A new year (or starting a new year as a couple on your anniversary) is a good time to reflect on where you are and fresh ways to work toward where you want to be. I hope the ideas I’m sharing here inspire new layers of fun and connection together!
2024 is the year we celebrate 20 years of marriage, which sounds so much longer than it feels. We have a lot we want to work on in our relationship, but also a lot we’ve done well. We are each other’s best friend and can still completely lose track of time in our discussions like when we first met and would be the last ones sitting in the cafeteria without even realizing it.
That said, some of these ideas we already do, and some we want to begin implementing or adding more fun twists to. Whatever you do, don’t try to start a bunch of new things at once – that’s a great way to fail. Just pick a few goals for marriage you want to try this year, or build up by adding one a month or quarter.
- Surprise Love Notes – You could use regular scraps of paper, or you could use some little note holders that you can take turns hiding for the other to find randomly. I was looking for something like this or this to keep spicy notes a little safer from a kid or someone random potentially coming across it… Of course you can always text or message each other, but adding a tactile layer with more of a surprise element is just more fun in my opinion.
- Relationship Vision Board – Vision boards are nothing new, but we’ve never made one for our relationship, and it seems like a fun thing to do together in the new year or any time, really. Choose words and images that represent not only things you may want to do or goals you have together for your relationship, but how you want to feel around each other and what you want your relationship to look like.
- Make a Playlist – If you don’t already have a playlist that represents your love through the years, that could be a good place to start that you keep adding to. It’s been awhile since I’ve updated mine! Our oldest daughter made me a playlist for my birthday one year and I thought that was such a cool idea. You could really use all sorts of different mood lists in your relationship. David and I use a lot of GIFs in our communication, but songs add another dimension to messages.
- Words of Affirmation Journal Jar – Write down your favorite memory or gratitude for each other each week for each other’s jar and have something cool to look back on at the end of the year or when you need an encouragement boost. This is a great way to train yourself to be looking for the positive in your partner, not that any of us ever need any help in that area, I’m sure… and especially good if either of you has a words of affirmation love language.
- Coaching/Counseling, Workshops, Conferences, Memberships – A goal of at least one marriage conference or workshop together should be the bare minimum larger scale commitment you make to one another each year, IMHO. Although we’ve probably only attended a handful of marriage conferences over the years, we’ve invested in personal coaching as a couple for a few years now, and it’s just wasting time and adding unnecessary strife not to. As annoying as it is, your spouse usually hears things from an objective third party better than you. A great free place to start is The Power Couple Hub’s 10 masculine and feminine energy teachings, especially if you grew up in a religion or traditional way of understanding gender roles.
- Personal Enrichment – It’s imperative to take personal responsibility for how you’re growing as a person and how you understand yourself and your partner. Reading books like The 5 Love Languages and The Bulletproof Husband are examples of ways you can continue to invest in your relationship personally.
- Quarterly Requests – If you could pick one thing your spouse would change or could do to support you, what would it be? This puts some onus on you to be self-aware of your felt needs because you can think you’re annoyed or frustrated about a surface thing, when the reason behind it is much bigger. At the beginning of the quarter, you each get to make a request of the other. I recommend expressing it with the deeper understanding of your felt need. For example, my first request was to not be on our phones when we went to bed or when we’re around people, including each other, as a general rule – essentially to not allow tech to get in the way of being present in the moment.
The way life goes without a little intentional planning, dates are likely to fall into a practical rut of dinner and running errands or something. There are certainly times to fall back on the tried and true comforts, but growth and expansion in a relationship often needs a catalyst.
A really simple way to spice things up or come up with fresh ideas is to take turns picking themes, or just think of a bunch of themes in advance to give a little more time to plan ahead. Having a theme doesn’t mean it needs to be complicated at all, rather it gives a framework you can be thinking about and looking forward to.
Kids have homecoming and prom type things to plan and get ready for, why not bring some of that fun back into your relationship on a smaller scale? Maybe you only do something like this once a quarter and go all out with themed outfits and everything. It’s generally so much easier to have something on the calendar, even if you end up needing to shift it a bit, than it is to try to cram something in last minute.
I find creativity thrives in parameters, and it can also be a great way to bond over a shared goal or informal challenge. Plus, it can help to eliminate the “where do YOU want to eat”… and it’s just an easy way to add fun.
A few date theme ideas:
- Cultural – Latin, Asian, etc.
- Pop Culture – memes, shows, movies, music, politics, musicals, etc.
- Hobby – sports, art, music, dance, entrepreneurship, gaming, board games, etc.
- Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Mo – The theme of this one is flexibility and/or mystery. Draw from a few options or just roll the dice or flip a coin for every decision of your date. Your level of spontaneity can determine how detailed you get with it, from what you wear to which direction you turn to go somewhere.
- Scavenger Hunt – We have an example of one we did here with a list of challenges you can use or make your own.
- Challenges – How about learning a language together or volunteering together?
Couple rituals, traditions, customs, practices, habits, routines… Call it what you prefer, so far I’ve settled on “ritual”, because at least to me it just has more the vibe of an intentional habit or way of doing things.
You already have things you habitually do in your relationship and ways you interact – some may have been thoughtfully created, but most of us have many more that we’ve defaulted to. Default mode is rarely thriving, much more likely surviving or coasting (aka comfortably dull at best and soul-killing at worst).
Thoughtfully creating rituals together is a low-demand way to raise your baseline and increase connection without putting a high demand on long-term energy.
- monthaversary – Since our first month of dating we have an established monthly date night, first on the date we started dating, then on the date we got married. It’s easy to remember for scheduling in advance, and we keep it informal for the most part so it’s practical. Since we don’t have grandparents around, it’s usually a night in, but a good excuse to get some treats and binge some shows if nothing else to relax and have fun together. This doesn’t mean we never do any other dates, but that we have at least one scheduled every month.
- go to bed together – I know working night shift can make this impossible, but barring that, it’s often just a personal preference thing. We’ve chosen to always go to bed at the same time throughout our married life as a very simple connection point.
- no tech bedtime – This is something we only started being super intentional about in the last few years, but I couldn’t recommend it more. It does little good to go to bed at the same time if you’re still just in your own little phone worlds.
- start and/or end with spiritual connection – This book, The Marriage Gift: 365 Prayers for Our Marriage – A Daily Devotional Journey to Inspire, Encourage, and Transform Us and Our Prayer Life, could be a great, simple way to establish a new or fresh daily prayer time together. I appreciate all the different topics it covers and that you can match up every day of the year or just jump around however you feel in the moment.
- little triggers – You probably already have some of these, so this is just an opportunity to consider if you want to add any in your relationship. Two practices that we have since the beginning of our marriage are to kiss good-bye when we go out somewhere without the other and when we go to bed, and to always end our phone calls with “I love you”. Silly little things, but nice little connection point triggers.
As you embark on this new year, consider trying some of these ideas to make 2024 your best year yet as a couple. Here’s to a year filled with love, growth, and cherished moments that fortify the foundation of the shared adventure of life together!