Ah, we all love a fresh start, don't we? But between charging up that new Fitbit and vowing to stay on budget, be sure to make a few promises to your sweetheart. Here are eight relationship resolutions every couple should make:
1. Talk to your partner like he or she is someone you love.
That is, watch your tone! Keep criticism, contempt and snarkiness out of your voice. No one likes to be badgered, belittled or barked at. Mind your manners.
2. Listen to your partner's complaints.
For whatever reason, people often stop listening to their partner's legitimate complaints about the relationship, be they about money, housework, sex, in-laws, texting, etc. You may not agree with your partner's complaints -- you don't have to -- but you do have to listen to them with humility and an open heart so that you can work together to resolve them.
Keep criticism, contempt and snarkiness out of your voice.
You're not in it alone. The more you take your partner's complaints seriously, the more he or she will take your complaints seriously.
3. Don't have a child-centered marriage.
We all love our kids, but parents who let their lives revolve around their kids do a poor job of modeling what it takes to make a long-term, romantic partnership work. Teaching your kids how to make marriage work is one of your jobs as a parent. At the same time, be sure that you're not "dominating" the parenting role in your marriage.
I hate to say it, but I see many cases where Mom is sidelining Dad in the parenting department. Moms who do this rob their children of a father's wisdom and discipline. They also weaken their marriage, as Dad grows increasingly resentful and distant from the family unit.
4. Put technology in its place.
Translation: Put down the damn phone and talk to your partner! Nothing is more irritating than feeling second place to a smartphone.
5. Limit opposite-sex friendships.
As a practitioner who specializes in helping couples overcoming infidelity, I can tell you that the vast majority of affairs begin as "innocent" opposite-sex friendships. The problem is so pervasive that it warranted an entire book (Couples in Crisis: Overcoming Affairs & Opposite-Sex Friendships).
Of course, we all have and are entitled to opposite-sex friends and associates. But if you want to insulate your marriage from infidelity, you will keep them at arm's length and insist that your spouse do the same. That isn't insecurity, it's security.
Don't let a day go by without letting your partner know that you appreciate him or her.
6. Love the one you're with.
Many people are short-sighted, self-focused and impulsive when it comes to relationships -- the moment they face a problem, they think the grass is greener elsewhere. It's why so many people spend so much of their adulthood jumping from relationship to relationship. Think long-term and be aware of your own faults.
Take pride in the idea of keeping your relationship and family together. You know those old couples walking hand-in-hand on the beach? They didn't give up the first time their partner pissed them off.
7. Appreciate your spouse in words and gestures.
Don't let a day go by without letting your partner know that you appreciate him or her. Feeling unappreciated is a common complaint in almost every troubled relationship.
8. Remember that love and sex are two sides of the same coin.
Most of the points on this list are about creating a loving relationship; however, sex is what distinguishes a romantic relationship from other relationships. Without it, couples risk turning into roommates instead of loving partners. Work to maintain a vibrant sex life that is satisfying, pleasurable and respectful to both partners.
Of course, there are many other relationship resolutions worth making, from getting on the same page about finances and health to learning how to resolve conflict and having more fun together. Nonetheless, the ones I've presented here can lay the foundation for a loving, healthy partnership not just this year, but for many years to come.
Visit Debra's private practice at MarriageSOS.com
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