It is that time of the year again. Every January, we reflect back on the past year and then promise to resolve an aspect of ourselves that we think needs changing. Most of us set goals to lose weight, get organized, spend less, or stay fit and healthy. These individual vows are ambitious and perfectly fine, but this January, remember to include a few relationship goals for 2016. Don’t forget about finding that love relationship again! I am a huge fan of reflecting back on how our relationships (or dating lives) have been going, and how we might like them to go differently in the months ahead.
Regardless of what your relationship goals are for 2016, select changes that are specific, attainable, and important to you. Write them down on a piece of paper or on your iPad/computer and refer to these goals often in the weeks to come. Most importantly, studies show that when you’re happy and satisfied with your relationships or connections with others, you also are healthier mentally and physically. Feelings of love can reduce stress, decrease anxiety and depression, motivate exercise, strengthen heart and respiratory systems, and lower blood pressure.
Below are my top 5 favorite relationship goals for singles in 2016. These are simple changes you can make in your life, yet they’ll have a huge impact on you and your dating experiences!
1. Identify the qualities you want in a partner.
Do you know what the right person would look like if you met him/her today? Ask yourself “what do I need or want in a partner?” You should write down fifteen very specific qualities (no more, no less) that you would like in a romantic partner. It’s important to be specific because qualities like “funny,” “being good with children,” or “tall” mean something different to each and every one of us. Being specific will push you to reflect and think about which qualities you really want in a partner and which ones don’t matter at all. Once you have your list of 15 qualities that you would like in a partner, share the list with friends or family members, get their reactions and comments, and then revise your list accordingly. Listen to their feedback about why a specific quality may not be best for you. After your revisions are complete, keep your list close to you so you can read, review, and revise it regularly. Also, keep in mind that your list of desired qualities may change over time. If someone meets about 80% of these qualities, that is very good; he/she is someone who you should consider dating.
2. Learn to listen.
This sounds easy enough, but most of us don’t do it. We’re too busy “building our case” and thinking about how we’re going to respond to what’s being said. Hearing someone is one thing, but listening to them is quite another; listening takes time and practice. To be a good listener, you want to concentrate on what the other person is saying, allow the other person to finish talking without interrupting, repeat what the other person has said to make sure there isn’t a misunderstanding, and address his/her points before making a point of your own. Studies show that people are attracted to others who listen and strive to understand where the other person is coming from. Also, many people spend the entire time on a date talking about themselves. My advice? Don’t. You may feel the need to “sell” yourself to a date, but in reality, going on and on about yourself will actually push the person away. It screams insecurity or someone who is self-centered. Most people love to talk about themselves, so instead, ask the other person questions. Find out their favorite activities, where they grew up, or if they like to travel to your favorite vacation spots.
3. Take device-free breaks.
One way to find balance, attract others to you, and keep all your relationships strong is to take short device-free breaks. This means all distractions, such as laptops, iPads and other devices, are turned off when spending time with family, friends, and partners/dates. Make sure you enjoy the rewards of good conversation when you’re out with others. And when you go out on dates, don’t have your cell phone out. If you’re paying too much attention to your cell phone, you could strain or undermine any possible relationship. Besides, you want your date to get the impression that he/she is important.
4. Practice self-affirmation.
In order to have the ability to love someone else, you first need to love yourself. But feeling good about you and your body must come from you. Don’t worry, you don’t have to stand in front of the mirror and talk to yourself! Instead, focus on what you do well, such as being an amazing parent/grandparent, boss, caregiver, friend, golfer, cook, or artist. Write on a piece of paper the 5 things you like about yourself or do well. Refer back to this list when your confidence is in short supply. Also, here’s a simple behavior you can adopt: when you catch yourself in a negative thought, simply restate it in a positive light, or replace it with a compliment. So, “My thighs look fat in these jeans” becomes “I have a great smile, and that’s one of the qualities people say they notice about me.” It’s hard to be kind to yourself at first, but it gets easier with practice.
5. Join a group activity.
Any activity that involves meeting and spending regular time with people who have similar interests can easily set the stage for new love. Studies show that mere contact with a person (or repeatedly seeing someone) often increases how much others like you, a phenomenon psychologists call the “mere exposure effect.” Have you ever been a member of a book club, a religious group, or a gym fitness class? Are you an animal lover and need to sign your dog up for an eight-week obedience course? When you join a group or participate in an activity on a regular basis, you’ll feel more comfortable talking with and asking questions of the people who are there. For example, let’s say you’ve been attending a weekly book club at a local bookstore for a month, and for the past two weeks, the club’s been focusing on your favorite author. You’ve also noticed there’s a woman there who’s been at every meeting this month; she’s energetic, loves to laugh, and always gives a candid review of each book. You can go up and ask her, “How did you like the last book?” Or you might ask if she’s ever met the author or if she has read all of the books in the series. When you already have something in common, in this case a love of books, you don’t have to worry about finding the perfect opening line or topic to speak about.
Dr. Terri Orbuch (aka The Love Doctor®) is a relationship expert for OurTime.com, as well as a professor, therapist, research scientist, and author of 5 best-selling books, including “Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship,” available on Amazon.com. Learn more about her at: DrTerriTheLoveDoctor.com.