Why Setting Relationship Goals Is Important – And How to Do It
Relationship goals help you do the work it takes work to build a healthy relationship. The more work you do the better and stronger the relationship gets.
We all know that one couple who sets the standard for what we think of relationship goals. Maybe it’s the committed relationship of a close friend and her partner, of your grandparents or extended family. It can even be the celebrity couple with incredibly busy lives.
It’s not just compatibility that keeps couples connected. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes that factors into building successful, healthy relationships. That’s where relationship goals come in.
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Whether you’ve found yourself in a new relationship, or want to improve the serious relationship you’re already in, setting goals can be a powerful tool to help you and your partner grow as a couple. Relationship goals help build a stronger bond between partners, help navigate conflict and yield greater happiness overall in a relationship.
If sitting down with your partner for a goal-setting session sounds… not very sexy, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll explore why love goals are essential to set at any stage of your relationship, and how to set goals as a couple.
How to Get Clear on Your Love Goals
Think about the dating goals you had when you sought out a partner. What do ideal, healthy relationships look like? What romantic relationships do you idealize? How would you and a partner stay on the same page or resolve conflict? How do you prefer to receive love from your partner? How would you and your partner best communicate in everyday life?
Getting a clear picture of what a healthy relationship looks like in your purview is the first step to identifying and setting relationship goals for yourself and your future partner. If you’re in a new relationship or are still in the dating phase, take time to self-reflect and get clear on what you need and want out of a romantic relationship. This information will help you determine what goals to set for successful relationships.
What Are Relationship Goals?
A relationship goal is something you want to experience, achieve, learn or value more with your partner. While these couple goals can be long-term or short-term, one key characteristic they should embody is to be attainable. Setting a grandiose goal like winning the lottery or traveling the world together can be fun to think about – but if you’re looking to utilize goal-setting as a way to grow and strengthen your own relationship goals, it’s best to set love goals that are measurable and feel achievable for both of you.
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They should also be something both you and your partner share an interest in achieving. Setting one-sided couple goals are less likely to come to fruition. These should be focused on areas of your lives where you both feel a vested interest in growing, places where you see room for improvement that you both feel optimistic about working on since it will strengthen the future of your relationship.
Choosing Which Couple Goals to Set
If you’re drawing a blank on how to set your own goals, here are a few common-sense examples to consider.
1. Understand each other’s love language
When it comes to love within a good relationship, this means understanding your partner’s love language – it’s a great place to start.
Author and pastoral counselor Gary Chapman coined the Five Love Languages. When he found that couples had difficulty feeling and expressing love (despite their partner’s best efforts), he broke down the themes from these discussions into five love languages:
- Physical touch
- Quality time
- Acts of service
- Words of affirmation.
By giving couples the language to easily identify how they prefer to receive love (and how they express love to their partner), Chapman found couples could communicate their needs more efficiently and understand each other better. Something that can go a long way in setting long-term relationship goals.
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If you haven’t done so already, identify which of these five align with your own love language as you’re working on making your bond stronger. If you’re having a hard time with this, it can be helpful to look at exactly what you do to show love to your partner (ex: Do you cook them their favorite meal to show you love them? Acts of service may be your love language).
Have your partner do the same, then sit down in the spirit of open communication and make a point of showing the same love language as them at least once per week. You may be surprised at how it helps you stay intimate, extend the honeymoon phase (early stages of your sex life), and feel secure as you spend time together and keep the love alive and vibrant.
2. Fight fair
In A Book About Love by Jonah Lehrer, interviewee David Wilde states, “Choosing a partner is choosing a set of problems.” Disagreements within intimate relationships are inevitable, but how the other person chooses to handle conflicts that arise can either strengthen the relationship or contribute to its downfall.
You’ve invested in your relationship enough to be reading this article on setting relationship goals. So, the chances are that staying together is high on your list of hopes for you and your partner. If that’s the case, making it a goal to learn how to fight fair should top your list.
According to Reader’s Digest, a study out of Florida that followed long-term couples cited “joint problem-solving ability” as the critical factor for 70 percent of satisfied partners. Key insights from a study out of California found that early divorcers in a study of 79 couples commonly reported long, loud fights, where partners always felt they had to be on the defense.
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On the other hand, the happiest couples in the study would steer clear of criticizing their partner, avoiding terms like “never” and “always,” and would keep arguments from escalating. By factoring in fair fighting, you can make great strides to improve the relationship, even if just a little bit.
Of course, fighting fair is easier said than done – especially in the heat of the moment. If you decide to add this love goal to your list, it’s a good idea to have an honest conversation with your mate about how each of you handles conflict.
