DENISE: Hello, there, I’m Denise Richardson from howdini, and we’re talking about New Year’s resolutions and relationships. Does it sound like an oxymoron? Not really. We have a relationship expert, Rachel Sussman, who is going to let us know whether we should make resolutions or not, and how to do it as a couple in a healthy way. Thank you so much for being with us.
RACHEL: Thank you Denise, for having me here.
DENISE: Okay, I’m going to sound like a naysayer ... resolutions, should they be out the window?
RACHEL: You know, resolutions are actually a pretty good thing, because it makes us stop and wonder and think about our life. Where are we today, where are we going ... and of course if we’re not sitting and saying, “I want to win the lottery in 2008,” making a resolution can be a very healthy thing for an individual and for a couple, or even a family.
DENISE: You see all kinds of couples. Do you encourage couples to make resolutions?
RACHEL: It actually is a good thing. New Year’s is really a timeline. People ask themselves, “Where have I gone? Where am I going?” And sometimes even single people or someone who is in a relationship — they’re dating but not engaged to be married. They’ll use New Year’s to say to themselves, “Where is this relationship going? Does this relationship have legs? Are we going to be engaged next year? When are we going to have children?” So it’s a really good barometer in many different ways.
DENISE: I can hear some women saying, “Okay, here’s my New Year’s resolution: he’s going to give me a ring by March!”
RACHEL: Well, I don’t think that is a New Year’s resolution. I think that’s a wish list, and it’s a personal wish list, it’s not necessarily a couple’s wish list.
DENISE: How do you assess what’s the best resolution that will take you to the next level?
RACHEL: Well when couples come in to see me, I often ask them, “Why are you here and what are you trying to accomplish?” And couples come in for all different things, some for basic and fundamental reasons, they’ll come in for financial reasons ... one person is a spender, one person is a saver ... communication problems; couples can’t coordinate their schedules in this busy day and age. One person works too hard, one person is complaining about that. So a really nice New Year’s resolution is spending more time together, or spending more quality time together, or spending more fun time together. So something a couple may come with is having a weekly date night.
DENISE: So this is also a real time to communicate, because oftentimes couples stop talking to each other when they feel their needs aren’t being met.
RACHEL: Absolutely, they feel that they are feeling like they are talking to a brick wall. So I’ll often help those couples communicate in what I call the best definition of healthy communication is, speaking and being heard.
DENISE: Being heard on both parts?
DENISE: And not only financial information or alone time, but even “let’s have more sex this year.”
RACHEL: Well that is something a lot of couples do come in to see me also, and you’ll find that couples come in and complain they are not having enough sex. They think they’re coming in for a sex problem. But after digging and getting to know them, you’ll realize that it’s not really a sex problem, they are not communicating properly, someone’s angry at someone, they’re not communicating properly, someone’s too busy, they’re not spending time connecting, being intimate with each other. But if a couple that comes in and they’re willing to work hard and uncover these issues, we can really get them into some great schedules.
DENISE: You know it’s been said that maybe couples should write each other a letter talking about what’s going on with them. And then exchange those letters and not be judgmental in the relationship. How do you work that, if it works for you, how do you work that with resolutions?
RACHEL: I actually think that sounds like a beautiful idea and I give couples homework. I’ll say come in and by the session next week, tell me what it is you’re both looking for, for each other. And you can also do that around the holidays. How would you like to improve your relationship over the next year? Could there be a wish list of things you could do for each other to help each other together as a couple that really could make you this super intact, communicative, wonderful couple?
DENISE: My girlfriend says it’s a new day and a new opportunity to do better than you did the day before.
DENISE: Rachel Sussman, thank you so much for being with us. I’m Denise Richardson for howdini.