Setting Couples New Year’s Resolutions is a great way to create a stronger connection, reinforce your bond, and set expectations for the future. Having shared goals can help you both stick to your promises—the more effort you two put in, the stronger the relationship. If you’re looking for some goals to work toward with your partner, this list of 6 Relationship Resolutions for 2023 is the perfect place to start.
Relationship Resolutions for 2023 from a Marriage Counselor
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 21, 2022 compassion, conflict resolution, conversations for couples, couples communication, couples counseling, couples therapy, gratitude, making up after fights, marriage, marriage counseling, new years resolutions, relationship, relationship conflict, relationship resolutions, resolutions0 comments
1. Make a conflict management plan: this will allow you both to have your unique emotional constitutions respected, as well as forming a plan for how to manage healthy conflict in your relationship. A plan for conflict implies that disagreements are not inherently a problem but aims at tackling issues in the relationship that can cause small issues to become much bigger. It also brings awareness about how emotions play into your disagreements and what to do so that there is a smaller likelihood that trigger topics spiral out of control.
2. Make a vision board for your relationship and what you want in the next month, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years and 5 years! Once you’re done, put your vision board in a place you’ll see often because when you see something that inspires you on a daily basis, you stay on track. You can even take a picture of it and use it as your phone wallpaper.
3. Create an environment of appreciation between yourself and your partner. Catch your partner doing three things a week that you are grateful for. Share this with each other at the end of each week.
4. It is commonplace to be consumed by work, children, and finances that we literally forget how important it is to carve out quality time with our partners. Schedule date nights every other month. Pick the day (time and place can come later). Having a planned date is a great way to maintain a sense of adventure and fun in your relationship—it ensures time to build emotional intimacy and check in with each other.
5. Make rituals that honor your birthday, anniversary, holidays, and other landmark events through time. Celebrating the passage of time is a key component of how relationship masters keep their relationship well.
6. Choose compassion over being right. So many relationships suffer because our egos become gridlocked in the pattern of trying to be correct instead of being understanding and loving towards our partners and loved ones! Keep this in mind and always remember it is our kindness and care which nurtures those that surround us!
Written by Marriage Counselor and Founder of the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, Stephanie Wijkstrom.
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Everything You Wanted to Know About Boundaries in Relationships
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 7, 2022 borderline personality disorder, boundaries, communication, conflict resolution, conversations for couples, couples communication, educational, emotional intelligence, how to say no, personal growth, relationship, relationship conflict, relationship resolutions, self care, stress management0 comments
You may have heard that boundaries in relationships are good and worthwhile. Understandably you might have some questions about boundaries such as what are they? How do I set a boundary? How do I communicate a boundary? How do I enforce a boundary? Is there any flexibility to boundaries? I will answer all of these questions for you because as a licensed marriage and family therapist I am professionally and personally invested in people having the healthiest relationships they can for as long as it makes sense.
I would like to start with some warnings at the outset: boundaries are difficult, people often react negatively to them, and relationships can get worse before getting better when you challenge a person even if it is for the best. Here’s the thing: despite how it might feel, setting boundaries in a relationship shows that you care deeply about the relationship because it’s a difficult thing to do. People generally don’t expend the energy to do such challenging relationship work with persons they have no intention of maintaining a relationship with. A boundary communicates that you want to keep the person in your life and gives them clear guidance on how that can happen.
Boundaries vs. Rules
First, it is important to specify what a boundary is and what it isn’t. A boundary is about you and what you will/will not or can/can not do. When you try to make a boundary about someone else and what they will/will not or can/cannot do, that is a rule and is actually a disempowering position. You do not have control over others, but you do have control over yourself. For example, “Hey, Uncle so-and-so, you can’t say racist things at Thanksgiving dinner” is a rule that is hard to enforce because Uncle so-and-so can choose to ignore that rule and say racist things anyway. Now what? Repeat yourself? Get into a verbal altercation over Thanksgiving dinner? Not ideal, right? However, if instead you say, “Hey, Uncle so-and-so, if you continue to say racist things at Thanksgiving dinner I will leave” Uncle so-and-so can choose to violate your request but there are now consequences that you control for that choice.
4 Steps To Set Boundaries in Relationships
- Identify how you want to interact in this relationship and/or how you don’t want to interact in this relationship. This is the boundary you are setting.
- Communicate the boundary to the person the boundary applies to directly. By the way, it’s not enough to simply say it. Effective communication and therefore effective boundary-setting involves confirming that the person received the appropriate message. This is as simple as asking, “What is it you just heard me say?” The person should be able to accurately summarize what your boundary is. If they cannot, either you are not communicating accurately and effectively or they are struggling to hear you. Repeat or re-form what your boundary is until what you’re saying and what they reflect back match.
- Attach a consequence to the violation of this boundary. A boundary with no consequence is toothless. It’s important to emphasize here that this can be read as a threat or ultimatum but it’s not. An ultimatum is a demand followed by retaliation usually of a similar caliber (think “taste of their own medicine”) but a consequence is merely the effect of an action. There are natural consequences to a person’s choices. To refer back to the Uncle so-and-so example, it is a natural consequence for you to remove his access to you if he can’t respect your boundary. This should also be communicated effectively and reflected back to you accurately.
