By Richard Nicastro
When you consider what your relationship needs, consider the laws of gravity. An object that is set in motion will continue to move, unless something stands in its way. On the flip side, a motionless object will never move unless something acts upon it. Your relationship or marriage will remain inert unless you act to put it and keep it in motion. And, just as day-to-day goals keep you moving from one task to the next, setting goals for your relationship will infuse your relationship with that vital momentum.
When you and your partner work together to create goals that improve or maintain the health of your relationship, you also create an atmosphere of collegiality and companionship. Relationship goals will help you and your partner remain focused whenever the relationship goes through the difficult transitions that all unions experience. These goals can also act as the antidote to the stagnation and lethargy that can creep into any marriage over time.
Establishing relationship goals does not have to be a complicated process. In fact, the simpler and more straightforward the goal, the better. The biggest challenge you’ll face is remaining consistent in your efforts toward reaching your goals.
Working toward your relationship goals means working to become a better partner to your mate. A word of warning, though: Do not establish goals for your partner! Focus on establishing your own goals, your partner should focus on his/her goals, and the two of you can create joint goals (e.g., traveling more, spending more time socializing with other couples, sharing household tasks).
Relationship goals—Where to begin:
First, pick an area of your relationship that you’d like to work on. Here are some examples:
1. Communication goals: How can you become a better communicator? This might involve asking your partner more questions about his/her job, not interrupting your partner while s/he is speaking, or stating your needs more directly.
2. Compassion/support goals: This might involve asking your partner what s/he needs, driving him/her to a doctor’s appointment, or setting aside a certain amount of time each day to check in with each other.
3. Affection/love goals: How often and how clearly do you express your emotions? Being affectionate can take on many different forms: directly with loving statements; through touch, such as hand-holding or a shoulder rub; or by establishing special gestures that only the two of you share. Establishing goals to be more demonstrative means finding creative ways to express loving feelings on a regular basis.
3. Negotiation/compromise goals: Being in a committed relationship means learning to compromise. Taking steps to appreciate your partner’s viewpoint (even when you may not agree with him/her) sends the message that you take your partner’s needs seriously. Negotiating and learning to “agree to disagree” are essential for the health of your relationship.
4. Commitment goals: You can’t feel an intimate connection with another human being unless you first feel safe with him/her. When you demonstrate commitment, you lay the groundwork for emotional safety and therefore, for intimacy. Think of commitment like a safety net: even during difficult times, that commitment will be there to break your fall. Establishing commitment goals might involve spending more time with your partner or making decisions that clearly demonstrate that your relationship is a top priority in your life.
5. Physical intimacy goals: Take steps to become a more attuned, responsive sexual partner. For instance, take the time to discover all the ways in which your partner would like to be sexually satisfied or come to an agreement with your partner regarding how often you’d both like to make love.
6. Shared interests/activities goals: The most successful married couples cite friendship as a key ingredient of their long-term success. Work toward developing activities that you both enjoy and that you both enjoy sharing with one another. You might try a new activity together each month, such as taking tennis lessons or learning to speak a new language.
7. Household responsibility goals: How involved are you with completing household chores? Does it feel like the work is equally or fairly divided? The mundane details of daily life (things like cooking, shopping, cleaning) should be negotiated, not just assumed by default. Find out if your partner is happy with the current arrangement by asking if there is more that you can do.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Reflect on the areas of your relationship that you’d like to improve. Do some introspecting on your own and also think back to feedback you may have already received from your partner. For instance, if your partner has questioned your commitment by noting, “You never call when you say you’re going to,” you can develop a goal to show your commitment by becoming more reliable in following through on your promises.
Richard Nicastro, Ph.D. is a relationship coach who is passionate about helping couples protect the sanctuary of their relationship. Visit him at StrengthenYourRelationship.com