins the evening. People don’t like to be micro-managed, so unless it’s something important like ‘stop leaving the back door wide open when you stumble home after Pool Night with the boys,’ you might just let it ride for sanity’s sake.
Spend More Time Praising Than Criticizing
This goes along with Pick Your Battles. Being critical can swiftly become a dirty second-nature when you are not feeling good about yourself. Although it’s a hard little pill to swallow, if you can bring yourself to be the first one to thank instead of correct and criticize, you’ll be amazed how soon the compliments come back to you, how soon peace reigns in your household and how much more likely it is that he replaces the toilet paper when he uses the last sheet.
Don’t Forget To Play
Studies show that play increases confidence and learning skills in children, so this should be perfect for my friend’s boyfriend. Seriously, though, if you think back on the honeymoon period of any relationship, what is the first word that comes to mind? Playful! The honeymoon period is light, loving, open—you just feel beautiful and desired the whole time. A good dose of playfulness can bring that back, even if it’s just one night out. Do something silly, go bowling or sing karaoke. Sing Endless Love, but switch up the parts. Whatever makes you laugh. It won’t be too long before you remember what made you fall in love with that person in the first place.
Speaking Of Playing
What’s the deal? If you’re in a loving, committed relationship, sex is a big part of that. If there are deeper issues to be dealt with, then it’s time to have a truly open and honest discussion about why the two of you haven’t been getting busy between the sheets. If the lack of loving is truly due to a few extra pounds, then I’m not sure why I’m even helping my friend improve this relationship. My guess is that something deeper is the culprit.
Which brings me to:
Be Honest And Open
This is what I call the ‘no duh’ part of the advice. Misunderstandings and dishonesty are the cancer of relationships. All relationships deserve an open and honest policy, but particularly when there is a child involved. There are just some things that you better get straight before you go about making a carbon copy of your confused selves. Of course, there is no way to ‘perfectly’ raise a child, but having love, respect and honesty in the home is the closest to a perfect recipe anyone can come.
Mark Twain said something about paving the way to Hell with New Year’s Resolutions—he might be right, but in my mind it’s always better to start off with the good intentions so that on the following New Year’s, there is at least the off-chance you did one thing right.
Next year, maybe my friends will be happier, their daughter will certainly be a year older, and maybe I’ll remember to buy Pickling Spice instead of just using whatever leftover salt and pepper packets I had in the drawer from the last time I broke yet another resolution and got McDonalds takeout.
Happy New Year!