What are some of your relationship goals? What would you like your relationship to look like in time to come? Or perhaps you might be thinking about what it takes to build a healthy relationship when you do decide to enter one in the future. This article first discusses what it means to set realistic couple goals, and subsequently introduces six possible realistic couple goals ideas and ways in which they may be achieved.
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Setting Realistic Couple Goals
Why Set Couple Goals?
We know all about the benefits of setting individual goals, such as having a sense of direction and purpose, increased focus, greater motivation, more clearness in making decisions, and the formation of new habits. Given that, what makes couple goals any different from two people setting their own individual goals?
When a couple sets goals together, they have a conversation about what they want and need in a relationship. Discussing and prioritising couple goals also gives both partners greater clarity on how aligned they are about where they would like the relationship to head. It also assures both individuals of the effort that is being put into making the relationship work.
Types of Goals
Couple goals can be about any aspect of your relationship. They may be in relation to communication, conflict resolution, work life balance or integration, boundaries, schedules and activities, love languages, family planning, and so on. Individuals and couples may each prioritise different aspects of their relationship.
However, a common thread that links all goals is intentionality – this involves knowing what you want to achieve and taking active steps towards it. In other words, goals are not attained by chance. It can thus be helpful to start by having a conversation with your partner about where you envision your relationship going, and what types of goals you would both like to explore.
Relevance and Practicality
Of course, goals also have to be realistic and relevant to the situation. For example, a couple in a long-distance relationship might need to get creative about how they spend time together. On the other hand, a couple who lives with one partner’s family members may wish to discuss the topic of boundaries at home.
Finally, be clear about the reasons why you want to achieve each goal – this will help to distinguish the goals that really matter to you from those that are less important. For instance, are you aiming to keep fit for personal health reasons, or because everyone else seems to be trying to do so? Knowing why you are targeting a specific goal can also serve as motivation to keep you on track when the going gets tough.
Realistic Couple Goals and How to Achieve Them
In this section, we list some realistic couple goals (in no particular order), along with some suggestions of the ways in which they may be achieved.
Appreciate One Another
This is arguably one of the easiest goals to achieve and yet we often overlook it. Our partners do not have to be in a relationship with us; they choose to be. There are many things that we can be grateful for about our partner and the relationship.
How To Achieve It
What are some things your partner does that you appreciate? Hint: it does not have to be something major – love can often be felt in the small, daily words or actions, such as bringing you a snack when you have been stuck in back-to-back meetings. Sometimes, a heartfelt “thank you” suffices. At other times, you may wish to be more specific, by elaborating on what exactly your partner did or said that you appreciate, and how it made you feel. For instance, “Thank you for making coffee for me each morning, it makes me feel cared for and loved.”
People practice gratitude towards their partner in various ways. For instance, some couples may choose to do so by setting aside time at the end of each day to share what they are grateful for that day. Others may prefer a more impromptu approach throughout the day. Whichever way you decide to practice appreciating one another, aim to make it a regular habit.
Practice Each Other’s Love Languages
The five love languages, created by Dr Gary Chapman, are about how we each give and receive love in different ways. The five love languages are:
- Physical touch: appropriate physical touch (eg a hug, holding hands, a pat on the back).
- Words of affirmation: using words to affirm others (eg “Thank you for…”, “I appreciate it when you…”, “Your encouragement means a lot to me”, “I am so glad that we are together”).
- Quality time: spending time together with undivided attention (eg going for a walk or jog together, catching a movie, having a picnic without mobile phones).
- Acts of service: actions (eg washing the dishes, taking out the trash, driving your partner to work).
- Receiving gifts: heartfelt and thoughtful gifts which show how well you know your partner, or that you were paying attention to their needs (eg after lunch, he casually mentions that he would like to try the food at a restaurant you both walk past, and you secretly make a booking for the following week).
How To Achieve It
Build Conflict Resolution Skills
As we grow up, we would have seen and heard numerous examples of how conflict is handled – these may have been from television shows, print and online media, our schoolmates, friends, as well as our parents and relatives. What habits may we have picked up from those around us? For instance, some people avoid conflict at all costs, and may even “people please” as a result. Others may make demands loudly and behave aggressively in the hopes of being seen and getting their way. Disagreements are part and parcel of life, regardless of who we are in a relationship with, or who our loved ones are. Hence, picking up some conflict resolution skills early might serve you now as well as in time to come.
How To Achieve It
Whichever habits we may have adopted, self-awareness is a good place to start. When faced with conflict, how do you instinctively respond? What do you tend to do or say first, without thinking? Are there some habits of yours that have helped the both of you to resolve conflicts more easily? On the flip side, what are some habits that have made resolution more difficult, or even caused the disagreement to escalate even further? If you are quick to lose your temper, you may also want to read up more about how you can control anger in a relationship. The idea is to do more of what works, as long as it is healthy and respectful.
