You’ve heard it before, and for good reason: Relationships are work. You get out what you put into them, meaning there’s almost always room for improvement. Whether you’re fresh off of a first date or working towards many years together, it pays to have some goals in mind to keep your relationship strong and ever-evolving.
The very act of outlining some goals can bring a couple even closer with a fresh set of shared intentions. These goals maintain a certain balance and encourage longevity. Plus, they’ll not only give you direction — they’ll reward you when you achieve them.
Here are nine major goals couples should strive for to keep their relationship healthy.
When a relationship goes quiet, it’s very hard to sustain. Communication is arguably the most important aspect of any relationship, and an easy one to overlook. We tend to sideline talking and being open with each other when we’re busy, tired, or just don’t feel like it. Internalizing emotions is rarely good, and the negative aspects usually multiply.
Make a note to check in with your partner daily, even if it’s just to ask, “How are you?” or “How’s your day?” It seems elementary, but there’s a good chance you’re looking past that important back-and-forth exchange. It’s especially easy for those in long-term relationships to think communication is implied when in reality it takes some upkeep.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zones
When you flee your comfort zone, you reveal a different side of you and one that’s important to embrace for the sake of the relationship as a whole. Your particular comfort zone is subjective and could mean anything from going camping for the weekend or trying yoga for the first time. It could mean agreeing to do something your partner has always wanted to do that you’re not as interested in.
No matter what it is, it will open your mind as well as your partner’s and paint a more complete picture of who you both are. After all, things won’t always be predictable and normal, so it’s wise to get a sneak peek at how the two of you will respond to a new environment.
Challenge Each Other
In addition to collective goals, couple members have individual goals too. Turns out, these personal ambitions are more achievable with a strong supporting cast. Sometimes we think it’s best to sacrifice these personal goals, deeming them selfish. However, that’s not always the case.
Talk about what you hope to do and be and how you might get there. You’ll have a cheerleader at your side, not to mention somebody there to challenge you to keep going when some bumps inevitably spring up along the way. Just be careful not to be overly competitive about it. This is not a battle or a race, just a collective pursuit.
Plan for the Future
Keeping a relationship going requires some foresight. If the future is left entirely as an unknown, it can pose a potential risk. You don’t need to talk about marriage two weeks in or retirement on your one-year anniversary, but when you do gaze into the crystal ball, it allows you both to prepare somewhat — and with preparedness comes readiness.
This can be as simple as outlining your next few weeks and creating a routine or sketching out what you might like to be doing several years down the road. Don’t worry — this won’t dampen any element of excitement going forward. More times than not, it will just provide a bit of a safety blanket.
Hang 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, first and foremost to hang out but also to study what makes them work so well. You’ll be surprised by the seemingly subtle things you witness and how much they can bolster your own partnership. If it happens to be a couple that’s been at it longer than you and your partner, you may come away with a new goal: To follow in their footsteps.
Many couples go the therapy route as a last resort when, in fact, it can be a great resource throughout a healthy relationship. You can attend therapy solo or with your partner, whichever feels more comfortable. A good therapist offers a safe space in which you can be entirely honest without fear of judgment or anger. This is often where initial relationship issues show up, well before they become problematic. This kind of early detection can be incredibly helpful and set the two of you up for the long haul.
Consider Your Parents
Keep your parents in mind. That doesn’t mean you have to be like them. What’s far more helpful is to learn from them. The nature of relationships changes from generation to generation, but many truths persist as well. You may be turning into your mom or dad as you get older, but you can try to focus on the strengths you’ve inherited as well as working past some of the negatives.
Communicate with your parents, whether they’re single or have been happily married for decades. They’ve been through much of this before and can offer valuable insights. If you’re not close enough with your own parents for this, consider seeking out other elders (an in-law, a neighbor, a mentor) for some wisdom.
Keep Going on Dates
The best couples keep it fresh. We know — it’s hard to replicate that first night at the bar or restaurant years later. But the very act of just the two of you getting out is both healthy 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. They need to know you still find them attractive and worth spending time with. You can find romance anywhere, but it’s admittedly easier on a date, whether that’s a restaurant you’ve always wanted to go to or just an evening stroll through a park
Embrace a Little Conflict
No relationship is perfect, but imperfections aren’t always bad. Conflict can be a tool as long as it’s addressed compassionately and fairly. You’re not always going to agree with your partner, but there’s no harm in that. Find those disagreements and, instead of tucking them away somewhere to brew resentment, see if you can’t patch them up. Realize that this will take time and requires patience and empathy from both sides, and know that a little conflict can lead to some remarkable solutions.