Dating and Relationship Advice

It’s no secret that in 2020, our relationships suffered. We were shut away from friends and family, and got used to seeing our loved ones only through computer screens.

Most of us are looking to 2021 as a beacon of hope for renewed relationships and time with those we care about. What better idea than to make New Year’s resolutions that honor our need for meaningful connection?

Here are three resolutions to make in 2021 to ensure your relationships are stronger than ever.


Resolution #1: Be more present with loved ones

We’ve all done it. We’ve scrolled on our phones while our loved one is talking to us, only to look up and ask “what?” realizing we never even heard what they said.

While technology sometimes helps us connect with our loved ones, it can also distract us from what’s important.

Make a resolution to have a present, “right now" focus with your loved ones. That means making a decision to be fully present when you’re in the company of those you care about. Limit multi-tasking and distractions. If you’re in the middle of a task when a loved one asks you a question, take a pause to finish up, then put the task down and turn your attention fully to the person in front of you.

Think of each interaction as an opportunity to deepen meaningful connections with those you care about. You miss the chance if you aren’t paying attention.


Resolution #2: Practice non-judgment of others

2020 has been a year of political, emotional, and social turmoil. When this happens, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of constant judgment. By judgment, I’m talking about describing things in evaluative terms like good or bad, moral and immoral, and valuable or worthless. Judgments are helpful for making quick decisions, but they can really escalate negative emotions, especially in our relationships.

To avoid falling into this trap, make a resolution to use a non-judgmental attitude with others. This skill, termed Non-judgmental Stance by Dr. Marsha Linehan, is all about observing and labeling things as they are. Aim to describe people and situations using descriptive terms instead of evaluative ones. When you notice judgments, replace them with statements of fact (i.e., “this thing happened at this time with this person”), statements of preference (i.e., “I like…” or “I prefer…”), or statements of consequences (i.e., “this is effective or ineffective for this reason”).

In practice, this means noticing that our loved ones disagree with us, instead of labeling their opinions as wrong or immoral (with the exception of human rights issues). Or instead of saying “how dare you yell at me when I get home!”, say “I noticed that I felt X when you said X to me.”

Letting go of judgments is extremely challenging, but such a worthwhile resolution. It prevents us from jumping to conclusions and escalating negative emotions. And it can be so freeing when we are less critical of ourselves and others, and just focus on what truly is.


Resolution #3: Let go of expectations

Expectations are pesky. Expectations become unhelpful when they contain words like “should,” “need,” “must,” or “have to.” Continuing to believe that your friends “should” respect your opinions, or that you “have” to meet some benchmark for success, or that others “need" to do what you ask of them adds unnecessary pressure to your life.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have standards or limits around our interactions. But it means we notice when our mind is jumping to worst or best-case scenarios, and we take a minute to ground ourselves in the here and now instead of letting our expectations pull us to the past or present.

What if we let go of what we thought we or others “should" do? What if we stopped letting rules govern our frustrations, and just be with our loved ones?

Make a resolution to let go of expectations so that you can focus your attention on what matters most — being with the people you care about.


The takeaway

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that time and human life are precious. For most of us, it’s not worthwhile to spend valuable energy and brain space on unhelpful distractions, judgments, or expectations.

Let’s ring in the New Year by bringing our best selves to our relationships.