~ JANUARY 2022 ~
New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on money, career, and fitness. But why not give your love life some, well, love?
Our relationships are important. While you can absolutely be content without being coupled up, the impact of our closest bonds on our happiness is profound.
So let’s invest a little in these relationships.
For 2022, we asked some sex and relationship experts for their recommended resolutions that all couples can adopt.
‘Why I think scheduling is important is because it puts sex right at the top of the agenda of your relationship,’ she tells Metro.co.uk. ‘So often when the sex dies, so does the relationship. But too many couples think it will take care of itself. It won’t.
‘They are embarrassed to schedule sex because it feels too clinical and there is this perception – amplified by the movies and romantic novels – that the best sex is spontaneous.
‘Of course spontaneous sex is fun – and by all means carry on doing that whenever you can – but we all lead busy lives where we are juggling a million things and far too often more mundane life chores take priority over sex.
‘Put those mundane chores to one side for at least two hours each week and book an appointment for sex. If need be, sync it in your Google diaries.
‘But make sure it is there every week and if you do need to cancel for understandable emergencies or illness, make sure you book your next appointment straight away.
‘You will know you need to put extra work with your partner if those appointments get more infrequent or drop off altogether, so a regular sex schedule is also a good barometer of the health of your relationship and the quality of your lines of communication.’
Tweak your ’emotional climate’
Relationships aren’t just about the big fights and grand gestures – they’re made and broken by the smaller, quieter moments.
What’s the tone of your relationship like? How do you speak to each other?
Psychotherapist Noel McDermott suggests reflecting on these questions as we head into 2022.
‘Aim for an emotional tone in your relationship that is based on love not on anger,’ he notes. ‘It may seem obvious but couples forget to keep the “background noise” of their relationships loving.
‘Some conflict is inevitable but it should not be the main feeling in a healthy relationship.’
Embrace sex as a fun world to explore together, rather than seeing it as a chore or as something super serious and sombre.
Noel tells us: ‘Keep the spark: sex is important and one of the unique boundaries of our love relationships. So feel free to explore and play.
‘Good communication with your partner in the bedroom is key to a healthy, exciting partnership.”
Try a new thing every week
Jessica Leoni of Illicit Encounters says her 2022 relationship resolution is to shake things up.
‘The biggest obstacle to good sex is routine – same time, same place, same position,’ Jessica notes. ‘If you eat the same meal every night, it gets boring. Why is sex any different?
‘My 2022 relationship resolution is to make sure that you mix up your sex life and ensure that at least once a week you do something different.
‘This could be as simple as switching rooms so you are not always making love in the same bed. Maybe try the kitchen table or the sofa while watching Netflix – anything to add a bit of excitement and novelty. Maybe introduce a prop to liven things up – some handcuffs or a simple neck tie to bound your partner’s wrists. You could film the action on your phone and watch it together afterwards.
‘Talk to your partner and agree what works for you both – and try one new thing each week. This kind of agreed agenda can revitalise the most moribund sex life.’
Accept your partner
Make 2022 the year you stop trying to change your partner. Either love and accept them for who they are, or cut ties and move on.
‘Forgiveness; this is the key skill that most folk forget about in relationship skills,’ says Noel. ‘We forgive people because we want them in our lives.
‘Another way of thinking about it is tolerance or acceptance. We need to accept the people who we love for who they are not who we say they should be.’
Talk about roles in your relationship
If you’ve been together for a long time, it’s easy to settle into determined roles within your relationship – the flighty one and the steady rock, the caretaker and the flower, the nag and the partier.
Have you ever discussed whether you’re both happy in these roles? Is there room for you to change out of them and grow together?
‘Ensure both partners are clear on the roles they take in the relationship and that these are clear and flexible,’ says Noel. ‘Forcing roles onto people that don’t want them or don’t like then will only create problems in the future.’
Commit to 101 nights of sex
This might sound a bit extreme, but psychologist Sally Baker regularly recommends this to couples in therapy.
If your relationship is flagging, this project may well be worth a go.
The rules are simple: you have sex every day for 101 days in a row – no excuses.
‘For most people, it was a mutual sexual attraction that got them together in the first place and ironically it’s sexual desire that is often the first thing that progressively drops away and eventually disappears in a long-term relationship,’ Sally explains.
‘It’s easy for sex to fall off the radar in long-term relationships. It’s easy not to have time and energy for sex unless its prioritised to some degree and time and effort is invested in making it happen.
‘Although the focus of the 101 nights of sex homework is on sexual activity, the beneficial side effects are increased intimacy.
‘For couples, often humour returns to the relationship, as they navigate having sex together by “order” of an external agent – in this case, me. They begin to joke about being made to have sex. They reinstate a shared bedtime and make time to prioritise being intimate again.
‘I’ve seen this approach work its magic tens and tens of time.’
Learn conflict skills
Pledging to never have another disagreement isn’t a realistic goal.
Instead, make this the year you learn to argue better.
Noel says: ‘Do not be afraid of conflict as it is important to be able to establish boundaries.
‘Communicate with your partner how you feel with simple terms “I want” and “I don’t want”.
‘Clear communication of concerns is needed to make a relationship work.’
Check in on each other’s mental wellbeing
The past year has been tough. How is your partner doing? How are they really holding up?
Carve out time to properly check in with your significant other.
‘Keep an eye on yours and your partner’s mental health,’ says Noel. ‘Ensure you prioritise mental well-being.
‘Look to have healthy routines, shared meal times, shared activities and in particular special activities that you can enjoy together.’