Happy New Year everyone! We hope that 2012 arrives with a happy you. Like many years past, Wanda and I spent 2011 offering advice to unhappy people. Love and happiness are pretty amazing things -- they sold tons of records for Al Green. They're also downright tough -- tough to find, tough to maintain, even tough for many of us to express to others. Except for Justin Bieber; he makes it sound so easy ...
Wanda and I have learned many things over the years, but one thing that is a constant lesson is that the best love is a healthy self-love. We know, totally clichéd, but totally true. With self-love in place, all other loves are possible and safe. Without self-love, it's easy to fall into unhealthy forms of love.
Here are four New Year's love life resolutions we'd like you to consider in 2012 and beyond. They're drawn from advice we often offer, and we're confident they'll help lead to happier connections and a happier you.
Lose the luggage
Wayne: It's difficult to start new relationships, nurture existing ones or even feel generally happy if you're packing around a bunch of emotional baggage from old relationships or current ones. If you're holding on, let it go. You'll feel lighter and happier.
Wanda: I'm guiltier than anyone about dating someone new before I've processed all the junk from the last relationship, and I've finally learned that it's usually best to push through the hard part on your own. Spending time in your own company, reflecting on your patterns and making healthier choices can only serve you well the next time you hop on the merry-go-round.
Release the pressure
Wayne: Many letters come to us from people who feel pressured by friends and family members: pressured to commit, to marry, to have children, to eat dinner with in-laws. If you are applying the pressure, back off. If the pressure is on you, take control of the situation through communication and ownership of your life.
Wanda: Societal pressure is so woven into the fabric of our existence that we often don't realize how it's impacting our decisions. What's the worst that could happen if we disregard these expectations and instead live the kind of life we want to be living? We'd all be happier human beings? Most of us have very little to lose by being true to ourselves.
Be confident, adventurous
Wayne: This is a universal New Year's resolution, but it also translates to dating, relationships and love. Breaking out of your shell or your routine is scary, but it's also liberating. If you're lonely, go out more often. If you're afraid to ask someone out, take a chance. If you feel like you don't have control, grab the wheel and be assertive. If you're in a relationship, don't settle for settled -- continue growing and exploring as a couple.
Wanda: Even adventurous people can get stuck in a rut, but rarely does anything bad come from breaking out of our comfort zones. It's how we learn and grow and become better people. So if you're on the fence about going somewhere or trying something new, do yourself a favor and just go for it. You know it'll be good for you, and you won't regret it once it's over.
Talk and listen honestly
Wayne: Many of the problems posed to Wanda and me can often be resolved with simple communication. Seriously. If people would just try to be better talkers and listeners, we'd all feel happier. That means expressing your feelings in good and bad times, and letting others express theirs.
Wanda: It's true. I'd say the majority of letters we answer would never be written in the first place if folks could just be a little more courageous with their communication. Confrontation can be intimidating, but it's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when your intentions are good. And like everything else, we get better by practicing - so speak (and listen) up!
Thank you for writing, reading and commenting. Good luck with love and happiness in 2012.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wayne and Wanda serve up some tips for a happy '12