As much as we’d like to believe that all you need is love, the truth is that successful relationships take dedication. Setting relationship goals can help you and your partner thrive and make sure you’re on the same path, but what goals you set changes is entirely up to you and your partner.
“The truth is, making resolutions together can be a game-changer for couples,” says Dr. Jacqui Gabb, a professor of sociology and intimacy at The Open University and Chief Relationships Officer at Paired.
“Doing so is a great way to check in with each other’s priorities, take stock of your relationship’s strengths and growth areas, and cultivate meaning as a couple,” she adds.
You can think of relationship goals as resolutions. “Relationship goals are comparable to setting intentions for the future. Communicating relationship goals creates opportunity for partners to grow as a couple and as individuals,” says Laura Caruso, a couples therapist and coach
“Couples who frequently check in with one another to discuss their intentions for the relationship will feel more safe and secure with their partner. If partners are working towards similar goals, they will always have a clear understanding of the status of their relationship and their love for one another.”
Every couple is different, so relationship goals will differ from person to person, and from relationship to relationship.
“You may be saving for something together,” says Dr. Gabb. “Or perhaps you're vowing to make an improvement in your relationship, such as resolving to show more appreciation for your partner in the form of compliments.”
The goals you set with your partner might even change as the relationship progresses. “Relationships are constantly evolving, and we — as individuals — need to adapt to this,” adds Caruso. “New life experiences will shift the focus of the relationship as adversity often sheds light on areas for growth.”
It’s up to you and your partner to sit down and talk about your goals, but if you’re looking for some inspiration, here are some relationship goals every couple could benefit from.
Many people use the terms “intimacy” and “sex” interchangeably, and although sex is one component of intimacy, it’s definitely not the only one.
Being intimate with your partner isn’t just about physical touch and bedroom romps — it’s a sense of deep connection and vulnerability. A romantic relationship won’t flourish without intimacy, so remember to make it a priority.
All couples argue. Yes, even the healthy ones! You’re bound to mess up at some point, but research shows that partners value their relationship more if their loved one apologizes after doing something wrong.
The thing is, we all have different expectations for what makes a good apology. Learning your partner’s apology language can help you make up after a fight, and work towards more efficient conflict resolution.
Your partner can’t read your mind (but that would make things so much easier), so learning to communicate with one another is key to a successful relationship.
Communication is a skill that requires constant practice, and no matter how good you are at it, you should keep learning how to communicate your needs, expectations, and anxieties.
Contrary to popular belief, curiosity didn’t kill the cat. You might think that you know your partner like the back of your hand, and while that may be true, people are full of surprises.
Psychologist and marriage counselor Dr. John Gottman found that one of the keys to having a happy, successful relationship is how much partners know about each other’s “inner worlds”.
Even if you’ve been together for years, staying curious about each other and learning new things about your partner can bring you closer and stay connected in stressful times.
No one enjoys having difficult conversations with their partner, but avoiding them does no good for your relationship.
It’s far too easy to get caught up in the stresses of everyday life and fall into a bit of a relationship rut. Playfulness is vital to a relationship, and research also shows that spending quality time with your partner can improve your bond overall.
Whether you decide to go on more date nights, try something new in the bedroom, or go on a spontaneous adventure, carve out more time to have fun with your partner.
A relationship check-in is a way to touch base with your partner, air any grievances, and take stock of the relationship. It might sound unsexy, but having regular relationship check-ins means investing time into the relationship so nothing gets swept under the rug. Plus, no one said they can’t be fun!
Knowing how to compromise is easier said than done, but it’s a crucial skill to have in your relationship arsenal. It shows you’re capable of problem-solving together and prioritizing your relationship when it matters the most.
Achieving your goals won’t be a quick and easy process, but that shouldn’t discourage you.
Below, Dr. Gabb shares her expert advice on how to set relationship goals — and stick to them.
Agree on your relationship goals together. “Write down a relationship resolution for the year and share it with your partner. Discuss how to ensure your goal is achievable for both of you and the ways it may help you to grow as a couple.”
Focus on the positive. “Don't dwell on what's not working, focus on the positive changes you can make and how they can benefit you. For example, instead of vowing to quit ‘phubbing’ — that is, paying more attention to your mobile than your partner — you might say ‘let’s leave our phones at home during date night so we can spend quality time with each other’.”
Don’t expect miracles. “My advice is to be realistic or you'll set yourself up for failure and frustration. You’ll give yourself your best shot at success if you set goals that are doable — and meaningful too.”
Be specific. “It’s important to be clear on what you want to improve and how you’re going to achieve this. For instance, if you’ve both identified that you struggle to make time to check in with each other daily, can you agree to get up a bit earlier and share breakfast together before you head off for work, or message each other during your day when you have a spare moment?”
Aim for small, regular changes. “Remember, relationship goals don’t have to be big and intimidating, in fact to the contrary, it’s often the little things that count. Studies show that doing something thoughtful on a daily basis is far more valued and can instigate change.”
Celebrate your progress. “Once you’ve set your couple goals be sure to acknowledge the gains that you’ve made and show appreciation for your partner’s efforts throughout the year. Research shows that these gestures of appreciation will make you both happier and more likely to achieve your relationship goals."