If you’re someone who shuts down when things get heated, for example, this is important for your significant other to know before you end up having to decide whether or not to go to bed angry. Make a list of ground rules on what you feel fighting fair looks like and what you both won’t tolerate.
This can look different on each couple – for example, one couple may agree the best approach would be to drop the conversation or separate for some time until they can return to the discussion more calmly. Other couples may feel the need to address the issue when it arises rather than waiting. Hang this list somewhere visible so that you can reflect and stay true to what you both promised if and when tension arises.
3. Commit to a weekly date night
Spending time is important. Even if you and your partner live together and see each other regularly, setting a goal to dedicate a certain amount of time once per week without distractions has improved and strengthened relationships tremendously.
Research from The National Marriage Project found that couples who kept a weekly date night reported higher rates of happiness within the marriage, lower divorce rates, and more satisfying sex lives. Something to consider when making your list of important relationship goals.
Date night doesn’t have to mean spending money at a restaurant every week. It can be getting dressed up to share a meal at home without distractions, taking a walk together around town, or even a picnic in your backyard. As long as the two of you are unplugging from all distractions and focusing on one another for an afternoon or evening, you can consider yourselves on your way to achieving a stronger relationship for the long haul.
4. Maintain the physical connection
When setting goals, don’t overlook the importance of physical touch. Consistent physical connection in a relationship has plenty of benefits. Regular physical interactions like hand-holding, hugging and even small acts like a reassuring shoulder pat have been linked to increased levels of oxytocin (that feel-good hormone that gets released in our body), as well as decreased cortisol levels (cortisol triggers our body’s stress response).
Making physical connections a greater part of your day-to-day lives can be good for your health. This kind of goal is also easy to start working on by being more mindful of how you and your significant other stay connected. Find moments that feel natural to squeeze their hand or shoulder, offer a hug or even a friendly pat on the butt. Adding “more butt touching” to your relationship goals might seem funny, but studies show the payoff.
Although physical intimacy is the hallmark of a romantic relationship, it’s one part of a wider spectrum of intimacy, including intellectual, spiritual, and emotional intimacy. Feeling safe and comfortable, knowing what type of touch each of you enjoys, and knowing how to create emotional connections, all enhance the pleasure of touch.
Trying to force physical intimacy, using physical intimacy as a replacement for a lack of depth, or a solution to problems, could have the reverse effect. Finding a healthy balance of physical touch may take time and understanding. It requires learning and understanding each other’s body language, talking through boundaries, and likes and dislikes.
There’s also a difference between physical intimacy and sexual intimacy. While the latter might be the result of passion, lust, or desire, physical intimacy is done with the intention to soothe, reassure, or just relax your partner. The big difference? It’s touch without expectation on outcome, free from attachments. There’s even a name for the way in which this type of touch can regulate emotions. Psychologist Arielle Schwartz explains this as:
“Ongoing emotional dysregulation tends to interfere with our capacity for intimacy, parenting, or meaningful friendships. The concept of co-regulation, also called mutual regulation or social affect regulation, can be defined as the way in which one person’s autonomic nervous system sensitively interacts with another person’s autonomic nervous system in a way that facilitates greater emotional balance and physical health.”
5. Discuss your shared values
It’s common to discuss things that are important to you at the start of a real relationship. Foundational elements like where you see yourself living, a desire to start a family, future career goals, etc., are often topics couples align on and bond over.
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However, it’s important to know that these values can change over time. When you’re setting a dating goal early on, constantly communicating on evolving matters will help you and your partner stay aligned and in touch about how you both envision building a future together. For example, maybe early on in your relationship, you were both in favor of a living arrangement that had more flexibility — but now one or both of you feel like you’d like to put down roots in a particular town or city. This is an important one to add to your list. Being upfront and honest about these feelings when they arise can help avoid conflict in the relationship later on.
6. Improve your communication
As you’re building your list of goals, an important thing to think about is the way you and your partner communicate. No matter how long the two of you have been together, your partner can’t know what you feel unless you tell them. Set a relationship goal to prioritize communication.
Understanding how your partner feels and why they think this way is critical to a healthy romantic partnership. Different backgrounds, upbringings and experiences can sometimes make it difficult to see things from our partner’s perspective. Make it part of your relationship goals to better understand one another. If communication is a couple goal you both want to prioritize but have trouble with, seeking the help of a licensed therapist to act as an unbiased evaluator can be a great tool to utilize.
7. Manage your emotions
This relationship goal and the one above go hand in hand. Effective communication is critical for a healthy relationship – but this can be hard to achieve when emotions are running high. If you’re usually the emotional one, being able to take a beat and process why your partner’s actions or words upset you is worthy of adding to your list of goals.