- Build in a warning system. The violation of a boundary isn’t always intentional or malicious. When it is not their own boundary it is easy for a person to forget, especially over time. I think most people and most boundaries deserve at least one warning stated thusly, “Hey, remember when I told you that if you say racist things at Thanksgiving dinner that I will leave? Well, the next time this happens that will be the consequence.” You can absolutely choose not to build in a warning system but I like to work under the assumption that your relationships are valuable enough to you to give them a chance. I reserve two warnings for children and exceptionally difficult boundaries. Three strikes should almost never be considered acceptable. Even with two warnings you run the risk of setting a precedent that a person may violate your boundary only this many times, and they could take advantage of that.
Now for the hardest part: following through. I cannot emphasize this enough: it is extremely important that you do follow through on your boundary and its attached consequences or you run the risk of doing further damage to your relationships by showing you can’t be relied on or your word is meaningless.
You might be saying to yourself, “Okay, this is all well and good but what if I’m dealing with a hostile person who will take this the wrong way?” Well, that’s not something you can control. That is not where your power lies. Your power lies in the fact that you have the ability to set and enforce a boundary. How they react is in their control. However, you can increase your success in communicating around boundaries by leading with the relationship. Something like, “Hey, I have something I need to talk to you about and I want you to know that I value our relationship. That is the reason I’m bringing this up.” You can even bookend your boundary communication with an echo of this statement just to keep the sentiment fresh in their minds and minimize their reactivity.
Finally, I’d like to address flexibility with boundaries. Boundaries should not necessarily be firm and unwavering. People and circumstances change, and so it stands to reason that boundaries can, too. Again, communication here is key. Perhaps before you are done communicating about your boundary you establish that you’re going to try things this way for a certain period of time after which the intention is to reconvene and have a discussion about how that went and whether or not this boundary needs to change. You could also just check in after a certain period of time in the same way whether you established this in the original boundary communication or not. I do not recommend altering a boundary on a whim. This is a serious matter. You take your relationships and your boundaries seriously. Any changes should be communicated.
I wish you the best of luck in your relationships and boundaries!
Written by Amanda Taylor (they/their), an out and proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community and licensed marriage and family therapist at Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh.
Fire & Ice – What’s my conflict resolution style and the relationship problems it can cause?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghFebruary 14, 2019 conflict resolution, making up after fights, pittsburgh counseling and wellness, relationship resolutions0 comments
When couples say that they have conflict or problems with communication they really mean that they have a trigger topic that is non solvable or that they have different ways of managing conflict. This causes their disagreements to have a fire or ice quality. I will describe each of these styles and inherently none of them is worse that the other, but depending on what your partner’s style of conflict is, they can lead to further issues.
A fire conflict style describes a person who may boil over quickly. Like fire they are quick to heat. When something triggers a person with a fire style in conflict their irritation will rise. They will likely seek to discuss the issues, sometimes in a way that causes greater conflict if they use criticism or demandingness instead of softer and mindful approaches. Often a person who is fire in conflict can cool down as quickly as they become enraged and then be glad to act like nothing ever happened. While it is definitely not recommended that a couple have big disagreements and not process them, the person with this style of conflict can be fine with their ups and downs. If two people with a fire style end up in a pair, they will likely have many heated quarrels that have passion and intensity. Words can be said that end up hurting, perhaps even threatening to end the relationship leading to a make-up break up syndrome. Let us also distinguish this from physical or emotional abuse. While those types often have a fire quality, they exhibit a much more serious pathology which should cause the victim to seek safety and law enforcement. Let’s explore more about what can happen if a fire and ice person are in a pair.
Persons in the cool state and of the ice style of communication may take quite a long time to boil. They tend to try to avoid conflict at all costs, sometimes minimizing disagreements and quarrels. When this style is a little bit more on the spectrum of cool avoidant they may purposefully not share details that they fear could lead to conflict. Often and ironically this can lead to conflict. They remain relatively externally cool during disagreements, but this doesn’t mean that they are not having emotional reactions on the inside. I have seen many people in this state be hooked up to an oximeter and their heart rates are cascading over the thresholds of 120. In any event, from the outside, the person appears calm and maybe even rigid in the way that they are not communicating. The fear with this conflict style is of course that important conversations don’t happen. Without talking about important issues they may miss chances for their partner to understand their needs and what is important to them. When this style of conflict communication exists alongside a fire type there may be misunderstandings where the fire person feels that the ice person is avoiding their feelings and doesn’t care.
Both the fire and ice communication styles will benefit from a conflict management plan. A plan for conflict implies that disagreements are not inherently a problem but aims at tackling issues in the relationship that can cause small issues to become much bigger. It also brings awareness about how emotions play into their disagreements and what to do so that there is a smaller likelihood that trigger topics spiral out of control.
In love and wellness,
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