Let’s make (our relationships) better!

Every year we all sit around the television, watch the countdown and at the stroke of midnight (if we’re lucky) someone attractive next to us will give us a huge kiss. Apart from Valentine’s Day, I would say this is the day I see the most people smooching at the same time. After this kiss we say aloud what we have all been thinking about for weeks; our new year’s resolution. Each and every year we vow (without consequence) to do something less, more or not at all. These wishes range from being nicer, traveling more, seeing more friends, being a better sibling, losing weight and some of us to being better partners. However adding that extra spark to our relationships can be easier said than done.

So, in line with the holidays and beginning of a New Year, I thought I’d pull together an easy list of some possible action steps you might take to improve your relationships in the coming year. This year let’s all create resolutions for our relationships with the people we love and care about.

Now I know we are all incredibly busy. With the excessive demands on our time it can sometimes be easy to ignore our relationships, but this unconscious devaluation of love can really harm us in the end. And for those couples who have been together for a long time, it’s even easier to settle into comfortable routines and patterns (I call this the relationship slip) at the expense of attending to and nurturing our relationship with our partners. This kind of carelessness can really make your relationship sour and boring, possibly leading to a host of other problems that can erode the foundations we have all worked so hard to keep. So for the rest of this blog, put down your cell phones, log off of Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, My yearbook, Twitter, or any other social media site you may be multitasking with and pay full attention to the next few paragraphs.

Want copious amounts of love in the New Year?

Conscious intention toward putting consistent energy into your relationship is crucial for its long-term success. So why not, as a couple, create your own list of New Year’s Resolutions for your relationship and make sure to keep each other accountable to it? In fact, the actual act of the two of you sitting down and developing a list would be a great first item, something the two of you could creatively do that fosters togetherness and mutual brainstorming on ways to super-charge your connection. The two (or possibly more) of you are creating a vision for your relationship, and the pure act of doing that begins to cement more intimacy between you as you have common goals to pursue and successes to celebrate along the way. This resolution can be simple, but make sure to make it something that you can actually achieve. This doesn’t mean make your goal low, but surely something that you can work towards. Something like:

“in 2011, we as a couple will do the following for the benefit and love of each other,”

Or “this year we will accomplish the following goals together to further solidify our love for each other”

I made a list of 9 simple things that can be on your list, but make sure to also think of your own make them as fun as you can and decorate them when you are done.

1. To listen to each other without interrupting and tell each other when we fear we aren’t heard.

2. To take notice of the “little things” (that can actually be the most important things) we do for each other and acknowledge the effort we put into the relationship.

3. To make more time for each other and restructure our schedules so that we have more quality time and availability to go out on dates and enjoy each other (this could be once a week, every 2 weeks or even for 5 minutes every day).

4. To make love to each other with more passion, intensity, and creativity (safely, of course).

5. To create a scrapbook of memories of our life together that will act as a legacy of our relationship (arts and crafts can be great for building passion. Like Martha Stewart says, “it’s a good thing”).

6. To make sure and “check in” with each other every day to stay centered and focused even when life gets hectic.

7. To surprise each other with simple reminders that we love and cherish each other (a note on the bathroom mirror or a heart written on the snow covering our car, maybe even flowers sent to our schools or jobs).

8. To keep/make more friends who support our relationship and we can go out with.

9.To ensure that we each have both an individual identity and an identity as a couple to bring about more balance/health to our partnership (Having outside interests, hobbies, and passions will help bring more novelty and freshness to joining lives).

And the list can go on and on. Fine-tune these, as well as the ones you’ve come up with so that they are specific, concrete, and measurable. This way, you both know exactly what you have to do to accomplish the goals you’ve set because they’re spelled out with no “wiggle-room” for sabotage, and you’ll ensure that they’re achievable. Prioritize your items and only focus on a few initially so as not to get too overwhelmed. Keep the list in multiple places, near the front door, the bedroom, the bathroom even on your smart phones or post them to each other’s Facebook pages as a reminder of what you agreed to.

Maintain these tasks, and your commitment will soar to new heights! Reward yourselves for jobs well done and from time to time check-in with each other to gauge how you’re doing and if any revisions or additions need to be made.

Happy New Year and I wish you all happy and healthy relationships in 2011. So tell me, what’s on your list?

-Ernesto Dominguez

Cheating…the Cruelest Act or a Part of Life?

This blog post is meant to help deflate and hopefully answer some of the tricky questions surrounding cheating. Now for those who might be a little lost, I am not talking about cheating as in the “hiding an ace in your sleeve”, or “having insider information.” I am talking about relationships and my views around the ideas of physical, mental, and emotional cheating.

I have had this conversation with a number of people in my life (some of these people have been people I have dated) and each person seems to have different views on this subject. At first the answers to some of the basic questions (ie. is cheating bad, what is cheating, can you forgive someone who cheated, can cheating be good etc.) seem simple and people tend to have a straight forward answer, but after more questions as to how some of these things are negotiated, many people seem thrown off and confused.

Take for instance the first question. It might seem like the question “is cheating bad” would have such a simple answer, YES. But by saying yes, have we really considered all sides of the argument?  Imagine a couple that bonds perfectly together in a mental/emotional way, but have little or no physical attraction to each other. Should those people split up? Should they allow other people into their relationship to fill that physical need? I am not one to condone cheating, and actually expect everyone in a relationship to be totally honest about needs and expectations, but I do also understand that in some relationships, cheating can actually be good. (I know this might seem crazy, but bear with me)

Now this kind of brings me to my second point. What is cheating? Some would say it is having sex with/being sexual with someone outside of your relationship. Others would say it has less to do with action and more to do with connection. This could be physical, mental, or even just a social attraction. I believe that it is more about intent: If someone in a relationship is having dinner with a friend it can be seen as innocent. If that same person is having dinner with a friend that they find attractive and are trying to find a way to test the “relationship waters,” then it is cheating. Also, if someone is making friends (usually through social networking sites) and is doing so with the intent to maybe later “hooking up” then again, to me this is cheating. Whether the relationship is physical, or not has little to nothing to do with cheating.

Even the idea of “pre-cheating” or building relationships with people that you find attractive and could later see yourself dating, is still cheating. Again it would not matter if all you are doing is hanging out at a party or alone in your home. The idea that you are setting up a “possible” next relationship is cheating.

So how do you/can you forgive someone for cheating? This last point I think is more of a personal choice. I can’t say I have the perfect answer, heck I can’t even say I have an answer at all. I tend to judge each incident and relationship differently. Almost like each “type” of cheating has its own point value system. How do you feel about this one? What are your views on cheating? Is it good or bad? Can someone who cheated be forgiven and trusted to not repeat that mistake? What is your definition of cheating? How does flirting fit in with this?  is it okay to flirt with someone you find attractive because it makes you feel good – is it cheating if you don’t intend on formalizing the relationship?