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Once you can identify why this caused you to feel a certain way, get into the habit of telling your partner at that moment in a calm manner. Giving your significant other the cold shoulder or holding your anger in until you finally can’t anymore aren’t going to help either of you move forward. Discuss this relationship goal with your partner and ask them to work on it with you. These sorts of goals are often best met when both parties are working together, and often key components of a more lasting love.
8. Support one another
Supporting your partner is a relationship goal that goes beyond simply showing up for them. Prioritizing support as part of your relationship goals means honing your ability to ask and understand the kind of support your partner needs depending on what they’re going through and then follow through with it.
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For example, your significant other may come to you with a problem that he or she doesn’t necessarily want or need you to fix. Instead, they want you to listen and validate their experience. While working on this as part of your goals, one method that can be helpful is to ask your significant other whether they want comfort or solutions when they come to you with a problem.
Having that information upfront gets your partner into the practice of communicating their needs upfront and gives you the information you need to help support them the way they need it. Incorporating support into your relationship goals can be crucial.
How to Set Goals: A Normal and Healthy Part of a Relationship
You understand why it’s essential to set goals in a healthy and thriving relationship and have a few couple goals in mind that you’d like to discuss with your partner. Now it’s time to sit down and have a conversation. Here are a few tips for setting relationship goals with your significant other.
Choose a neutral space to discuss relationship goals
If you live together, find a common area like the living room or kitchen table to discuss. If you’re living apart, find a space at either of your places that feel comfortable and safe. If possible, having this talk somewhere outdoors at a quiet park or in a backyard may be ideal as well. Choose somewhere with privacy so that you can be open and honest about your relationship goals.
Determine the length of time for each relationship goal
When setting the best relationship goals, you want to give each goal enough time to be achieved, but don’t want to set goals so far out that you can’t see progress, either. If this is your first time setting couple goals, you may want to designate some to achieve in three months, six months, and then larger goals in a year. From our list of examples of goals above, understanding and showing love through your partner’s love language can be an easy way to achieve a short-term goal, while fighting fair may be a better fit as a long-term goal for your relationship. Relationship goals can take time, but not all on the list need to be year-long endeavors.
Set check-in dates for each relationship goal
Don’t just set and forget your goals. Just because you’ve determined that it’ll take 12 months to achieve a particular love goal doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working on achieving your relationship goals regularly. Whether you do so more formally on a calendar or make it a goal to talk about your goals on a specific frequency (say, weekly or bi-weekly), achieving goals requires ongoing work from both you and your partner.
Include at least one fun relationship goal
The goals on your list shouldn’t all feel burdensome. Make it a priority to include at least one fun couple goal that you both are looking forward to achieving. It can be as simple as setting and sticking to a weekly date night, flirting more or getting dressed up for one another more regularly. Having something you’re both excited to accomplish on your list of relationship goals makes it feel fun, exciting and less like work.
Make sure your relationship goals are measurable
Say one of your relationship goals is to communicate better. How do you measure the success of that love goal? Is it fewer fights? More intimacy? Increased feelings of affection and vulnerability? When listing your relationship goals, discuss how each goal will be measured and align on what success looks like to each of you. This will make it easier to progress toward your relationship goals.
Evaluate how your love goals make you feel
Once you have your list of relationship goals, read through it with your partner and talk about how achieving each of these relationship goals would make you feel.
Reaching these goals should make each of you feel good – not stressed or exhausted. That’s not to say that it won’t take work to achieve these relationship goals – but that you both recognize the benefit of working toward them. If any don’t pass the vibe check, cross them off your list of relationship goals.
Make sure your couple goals are equally weighted
Is there a relationship goal on the list that your partner is pushing for that doesn’t sit right with you or align with your relationship goals? Your list should be created with equal input and approval from both parties involved in an ideal scenario. If the relationship goals on the list are essential to one partner but not the other, it will be pretty hard to work toward as a united front.
Before You Go
Setting relationship goals takes time and effort – but the payoff is worth it. Even if you decide to start small, setting couple goals will undoubtedly yield a stronger relationship.
Make sure you’re both aligned on your love goals, have a clear path forward for how you’ll achieve them and a method for evaluating your relationship goals as you progress forward. And remember, working toward relationship goals should be a positive experience – something that feels worthwhile and fun.
Nina Atwood once said, “The idea that couples that play together stay together is very true. Like all good things, it takes planning and creativity.”
With the right tools, effort and mindset, you can use relationship goals to build the future you want with your partner.