I don't make New Year's resolutions. Instead, I use January to take stock. My husband, David and I do it together. We go into a form of hibernation. We politely decline invitations (not that we get many in January), don't entertain and we quit watching DVDs. With the spare time that we gain, we focus on getting our house in order, thinking through our priorities and praying about the year ahead.
We also use the time to give ourselves a marriage MOT. We check in on how we are doing as a couple. We take time to pray and reflect on what is going well and look at what we would like to change or improve.
As we celebrate the new year, why not consider giving your relationship an MOT? The start of the year is a great time to reflect on what is working and what isn't. It means you can be really intentional about the changes and improvements you want to make.
Here are seven key questions to consider as you give your relationship an annual check-up.
Think back over the last 12 months and then answer these questions about your relationship. Think about what, if anything, you would like to improve about each area.
1. What are you creating together?
How well do you and your partner work as a team? What do you want to create together? What is God's plan for you as a couple and how are you doing at walking that out?
It can be a great help to think and pray together about your values, goals and mission as a couple. What have you achieved together this last year? What are your priorities as a couple for 2015?
2. What's in the memory bank?
Nicky and Sila Lee, creators of The Marriage Course, have consistently found that one of the most important things that couples can do to invest in their relationship is to spend quality time together.
What memories did you create as a couple this year? What were your best and most enjoyable moments? What would you like to plan to do together in 2015?
3. How much did you learn about your partner?
Happy couples are intimately familiar with each other's inner lives and social worlds, according to relationship researcher, Terri L Orbuch.
How much did you discover about your partner this year? How regularly did you discuss things that are really important to you?
If you want to increase your knowledge about each other next year, Orbuch recommends introducing a 10-minute daily briefing. This is when you and your partner take time to talk about anything under the sun except children, work and household responsibilities.
4. How well did you do on the 5 to 1 ratio?
Dr John Gottman discovered that there is a very specific ratio that exists between the amount of positivity and negativity in a stable relationship. His magic ratio is five positive interactions for every one negative one.
Even though some negativity is necessary to help air issues and voice differences, positive behaviours are what nourish and build the love in a relationship.
Think for a moment about how the two of you have been interacting. What, if anything, needs to change to create a healthy 5:1 ratio?
5. How naked did you get?
I'm not talking physically naked here (we will get onto that!) but emotionally naked.
How much were you and your spouse able to be truly authentic and vulnerable with each other?
Psychologist Dr Sue Johnson believes partners need to be able to build a strong emotional bond with each other. To do this you need to be able to express your fears and needs. Praying with and for each other can be a great way to do this.
6. On a scale of 0-10 – how would you rate your sex life?
Your satisfaction with your sex life can often be a barometer for the health of the whole of your relationship. How happy were you both with the level of intimacy and frequency of sex in your relationship? How easily do you find it to talk about your sex life together?
Michelle Weiner Davis believes sex is one of the greatest connectors in a committed relationship. "There is no reason anyone wanting a more vibrant sex life can't have one. Whether the causes for a ho-hum sex life are biological, relational or personal, help is available. Sex-lite marriages often lead to infidelity or divorce."
7. How much investment did you put into 'us'?
Great relationships don't just happen – they take an investment of our time, energy and focus. Did your partner get the best of you or did they get the dregs after everyone and everything else had used up your time and energy?
Investing in 'us' means making your relationship a priority and giving it the attention, focus and time that it needs to grow. What will you do to invest in 'us' for 2015?
Sarah Abell is an author, speaker and coach who specialises in helping people live, love and lead authentically. Click here to find out more about her next 30 day online bootcamp.