Love stories are often written with a carefree tone: no plans, no worries, no effort. But, that’s not the case in a real relationship. A successful relationship often needs maintenance work and setting goals in a relationship is one of the most effective ways to take your relationship to the next level.
Having realistic goals in a relationship, and seeing progress in achieving them, is linked to higher well-being levels and promotes relationship stability, as research shows. Personal and couple goals should be balanced and interconnected — partners may work together towards common goals and support each other's personal projects as well.
We’ll discuss the importance of setting relationship goals, what a healthy bucket list looks like, and how you and your partner can achieve your common objectives.
The definition of a goal is that “they are internal representations of a desired outcome, event or process”. In other words, our goals are the answers to the question, “What do I want to get from doing this?”
In a relationship, it may seem materialistic to ask “what do I want to get from this”, but that’s not always the case. When you set relationship goals, you may be more inclined to think about personal processes, emotional growth, teamwork, and common projects.
While a personal goal is something that you want to pursue yourself, a relationship goal is something that you want to achieve together, like common financial investments, genuine connection, and unconditional love.
However, when you set goals in a relationship, there are two types of goals you may set: short-term or long-term ones.
Just like personal goals, your relationship goals could be achieved in a shorter or a longer period of time, depending on how complex they are.
This often refers to common, concrete goals like buying a house, getting married or engaged, and moving in together. Short-term goals are sometimes less complex and require skills and resources that the couple generally already has.
Long-term relationship goals are pointed towards more complex matters like building unconditional love, understanding each other deeply, or building a healthy family. These relationship goals can require skills and resources that the couple doesn’t have at the present moment, but will acquire in the process.
If you’ve decided to start building a strong relationship, setting relationship goals could be your first step to success. Here’s why:
While personal goals are important and help you grow your self-esteem, goals in a relationship are meant to make you a team player. Having something to work on together will challenge you to find out your strengths, exercise your empathy, better your assertive communication, improve your ability to receive criticism, and become more mature overall.
You set relationship goals by having a discussion, which requires both of you to express your ideas of the relationship. By seeing what your ideas are, you can set up realistic expectations for your partner, yourself, and the relationship.
By working together to achieve a common goal, you can start feeling like you are part of something bigger than yourself. This may help you be more motivated, have a more positive outlook on life, and have greater well-being.
Now that you understand why it’s healthy to set relationship goals, you’re probably wondering what a proper relationship goal sounds like.
Here is a list of real relationship goals that could better your connection and well-being together.
Becoming a high-functioning adult can also have something to do with your relationship dynamic. If you find yourself too reactive to your partner’s comments or you feel like they are too critical towards you, you may commit to a common goal: better your communication.
This is a complex process that requires involvement from both of you. You can reach out to a good couple’s therapist who can help you with that, or you can start personal therapies to work on the underlying reasons for your communication difficulties.
This may be part of the first goals’ process, but not necessarily. To fully understand your partner’s love language and your own, it may take a considerable amount of time.
Start by talking about what you value the most in the relationships and check which one of these love languages is your dominant one: physical connection, quality time, gifts, words of affirmation, or acts of service. Once discovered, you can adapt certain routines to each other’s needs.
Similar to the love languages, your attachment styles are essential to your well-being together. It can be the very reason that you’ve attracted each other in the first place. Get informed about the main attachment styles, find out yours, and spend time exploring each other’s tendencies.
This will help you both better understand yourself and your significant other, you’ll likely stop taking things personally, and gain a new perspective on conflict and intimacy alike.
Being in a long-term relationship often involves the idea of creating a family, and not necessarily having a child. A relationship goal could be for you two to discuss your personal ideas on what does a family mean, how it is managed, and how many members it has.
After making things clear, you could aspire to attune your ideals in time, in order to accommodate both views, even if not perfectly. It could be a partnership exercise, where each of you commits to respect the other’s opinion while not giving up your own.
This may sound a bit too abstract and unachievable, but it may not be the case. Building unconditional love means that you’ll see and accept each other entirely — both the good and bad. It is not about not setting boundaries or being irresponsible.
Unconditional love is a deep intimacy level, where you can fully understand each other, you can nurture your emotional growth, and you can have a balanced family life. You can set this goal as a long-term relationship goal if you want something similar to what those serene, lifelong married couples have.
It may not be mandatory to set relationship goals, but it is very useful for a healthy and happy life together.
Even though words like “planning” and “goals” can sound rigid, there is research that suggests otherwise. A study found that people who are more focused on maintaining a good relationship and set relationship goals accordingly are going on more dates and engaging in more pleasurable activities with their partners.
Another study states that relationship goals focused on achieving positive outcomes for their relationship — as opposed to those focused on avoiding challenges — are associated with higher involvement and a more positive outlook on the relationship.
Aligning on goals that can be achieved by your relationship, and not strictly by each partner, is one of the most efficient ways to build intimacy and long-lasting love. Having goals to pursue together takes you from “I” thinking to “We” thinking, a characteristic of successful relationships.
To make progress with their goals, both new or even married couples could make use of the fundamental aspects in their relationship:
We can also refer to this as intimacy. Being well connected to one another, on an emotional level, will help you attune to each other’s needs and make small compromises for the better of your relationship.
Relationship goals should not be rigid and static. You may need to adapt aspects of a goal, or you may want to extend its deadline. Be open to any needed adaptation.
The basis of fulfilling real relationship goals is trust. Make communication a priority by setting new rules of the relationship and trying therapeutic exercises, as explained below.
It may not be easy to start setting goals in a relationship, but here are some tips on how to start talking about them:
A strong relationship needs time and conscious effort to be put together. Remember to stay realistic with your relationship goals and not set too many of them at one time.
Starting a genuine conversation about relationship goals is a solid step in achieving your desired outcome, be it an emotionally healthy family or having a business together.
When you start thinking about setting goals in a relationship, reaching out to a specialist can help if needed. Connect with a good couple’s counselor near you, sign up for group workshops for couples, or engage in a therapeutic process for couples. It will fuel your clarity and motivation to reach the relationship goals you set with your partner.
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