You’ve heard it before, and with good reason: relationships are work. You get out what you put in, which means there’s almost always room for improvement. Whether you’re fresh off a first date or working together for many years, it pays to have a few goals in mind to keep your relationship strong and constantly evolving.
Just articulating a few goals can bring a couple closer together with new shared intentions. These goals maintain a certain balance and promote longevity. Plus, they don’t just give you directions — they reward you for accomplishing them.
Here are nine important goals couples should aim for to keep their relationship healthy.
When a relationship goes quiet, it’s very hard to maintain. Communication is arguably the most important aspect of any relationship and it’s easy to overlook. We tend to put conversations aside and be open with each other when we’re busy, tired, or just not feeling like it. Embracing emotions is seldom good, and the negative aspects usually multiply.
Make a note to check in with your partner daily, even if it’s just “How are you?” or “How is your day?” It seems elementary, but there’s a good chance you’re looking past this important exchange. It’s especially easy for those in long-term relationships to believe that communication is implied when in fact it requires some nurturing.
Leave your comfort zones
Stepping out of your comfort zone shows a different side of you and one that you should embrace for the relationship as a whole. Your particular comfort zone is subjective and can mean anything from camping for the weekend to trying yoga for the first time. It could mean that you agree to do something your partner has always wanted to do that you are not that interested in doing.
No matter what it is, it will open up both your and your partner’s minds and paint a fuller picture of who you both are. After all, things won’t always be predictable and normal, so it’s wise to get a little taste of how the two of you will react to a new environment.
Challenge each other
In addition to collective goals, couple members also have individual goals. It turns out that those personal ambitions are more achievable with a strong supporting cast. Sometimes we think it’s best to sacrifice those personal goals because we think they’re selfish. However, this is not always the case.
Talk about what you hope to do and be and how you might get there. You have a cheerleader by your side, not to mention someone who will challenge you to keep going when some bumps inevitably pop up along the way. Just be careful not to be too competitive. This is not a fight or race, just a collective pursuit.
Plan for the future
Keeping a relationship going takes some forethought. If the future remains completely unknown, this can pose a potential risk. You don’t have to talk about marriage or retirement in two weeks on your one-year anniversary, but if you look into the crystal ball, you can both do some preparation — and with readiness comes readiness.
This can be as simple as outlining your next few weeks and creating a routine, or outlining what you would like to be doing in a few years. Don’t worry – this won’t dampen any element of excitement in the future. Most of the time it just provides some sort of security blanket.
Hang out with other couples
Hanging out with other couples will inspire you to find new ways to improve your own relationship. Find a model duo and engage with them often, primarily to spend time but also to learn why they work so well. You will be surprised at what seemingly subtle things you observe and how much they can strengthen your own partnership. If it happens to be a couple who’s been around longer than you and your partner, you can get away with a new goal: to follow in their footsteps.
Many couples take the therapy route as a last resort, when it can indeed be a great resource for a healthy relationship. You can attend therapy alone or with your partner, whichever is more comfortable for you. A good therapist provides a safe space where you can be completely honest without fear of judgment or anger. This is where initial relationship problems often show up long before they become problematic. This kind of early detection can be incredibly helpful and set you both up for the long run.
Think of your parents
Think of your parents. That doesn’t mean you have to be like them. It is much more helpful to learn from them. The nature of relationships changes from generation to generation, but many truths remain. You may turn into your mother or father as you age, but you can try to focus on the strengths you inherited and overcome some of the negative sides.
Communicate with your parents, whether they are single or have been happily married for decades. They’ve been through a lot of it before and can provide valuable insights. If you are not close enough with your own parents to do this, consider asking other elders (in-laws, neighbors, mentors) for advice.
The best couples keep it fresh. We know – it’s hard to repeat that first night in the bar or restaurant years later. But the mere act of just the two of you getting off is both sane and encouraged. It’s important to find ways to impress your significant other from time to time, even if you’ve done it so many times before. You need to know that you still find them attractive and worth spending time with. Romance can be found anywhere, but admittedly it’s easier on a date, whether that’s at that restaurant you’ve always wanted to go to or just an evening stroll through a park
Embrace a small conflict
No relationship is perfect, but imperfections aren’t always bad. Conflict can be a tool as long as it is dealt with compassionately and fairly. You won’t always agree with your partner, but there’s no harm in that. Find those disagreements and, instead of stashing them somewhere to stir up resentment, see if you can’t eliminate them. Realize that this takes time and requires patience and empathy on both sides, and know that a small conflict can lead to some remarkable resolutions.