It's important to have goals in all areas of life. If we want to get in better shape we set goals for how many days to exercise and how to improve our eating habits. If we want to save more money we set goals for how to reduce our spending and increase our income.
What are relationship goals?
Couple goals are focused objectives couples develop to improve their relationship on multiple fronts. Some common areas may include improve communication, improve empathy, improve conflict resolution, improve sharing power, improve sharing workload, improve sexual intimacy, and increase quality time spent together.
But how many of us have couple goals? How many of us intentionally think about how we could improve as partners to improve our relationship? Not many! No wonder many couples drift into complacency in their relationship, they aren't setting goals. This article will provide a guidepost on some of the top goals to consider if you want to develop and sustain a successful relationship.
Couple Goals - Top 6 To Follow
1-Establishing a Covenant Foundation
The first step in developing couple goals is having a covenant foundation to your relationship. Most couples approach their commitment as a contract where they are in it until their needs aren't met and they don't feel in love. Their commitment is entirely based on their feelings. Unfortunately, as most of us know, feelings are fleeting so this approach makes commitment fragile. In contrast, the covenant approach says you're in it for the long-haul, despite winter seasons where your needs aren't met and you don't feel in love. It's during those seasons you dig deeper and try harder by reaching out for help through a podcast, book, seminar, or counselor. The covenant approach creates more security in the relationship because partners don't threaten to end things each time there's a conflict. And greater security leads to greater emotional and physical intimacy. Also, staying in a relationship long-term provides opportunities to become refined in your character through constructive feedback from your partner. For example, over time, your partner may highlight that you can sometimes be a poor listener, self-focused, controlling, critical, etc. This type of feedback provides opportunity for you to reflect on and work toward becoming a better person and partner. This opportunity is absent in contract marriages because people jump from relationship to relationship when things get difficult.
2. Owning Your Brokenness
The second step in developing couple goals is owning your brokenness. Brokenness is the culmination of all the weaknesses you bring into a relationship. We all have them. Usually, these shortcomings are created from challenges or difficulties we experienced growing up. Then, once you're in a relationship your areas of brokenness interact with your partner's and vicious cycles are created. Therefore, it's vital to list out your top three areas of brokenness and own them. Then, you can look for the vicious cycles both of your areas of brokenness create in your relationship. For example, you may bring the bent to be controlling into the relationship and your partner may bring the bent to be passive. This quickly creates a vicious cycle where the more you are controlling the more your partner becomes passive and the more your partner becomes passive the more you become controlling. This is a vicious cycle. If you both paused to reflect on your brokenness and owned your part it could do several things. First, it would highlight both of your growth areas you both need to work on. You need to work on becoming less controlling and learn how to share power, which we'll discuss next, and your partner needs to learn how to become more vocal with his/her opinions. When both partners are owning their brokenness it leads to faster reconciliation of conflicts because you both are able to apologize for your part. Also, owning your brokenness injects healthy humility and emotional safety into the relationship by acknowledging you both aren't perfect because you both have growth areas.
3. Learning to Share Power
The third step in developing relationship goals is learning to share power. Sharing power occurs when both partners feel like they have an equal voice in all decisions of their relationship. If you feel like no matter what you say your partner does whatever they want anyway then they aren't sharing power. Feeling like your voice matters and is heard is vital to a healthy relationship. In fact, relationships that don't share power tend to have more conflict because feeling voiceless quickly leads to resentment. Some people struggle sharing power for a variety of factors. For example, if you were raised with a permissive parent who allowed you to come and go as you pleased you probably developed a strong will doing whatever you wanted. Not surprisingly, you brought that strong will into your adult relationship and now it's hard for you to share power because you're used to doing things your way. This also can happen if you were an only child growing up and never had to share with a sibling and everything was centered around your preferences. Likewise, this would make it harder for you to share power in your adult relationship because you're used to getting things your way. The opposite can also occur. For example, if you were raised with strict and authoritarian parents you may have never developed your voice growing up on what you feel and think. Therefore, you may be too quick to give up power in your adult relationship because you didn't have any growing up. Regardless of your background, you must strive toward sharing power with your partner so you both have an equal voice in your relationship on all decisions that impact you as a couple.