Target the issue at hand
Another way to resolve conflicts more amicably is to target the issue at hand, rather than each other. This means focusing on what needs to be resolved and holding back any personal attacks. Using “I” statements to describe your feelings and needs can be helpful here. For example, the sentence, “You never help with the cooking or the dishes, you are so lazy”, is a personal judgment and evokes defensiveness in the other person. Instead, try, “I feel tired when I have to do so many chores after work. Could you please help me with some?” Tone is important too, of course – there is a huge difference between a genuine request for help and a nicely phrased sentenced laced with sarcasm.
Build conflict resolution skills
A third way to build your conflict resolution skills is to be mindful of the time and place in which you attempt to resolve the disagreement. Confronting your partner openly in front of their friends or family can be a vastly different experience for them compared to if you were to bring an issue up gently in a private setting. What types of issues or topics would the two of you be comfortable discussing in front of others, and what kinds of issues would the two of you prefer to keep private?
Interpersonal conflicts can also be navigated in couples therapy sessions. Couples therapy helps in addressing recurring causes of conflict and allows partners to communicate openly and honestly with one another.
Set Aside Time Just for the Two of You
Amidst life’s various obligations such as work, parenting, taking care of elderly parents, managing finances and so on, it can be easy to get carried away by the endless to-do lists that await both of you each day. Yet, when you least have time for a break is when you need one the most.
How To Achieve It
Make it a habit to set aside time for just the two of you, on a regular basis. It does not need to be an elaborate or expensive date, just one that the two of you enjoy. It can be as simple as setting aside time each night to update each other on how your day went. Alternatively, is there a specific place which the both of you enjoy going to, or an activity that holds special meaning? What have been some of your best memories so far, and how might you be able to replicate even just a little bit of it? The key here is to be present and engage fully – without the distraction of glancing at buzzing phone notifications, for instance.
Try New Things
This does not mean you have to bungee jumping out of a plane or leave your job to travel the world. It is simply the idea of mixing it up every once in a while. The idea is to experience various types of things together.
How To Achieve It
What are some things you have always wanted to try, but never did? You can each make a list of these and compare them to see what might be feasible for the both of you. It could also be watching a new genre of movie, picking up a new skill, or trying to cook a different type of cuisine together.
Support Each Other’s Individual Goals
Although we have been discussing couple goals, individual goals are an important aspect of life too. They may be related to one’s education, career, finances, health, or fitness, for instance. They may be short-term or long-term goals.
How To Achieve It
What are some of your partner’s individual goals? How do they prioritise the different individual goals in their life? In what ways might you be able to support them? Often, the easiest way to find this out is to ask them directly, as we all have our own preferences. For instance, one person may appreciate their partner checking in from time to time while they work, while another may prefer silence during work hours so that they can focus. You may also draw inspiration from their primary love language we talked about above.
Another thing to note is that congratulating someone or being happy for them is not solely reserved for official graduation ceremonies or when someone is promoted at work. Find checkpoints along the way which you can celebrate, such as when a school or work project is completed, or when that frustrating thirty-page assignment is submitted. Acknowledging the effort your partner has been putting in can go a long way in encouraging them to work towards their longer-term goals.
Conclusion: Realistic Couple Goals and Ways You Can Achieve Them
As you start discussing couple goals, you and your partner will gain a better understanding of one another, as well as each other’s hopes and dreams. After all, couple goals are more than two sets of individual goals – they are about envisioning a shared future together, one that the both of you can look forward to.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some good couple goals? What are some long-term relationship goals? How about examples of life goals for married couples? How do we make future plans in a relationship?
Examples of couple goals include appreciating one another, practicing each other’s primary love language, learning conflict resolution skills, regularly carving out time for just the two of you, trying new things occasionally, and showing support for one another’s individual goals. Together with your partner, you can create your own relationship goals checklist.
How do you set realistic relationship goals? How can I plan my future with my partner? What are some ways to build our life together? How to set couple goals?
As a couple, decide what types of goals you would like to set, and your motivation for achieving these specific goals. Next, decide what steps you can take to get you both closer to your goal, and what some checkpoints along the way may be.
What is realistic in a relationship? What are realistic relationship expectations? How can I be more realistic in love?
An example of a realistic expectation in a relationship is discussing and negotiating boundaries. What are some dealbreakers for each of you, in the relationship? What are some behaviours that are unacceptable? How would each of you define cheating? Other examples of realistic expectations are trust and respect.
On the other hand, unrealistic expectations include expecting a partner to read our minds (ie “you should know… without me having to say it”), or thinking that our partners must never disagree with our point of view on issues.
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What are the red flags in a relationship?
One indicator that a relationship may not be healthy is when there is an imbalance of power between partners. For instance, where one person tends to comply out of fear for what their partner might do next. Similarly, another red flag is overly controlling behaviour.
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A healthy relationship involves respect for one another, open and honest communication, trust, willingness to compromise and work through disagreements, as well as effort from both parties. It is also imperative to truly listen when your partner is sharing about something that is important to them, such as their work-related stress or low mood.