January the first: the budget is blown, we have eaten like there is no tomorrow, a headache threatens and as the dawn breaks we remember that this is the day the resolutions are supposed to begin.
Amongst the streamers of last night - or whilst snuggled on the couch - a dizzying range of possibilities for the New Year flaunted itself: healthier and wealthier, and altogether more inspired, smarter and slim.
Little surprise that my client list increases over the Christmas season - many people are disappointed and emotional - much as it's a season of warmth and family and giving, it is also a time when family tensions rise, a sense of disconnectedness intensifies and budgets are stretched. Amongst the joy and goodwill can be a darkness of disappointment, unspoken resentment, and hidden shame. Often it is close relationships, which bear the brunt.
Clarity and logic are not necessarily in abundance at this end of year season - the experts agree it is often not the best time to make major decisions about your relationship.
It is a good idea to keep New Year's resolutions about managing relationships quite simple. Here are a few ideas to start off with:
Each time you pick up a book or magazine on maintaining good relationships the same word will be there - 'communicate'.
Respect, affection and empathy are hallmarks of those who communicate well, says Dr John Gottman, University of Washington, an expert in couple studies. His extensive research shows the best predictor of relationship breakdown is contempt - the very opposite of respect.
"Argue a lot but make up," say Joseph and Sally Littlewood, of Birmingham, England. Aged 95 and 97, respectively, after 75 years of marriage. Their advice is "move on, nothing is worth stewing over".
Whether the topic is money, sex, space, friends, family or parenting - sitting down and naming the problems as a shared concern might just demonstrate to you both that Blame was Suspect Number One in creating all the arguments.
Move from your screen regularly
Advances in technology give a false impression of contact - without its substance. Research is increasingly highlighting the concealed danger of this time deprivation to relationship quality. Walking together in the summer morning or evening with endorphins as your enthusiastic cheer leaders, dinner dates, movie dates, music at home dates - it doesn't actually matter what you do - prioritising a regular time commitment to do something -anything - you enjoy together will work its magic.
Oxytocin, the love hormone, is powerful and persuasive- for falling in love and for ongoing loving. On the World Health Organisation's List of Essential Medicines for human health,it brings couples closer together, creating sexual arousal and helping us forge and strengthen our ongoing relationship - as well as staving off a number of psychological and physical problems. Driven upwards by hugging and kissing. Apply often.
Romance can be found in incompatibility. Who said relationships between clones make for interesting dynamics? High levels of chemistry usually come from opposite yet complementary qualities in people. Like my highly-strung energetic female client and her extremely low-key mellow boyfriend, On a bad day they are polar opposites from different universes: on good days they make for a powerful team. They are learning the sexy choreography and joys of being so different.
We all want to actualise our potential, according to famous psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943, and to get as close as possible to a marriage between our real self and our ideal self. This, his theory of self-actualisation, is fundamental to sound psychological health. But it is a process - and the gap between our ideal and our real self should trigger healthy striving - not toxic discontentment.
Sound emotional health involves letting go of the fear of not measuring up and ceasing to be governed by endless unfavourable comparisons with others.
So self-compassion might be the very best place to start the New Year. Beware the raging inner critic who details our lacks and inadequacies ,lists urgent changes and projects problems onto our intimate relationships. Instead we might usefully edit the draft resolution list by taking stock of our achievements and quiet triumphs, our resilience and our good fortune.
'Attend to your own oxygen mask first' - as our local friendly airline tells us. By being more generous and fairer to ourselves, we can free ourselves up to be generous to others, and to enhance the health of our very closest relationships.
A little ditty from my long ago grandmother floats through my head as I type,
"Do your best, leave the rest, Angels can't do better'.
Happy New Year to you all!