#Relationshipgoals typically feel like a social media invention. Cue the photos of couples going on picnics, extravagant vacations, or sharing an ice cream cone. But even though these photos are often created for social media, they reflect the desire most of us have for very real goals for our relationships, especially when we’re just starting out with our partner. Most of us don’t want to passively experience our partner, but want to grow together and achieve increasing levels of tangible and emotional health over time.
While everyone and their relationship is unique, there are some healthy goals we should all strive for, especially in a relatively new relationship. Talk these through with your partner and ensure you’re on the same page about what you want from each other and the relationship!
1. Regular Date Nights
It’s helpful to develop good rhythms early in any relationship! Of all the ongoing habits that tend to fade away as a relationship progresses, date nights are typically one of the first to go. Usually, one or both people get busy and don’t have the time to schedule a night out, but it’s important to prioritize date nights.They’re dedicated time to invest in each other without the distraction of everyday life. That one-on-one time is extremely helpful for building intimacy, getting to know each other more, and deepening the relationship. So build a weekly or bi-weekly date night into your routine, and, no matter how busy life gets, spend intentional time together. This past year has encouraged couples to get creative with date nights. Whether you live in an area where you can go out and socially distance or you have to stay home together, the important thing is to spend quality time together. At-home date nights are often just as fun, if not more fun than going out to do something, you can try new recipes, play board games, do blind taste tests, find something that works for you, get creative, and remember to spend time with each other.
2. Know and Embrace Love Languages
Gary Chapman’s Love Languages book is a great book which outlines five general ways that partners express and experience love. The five love languages he outlines are: quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, receiving gifts, and acts of service. This captivating and easy-to-read book will help you understand yourself and the people around you better. If you have never read Chapman’s book, we encourage you to read it. We believe it is a great tool to grow as an individual and strengthen your relationships. It’s important to understand models like the love languages that can help you and your partner understand how each other best accepts love so you can give love and affection in ways the other best appreciates.
When the natural way you receive love is different from the natural way someone gives love, it shows how much they love you when they make an effort to love you in the way you appreciate most. If your partner loves words of affirmation, make it your goal to give plenty of honest praise for the things they do well or personality traits you admire. This will help them feel especially seen, known, and appreciated. If both partners learn each other's' love languages and offer the form of affection the other likes, the result will be two happy partners.
3. Financial Unity
A new relationship isn’t the place to combine resources or open a joint bank account, but it is the perfect place to get on the same page about money. Talk about your philosophy on money and budgeting so each person knows the other’s financial ethic. You both should also talk about expectations around who picks up the bill on dates, pays for gas on road trips, or buys dinner when you eat in. Set a policy that you both agree on and stick to it! And if the policy doesn’t work, be open to having more conversations about how you treat money in the relationship.
Since money is such a sensitive topic for most people, help set a relatively slow pace for having these conversations so it doesn’t become overwhelming for either person.
A trigger is defined as something that sets off a memory tape or flashback bringing the person back to the event of their original trauma. Don’t take triggers lightly–most adults have experienced some form of trauma in their lives. In a new relationship, you don’t know the things that can trigger stress and negative emotional responses so ease into the conversation about triggers. Ask simple, non-prodding questions about pet-peeves and grow into a discussion about things that can be hard to see or experience. Maybe it’s the anniversary of a death in the family or something that reminds the person of past abuse. Most people aren’t willing to immediately open up about their trauma and triggers so be patient, gentle, and kind. While your partner opens up about their past, do your best to open up about yours and remind them that the relationship is a safe and appropriate place to talk through triggers that can introduce pain into your experience of being together.
5. Ritualize Generosity
Generosity in a relationship is an often-overlooked foundation for health and happiness between two people. Get into a ritual of spoiling each other: That encourages both people to make small sacrifices for the other’s happiness and it promotes giving and blessing each other. An important by-product of generosity is the fact that it helps both people focus more on their partner and less on themselves. This promotes selflessness and kindness as opposed to seeking out one’s own good and benefit in a relationship.
You don’t have to buy gifts for each other each week. Let each other know the things you cherish and strive to make that happen periodically. That might mean using your skill to create something for your mate, buying them coffee once a week, or even giving up your weekend to help them move. Not only is it important to be generous towards each other, but also to live a generous life together. Generosity is contagious. Choose to bless others outside of your relationship as well, this will bring a new found intimacy when you get to bless other people together with what you have been given. As a relationship goal, make generosity a habit.
Oxford Dictionary defines intimacy as, “close familiarity or friendship; closeness.” When people hear intimacy they often assume physical intimacy, however there many types of intimacy which include: emotional, creative, intellectual, experiential, and spiritual. For new relationships, some intimacy is healthy and necessary to build trust and help both people bond. Don’t rush into it—pace yourself well and embrace mild forms of intimacy like holding hands, a kiss, or hug, a thoughtful and personal conversation without oversharing, or a fun light-hearted activity. Set boundaries early to avoid becoming too intimate too soon which may artificially inflate the relationship and make each person feel closer than they truly are to the other person. However, intimacy is a great goal to develop a new relationship.
Make trust a top relationship goal! Trust is important for all successful relationships—without trust, neither person feels secure, confident, nor excited to be with the other person. Without trust, there’s natural division and disunity.
Build trust by setting the example for vulnerability and openness and making it clear that the other person can trust you. Encourage each other to be reliable partners, keep your promises, and stay true to your commitments—those actions communicate that you respect and trust each other.
8. New Activities
Couples can develop strong bonds and enjoy each other more when they engage in fun hobbies together. While you both have your own hobbies and favorite activities, make an effort to do things together. Go exploring in small cities near where you live, try new outdoor sports together, cook together, or even try your hand at upcycling thrifted furniture. Whatever you do, look for activities where you can play to the strengths of each other while also challenging and encouraging each other.
Be patient with yourselves! Some couples try for months of even years before finding something they both enjoy. Just keep exploring online event calendars and Groupons to find something that interests you both.
9. Healthy Communication
Whether in the heat of an argument or in everyday life, reflect on the ways you can communicate well and find ways of speaking that honor and respect your partner. Healthy communication is one of the most important goals in any relationship. With healthy communication as a top priority, you and your partner will forgive more quickly and resolve conflicts, empathize with each other, and identify topics that need to be addressed.
Be open and honest with your partner at all times and ask the same of them. When there’s a culture that encourages vulnerability and respect in communication, partners tend to develop a strong sense of trust.
Respect is another top relationship goal. We don’t just mean respect for each other, but respect for yourselves as well. While it’s easy to get lost in a relationship and focus on your partner, it’s critical to also remind yourself of your worth and value. Avoid cycles that lead to you or your partner being disrespected. That means voicing your concerns when you feel disrespected by your partner and being humble when your partner says they felt disrespected by you. It’s also important to voice your concern if you feel like your partner is disrespecting others outside your relationship–this disrespect can also be toxic to your relationship.
Strive for a pattern of self-respect and respect for your partners in all situations.
At the end of the day, it’s definitely okay to take the cute #relationshipgoals photos for social media! Just make sure you and your partner are investing the time and energy needed to flourish as a couple.