“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language/And next year’s words await another voice.” I quote these lines from T.S. Elliot’s famous poem “Little Gidding II.4” every year as the New Year rolls in, because my hope is that it will bring change, growth and progress. I’ve been witnessing a constant stream of naysayers on social media and in real life who chastise those carrying hope for transformation into 2015—haters. I champion speaking hope and goodness into every day and every year, so cheers to you eating better, working out more, grinding harder, and living the dreams we’ve been mistakenly putting off.
But let’s not forget what’s inside.
While many of our aspirations center around the physical and financial, we can’t forget the interior work that must be done—inside ourselves and inside our personal relationships. I, for one, am concentrating on creating more joy in 2015. To begin, I’m reading meditation instructor Light Hopkin’s book The Inner Gym, meditating more overall, and figuring out which bad habits I plan to leave in 2014—especially regarding my love relationship, because 2014 was for me, like many, a tough year for the lover in me.
Since ringing in the New Year is coupled with creating better habits (and breaking old, terrible ones), let’s talk about how we can be better lovers in 2015. Here are some new year’s resolutions for your relationship:
1. Become a better listener. I am grateful that I’ve found my voice. Like many reading this, I spent far too many years holding my feelings—pain, anger, confusion—in. I’ve learned to be direct in my communication and to explicitly translate my thoughts. But somewhere in gaining that power, I began to struggle with intently listening to others.
Active listening can save your relationship; it shows that you are invested in your partner’s thoughts and concerned about their feelings. Beyond viewing conversations (or even arguments) as a set of talking points where every comment from your partner needs a rebuttal, focus on actually listening to what he or she is saying—including his or her body language.
Manage your emotions and remember that the moment where you are listening belongs to your lover, not you. Ask questions and recap to your partner what’s been communicated, which shows that you’re paying attention and not simply waiting for your chance to speak.
2. Be less critical. We expect more from the people who we love than we expect from strangers, and for this reason we find it easier to praise acquaintances than those who are closest to us (and who probably need to hear praise the most). Let’s do better. Don’t get me wrong, being honest about your needs and wants is an important component of self-love. It’s important to communicate them to your partner, but gently and without ridicule.
This is especially important for our relationships in these moments, as we find ourselves in a new wave of protest for our civil and human rights. The end of 2014 found each of us facing a barrage of news (and real life) stories where the value of Black lives is constantly being challenged. We have to be gentle with one another. Being less critical is an exceptional first step.
3. Mind your business. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is a saying that has lasted forever because it’s human nature to compare our lives to the lives of others. The challenge of minding our own business is even more relevant and difficult in the age of social media, where we’re constantly bombarded with the thoughts and images of friends (and strangers).
It’s easy to be distracted by what others represent as joy and success. Once we begin to compare our lives (and relationships) to others’, we somehow believe that how we love isn’t good enough. What we fail to realize in those moments is that comparison is truly the thief of joy, and that the happy couple we see on Instagram doing yoga on the beach at sunset may have less joy in their real lives than you do with your lover. We have to be mindful, always, not to compare our “behind the scenes” to someone else’s “stage view,” and steer our own ships.
4. Savor the moments—moment to moment. Listen, have more sex. Laugh more. Remember, over and over, why you fell in love. Don’t let yesterday’s argument about the dirty dishes ruin date night. Put the damn phone down and be present. Send that sexy text message to let your lover know you’re thinking of him or her. Stop reserving that hot lingerie or that slow jam mix for special occasions. Treat every day, as much as you can, like it’s a special occasion.
What good habits regarding love are you planning to bring into the New Year?
Josie Pickens is an educator, cultural critic and solider of love. Follow her musings on Twitter @jonubian.