Thanks to the popular #RelationshipGoals hashtag, social media has introduced us to a number of over the top goals people have for themselves and their significant others. From eating pizza in bed together and walking in the snow, to couple lip-sync sessions in the car and romantic picnics in the back of a truck bed—the internet is swimming with cutesy, improbable memes that are bound to make every couple second guess their relationship goals and status.
But even if the hashtag #RelationshipGoals doesn’t exactly represent an authentic view of someone’s relationship, is setting goals for your relationship a good idea to do anyway?
To answer the question, we talked with Nicole McCance, a relationship psychotherapist, about what every couple needs to know about setting relationship goals.
Goals Keep Your Relationship Thriving
Similar to your career or fitness goals, your relationship can plateau if you don’t give it your full attention. If your relationship has been stagnant, maybe it’s time for you and your partner to create some relationship goals.
“When it comes to our romantic relationships, we have a tendency to expect it to flow without a lot of work,” says McCance. “Taking the time to focus on your relationship, engage in self-awareness, and have a deeper conversation with your partner will only bring you closer and deepen your connection.”
Share Your Goals With Your Partner
“To set relationship goals together, pick a time to have the conversation where you won’t be interrupted and can write the goals down,” recommends McCance. “Writing them down will make them feel more real.”
Maybe you wish that your partner would ask you about your day more, or maybe you’d like your partner to touch you more. Whatever you’re desiring from your relationship, McCance suggests being honest and open with your partner about your relationship goals.
“I suggest couples both write down three goals on their own and then share them with each other, explaining why each goal is important to them. This can lead to some good conversations about the satisfaction and fulfillment in the relationship as well.” Try not to be critical of your partner’s needs and ask questions if you don’t understand his or her request. Above all: try not to take it personally if they need something that you aren’t giving them.
Keep Your Goals Simple
McCance recommends some simple, and fun, goals that are important to the growth and success of your relationship:
Weekly date night. Life can be busy and relationships can sometimes feel mundane. It’s important to do fun and romantic things together on a weekly basis. Date night can be something to look forward to throughout the week. Dinner dates are great because it forces you both to connect and have a conversation. Or maybe the two of you can participate in a hobby together such as hiking, wine tasting, or going to check out different live music around town.
Sex twice a week. Research shows that couples who have sex two or more times a week are more satisfied in their relationships. The week can go by fast, so try putting reminders in your phone but don’t tell your partner and then surprise them by initiating sex.
Ask about your partner’s day. This may sound basic but McCance finds that it’s the first thing to go in relationships that are floundering. Invest in knowing what’s going on in your partner’s life. Take interest. A happy relationship is one based on a foundation of friendship. If you don’t bother to know what’s going on in their life then they’ll start to feel alone and possibly even start sharing this information with someone outside of the relationship, who will make them feel heard.
No phone time. Many couples don’t actually speak to each other. They get home exhausted and then watch TV at the same time as they text with their friends. There is minimal conversation with their partner. McCance hears from many patients who feel neglected and alone in their relationship. By keeping your phone in a different room you’ll be forced to connect with your partner more. Try also eating a meal at the table and not in front of the TV. It’s amazing how much you find out about your partner’s day and life if you have conversation over dinner.
Don’t Sweat it if You Don’t Hit a Goal
Like it is with many things in life, it’s important to remember that when working towards your relationship goals, it’s the journey that counts—not the destination.
“Seeing relationship goals as something that you’re always working on and moving towards will keep you motivated when there are drawbacks,” says McCance. “Success in anything takes time. See striving for your relationship goals as the relationship developing rather then having to get somewhere.”
Above all, make sure your relationship goals are coming from you and not what social media or society tells you your relationship should look like. Because, as we all know, social media mostly portrays people’s best selves—not their real selves. Your relationship may look different from the rest of the world, and that’s okay. It’s your relationship and it needs to work for you, not everyone else.