by Adam Maurer, LMFT Associate, LGBT Therapist
January, the time of year when we take a moment to consider the trajectory of our lives. We might reflect on our shortcomings and develop resolutions to overcome them, or consider challenges we wish to conquer in order to grow towards our ideal self. There is just something about the start of the year that reminds us that change is possible. And that change isn’t limited to our independent selves, it is also possible for couples. January is a great time of year for couples to have what Dr. John Gottman calls, “The State of the Union” talk. It is simply setting aside time to talk with your Honey Bun about the relationship and yourselves. Couples in long-term committed relationships can explore successes and challenges over the past year as well as possible ones in the future; all while reestablishing connections to their partners. Like seasons and the soup of the day, people are constantly changing. You’re not the same person you were five years ago and neither is your partner. A State of the Union talk creates a space to hear about that growth. I have worked with a number of couples who have been together for years and part of the issues they face are that they are trying to operate under the relationship contract from when they first met. In order to be useful, a relationship contract has to be rewritten as the people in the partnership change. One way to organize The State of the Union talk is by categories. Drs. John and Julie Gottman found that there are six areas of a relationship that are challenging, so talking about them can be helpful in revamping your relationship. Here they are with some questions to get you started:
- How was your career this year?
- How did you cope with stress at work?
- How can I support you when you feel stressed at work?
- When is work most stressful and least stressful?
- What are thoughts or plans for a change in your career?
- How do you feel about your relationship with my family?
- How much interaction with our families will we have this year?
- What obligations (money, time, energy, space) do you feel that you must give your family?
- How would your like your relationship with my family to be?
- What are your thoughts and feelings about our spending? Saving?
- What financial stressors are we facing this year?
- What do you think about the way we manage our finances? How do you like our roles?
- What have you enjoyed about our sex life this year? What could we improve on?
- What would you like to explore sexually? Positions? Toys?
- What helps you feel turned on? What leads to you feeling turned off?
- How is our intimacy outside of sex?
- What are your thoughts and feelings about the division of housework?
- What areas do we do well in? Where do we need to improve?
- What ways can we work together to manage the housework better?
- What are your thoughts and feelings about our parenting?
- What concerns do you have for a kid or kids in the new year? How can we address those concerns?
- What are you most proud of about our parenting this past year? How can we make more of that happen?
For some couples, talking about these issues will be easy. Respect, empathy, and understanding will guide those folks to new insights. Some people will find it difficult to talk about some of these subjects, so coming into see a couple’s therapist will help guide the discussion on tricky issues. So, reconnect with your Honey Bun this January to make your whole year brighter. If you need some help, you can contact us to make a counseling appointment or read more about couples counseling on our dedicated page. If you liked this post, you can also read New Year, New Podcast to Listen To.