dr-jess-start-2020

How one Toronto couple plans to start 2020 on the right foot

Overcome residual holiday stress with a tech-free and kid-free weekend

Jess O’Reilly is a sought-after speaker, author and sexologist (www.SexWithDrJess.com).


For many of us, the new year brings a sense of adventure and optimism as we look forward to new beginnings and growth in the areas of health, wealth, business and pleasure.

But for some couples, January also brings increased tension, stress and conflict, as we adapt to new routines and decompress after the holiday season.

Kerry* and Sohail* have learned from years past and have planned ahead to adjust their behaviour.

“January has always been the worst,” explains Kerry. “I blamed him for years and was resentful because I felt he didn’t help with all of our holiday hosting — from Diwali to Christmas to New Year’s — and we hosted everything. But then I realized that I was forcing it on him and then getting mad at him for not pulling his weight in something that he didn’t want to do in the first place.”

The couple says every January seemed worst than the last.

“There was a year when we were so angry at each other that I don’t think we had sex for four months,” Sohail adds. “I always said I didn’t care about the holidays and if Kerry wanted to host that it was on her. Now I understand that if she loves hosting, and my family appreciates it too, I should want to take part in some way.”   

This year, the Junction couple is starting 2020 on the right foot with a tech-free, kid-free weekend.

Starting 2020 with a tech fast — even just for one day — is one resolution that will ensure you make time for real connection.

Every time you check your phone, you risk sending your partner the message that there is something more important or enticing online than what they offer in person. And technology, despite having the potential to enhance connection, also leads to conflict. Over half of couples say they fight about phone usage and this affects their levels of affection, warmth, intimacy and desire for sex.

Although a tech-free resolution is likely to enhance your relationship and reduce conflict, not all new year’s resolutions result in greater harmony.

Many couples find that tension and conflict arise in response to disruptions to old routines. When one person carves out more time to go to the gym, take a course, meditate or learn a new skill, the other can find the shift threatening and respond with judgment, interference or a general lack of support.

If your partner is making space for growth in 2020 — emotionally, practically, physically or spiritually —  consider what you can do to support them. A wealth of research suggests that partnered (and social) support increases the likelihood of following through with personal, business and financial goals.

If you find yourself judging or resenting your partner for their new year’s resolutions, you might want to consider how you might be using (or avoiding) your feelings to sabotage their success.

Be honest with yourself about how you feel. Does their new focus make you feel jealous, insecure, threatened or inadequate? Let them know how you feel, but ultimately take responsibility for your own emotions. Consider what you can do differently to find fulfillment on your own instead of looking to them as your primary source.

If you find yourself feeling generally cranky or gloomy under the cold grey skies, you’re not alone. Winter months can bring a decrease in social connections, more time indoors, less exercise and depressed moods. Some couples report that they fight more in the winter because they feel cooped up. If this is the case, look for opportunities to take indoor activities outside.

Warm up under the stars as you ice skate at the Bentway or Evergreen Brick Works; go for a hike to the lighthouse at the Leslie Street Spit; or take a walk through the Distillery District to take in the Toronto Light Festival (Jan. 17 to March 1).

If you’re looking for a cool date night activity, check out Terra Lumina by Montreal-based Moment Factory. They’ve created an immersive multimedia show and night walk at the Toronto Zoo.

Whatever your resolutions, start 2020 on the right foot by prioritizing your relationships. Do one thing to make your partner or another loved one feel important and appreciated. Pour them a tea, leave a chocolate on their pillow, make them a smoothie, change their windshield wiper fluid, give them a long hug, warm up their socks, or surprise them with tickets to a show. Don’t delay. It’s not too late to start the new year right.

*Names have been changed and relationship details have been shared with permission from all parties.