4. Developing Emotional Attachment
The fourth step in developing couple goals is developing emotional attachment. The goal is to feel like best friends with your partner. But how do you get there? First, you have to work through any unresolved resentments in your relationship. Resentments are part and parcel to long-term relationships because inevitably you and your partner are going to hurt one another intentionally or unintentionally because you're both imperfect people. Then, in response to hurt feelings you probably either stuff it down or blow up and both responses are harmful to the relationship. Every unresolved resentment is a brick in the wall dividing you and your partner. Therefore, addressing areas of resentment and resolving them is a vital first step to emotional closeness. It's hard to feel like best friends with someone you resent! After resentments are worked through, it's important to start nurturing your emotional connection in the relationship. This is primarily done through a regular routine I call the head/heart check. This is time where both partners power off their devices, provide one another undivided attention, then proceed to have a quality conversation to become updated on one another again. We are each constantly changing day to day with what we are feeling and thinking. And if there's no way to stay updated with our partner, we quickly become outdated. Therefore, the head/heart check is a method to help you and your partner stay updated on one another. It involves both partners asking one another "what's been on your head and heart?" The head is everything you did throughout the day and the heart is everything you felt and why. The most common feeling categories are mad, sad, glad, or fear. It's helpful to spend a few moments consolidating what you felt throughout the day before the head/heart check so you're prepared to share during it. There are two guidelines to remember during the head/heart check. First, you're not allowed to bring up anything negative you've been feeling toward your partner during it or else they'll associate it with time to be criticized. Second, you're not allowed to give any advice to your partner unless they ask you for it. Instead, respond with empathy to help them feel supported. Great empathy statements to master include "makes sense you would feel ____ because of ____, no wonder you feel ____, or that sucks."
5. Cultivating Sexual Fireworks
The fifth step in developing relationship goals is cultivating sexual fireworks. Most relationships are made up of a high and libido partner. The high libido partner pursues sex and the low libido partner proceeds to have obligation sex. When obligation sex becomes the norm the low libido partner usually develops resentment. However, if sexual advances by the high libido partner are constantly denied they develop resentment. It's a conundrum for most couples, which creates a vicious cycle where each partner begins waiting for their needs to be met before they meet their partner's needs. For example, the low libido partner will often say they need emotional intimacy before they are open to sexual intimacy. In contrast, high libido partners will say they need sexual intimacy to be open to emotional intimacy. The perfect standoff! The goal to a healthy sex life is for couples to first work through resentments, then build emotional intimacy through head/heart checks and regular dates, then add sensual activity together, such as cuddling, showering, or a sensual massage. After sensual activity when both partners are aroused or open to getting aroused things can turn sexual. However, sexual activity should be viewed as a buffet rather than intercourse or nothing. Low libido partners often aren't up for intercourse so they'll choose nothing. Instead, consider some nights you do everything above the waist, other nights you do everything manual below the waist, other nights you do everything oral below the waist, or other nights you both masturbate next to one another, etc. The preference for the night defers to the low libido partner to bring back voice and choice. This also benefits the high libido partner because some type of sexual activity will occur more frequently and their partner will be more engaged during it.
6. Staying in Love
The sixth step in developing couple goals is staying in love. You entered into a committed relationship with your partner because you fell in love with them and they fell in love with you. Therefore, staying in love becomes the ultimate goal for couples. However, most couples fall out of love over time because they stop tending to the relationship. Enter the love bucket tool. The love bucket tool helps couples fall back in love and stay in love. You have a love bucket inside of you and your partner is the faucet. In the beginning of the relationship they were doing all the right things to fill up your bucket. However, over time they turned down the faucet and started dripping water into your bucket instead. Meanwhile, they started doing behaviors you don't like and that created a hole in the bottom of your bucket and water started leaking out. When love buckets get dry you fall out of love. Therefore, filling up love buckets is essential to falling back in love and staying in love. To start, think of the top three fillers you need to feel loved and satisfied and the top three drainers your partner does that makes you feel negative toward them. Common fillers include emotional intimacy, affection, adoration, sex, quality time, etc. Next, think of the top three drainer behaviors your partner does that makes you feel negative toward them. Common drainers include harsh anger, controlling, critical, defensiveness, selfish, etc. The goal is to begin providing your partner's fillers they desire to fill up their bucket while reducing the drainer behavior that drains it. If you're providing the fillers but still doing the drainers you're effort will be pointless because your drainer behaviors will cancel out all of the fillers! Therefore, to fill up your partner's love bucket you must learn to fill it up while eliminating your drainer behavior that drains it down. Doing so consistently will make you irresistible and that's the key to staying in love! I believe in this model so much I developed a couples app for it called Keep the Glow you can access here.
And there you have it, the top six relationship goals to dedicate your relationship to if you want to thrive. Establishing a covenant foundation, owning your brokenness, learning to share power, developing emotional attachment, cultivating sexual fireworks, and staying in love. These steps are covered in more depth at my Total Marriage Refresh marriage retreats and in my book for couples. Don't delay! Get started today working the steps to turn around your relationship and propel it forward for years to come.
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What other couple goals or relationship goals would you recommend and why?