Relationship Goals to Maintain Long-Lasting Affection

You’ve probably heard the term “relationship goals” being thrown about here and there.  Social media has definitely helped promote this to a new level.  Urban Dictionary defines the term as “A couple with such a perfect relationship that other people aspire to them, the “goal” being to have a relationship like the one that the couple has.   

But what exactly are relationship goals?  While showing affection by hugging, holding hands, kissing, or referring to each other as bae can be something that expresses loving feelings, relationship goals are not necessarily confined to public displays of sweet togetherness. 

Don’t get me wrong, the affection is wonderful and can help you feel connected to your partner.  But, these are the aftereffects of hard work from working the goals.  The real relationship goals help you receive and maintain those strong feelings of affection. 

Here are a few goals to explore to strengthen your relationship: 

Spend quality time together.  Couples are so busy nowadays.  With careers and raising children, it can be difficult to figure out when there is time to be alone together.  Digging deep for your creativity in planning for date night comes in handy here.  But the keyword to keep in mind is QUALITY.  It’s not about how much time is spent but instead how connected you feel to your partner in the amount of time you do get to share. 

Learn how to meet each other’s needs. Funny thing is, we naturally tend to give to our partner’s the way we like to receive. Unfortunately, most couples don’t always line up in this department. “If my partner cared, shouldn’t they just know what to do? This way of thinking will only set you up for disappointment. While some couples get lucky and match each other perfectly, the rest of us have to ask, inform, or share our preferences in order to learn the best ways to meet our partner’s needs. Try taking the Five Love Languages Quiz developed by Gary Chapman to learn yours! 

Create personal goals together.  What are some common goals the two of you share?  Maybe it’s learning a new language, taking a trip to a foreign country, or saving up to buy a home.  Or maybe you’re thinking about starting a family.  It’s good to have some common goals in which each of you plays a role in attaining the goal.  At the same time, it’s great to show support for each partner’s individual goals.  Our desires may not always match up, and that’s okay. One partner may really find it exhilarating to skydive while the other partner thinks “hell no!”  We can’t always join our partners in their journeys, but we can show support from a distance.  And for skydiving, that’s a really, really great distance!

Have fun together.  Work on finding ways to laugh more with each other.  Playfulness is the best tool to keep a relationship fresh and exciting.  Most couples begin with lots of fun and laughter.  However, over time, as they build a life together, things get more serious.  Try remembering how the relationship was early on.  Tap into those activities that brought the two of you joy and closeness.  And if some of those activities do not fit into your lifestyles anymore, find new ones!  Think… if you were planning to ask your partner on a first date, what would that look like?

Work through conflict with respect and kindness.  Conflict is natural and expected in a relationship.  “We never fight,” is bullshit.  Seriously, if you never argue, then there is not enough honesty going on in the relationship.  Getting into arguments with each other can be uncomfortable and distressing, however it’s more about how you choose to communicate with each other during the conflict that matters most.  Take turns in sharing and listening.  Active listening is way more important than talking.  This can help reduce and manage the conflict.

Goals for one couple may not be the same for another.   Each couple is unique and so it is wise to avoid using comparisons to assess one’s relationship.  A big problem that does exist is we get too wrapped up in what social media tells us relationships should look like that we lose the ability to perceive it realistically.  You know what you want from your relationship! So go out and get it!

Being Responsible Communicators: Three Skills to Manage Couples Conflict

When a partner presents conflict, how is that information given and how is it received? 

What might you say?  You’re such a slob!  Why can’t you ever pick up after yourself?!

How do you respond?  Shut up!  You’re always on my ass about stupid shit! 

When conflict arises, the responsibility to communicate effectively resides with both persons.  Yes both!  It does not matter who started the argument.  If you enter into a fight with the attitude that “I’m going to win” then chances are you’re going to have many arguments in your relationship that will leave you both feeling hopeless and exhausted.  Pointing fingers and throwing blame will not make either of you winners.  Bowing out and avoiding also does not do anyone any favors.

How we speak and listen to our partners during times of conflict expresses how much or how little we respect them.  Over time, partners get a sense of what to expect in future arguments which often leads to a communication cycle or pattern.  In some relationships, one can learn to expect their partner to become disengaged, defensive, or even combative during conflict.  In others, partners might learn that their counterpart is accepting of differing views which make them feel at ease with talking about difficult problems.  The pattern you want to create is up to you.

Here are three tips for building trust and responsibility with conflict:

Speak Gently

When telling your partner that something bothers you, try wording it as an observation.  Avoid starting with “you did this” or “you did that.”  I statements are a great way to express yourself and minimize defensiveness.  When you can present information clearly without accusations or blame, people are more receptive to working toward a solution.  The listening partner can ask for clarification: “I believe what I hear you saying is…” and ask “Was that accurate?”  This expresses to your partner that you have a desire to understand and accept. 

Perspective Taking

When discussing conflict, it is good practice to try to understand how the other person feels.  Mind reading or basing your prediction of your partner’s actions on past history does not help to see your partner accurately, fairly, or provide opportunities for positive change.  Instead, be curious about your partner’s feelings and thoughts.  Respond with, “I see you feel strongly about this.  How come?”  Ask questions like, “What makes you feel this certain way?” or “How long have you felt like this?” to gain clarification.

Provide Validation

Validation does not mean you have to agree with your partner, instead it is about expressing your acceptance of your partner’s differing thoughts and feelings.  Saying something like, “I can see how that would make you feel hurt” can go a long way.  People naturally want to feel understood and connected with others. By accepting your partner’s point of view, it helps them feel secure and valued.

Psychologist Carl Rogers explained it best, “When someone really hears you without passing judgment on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good!”

Essentially, trust needs to exist on both sides.  Trust to bring and share concerns that need to be addressed.  Trust to listen and respond respectfully.  When both partners are doing their part to work through conflict, they are essentially creating healthy and secure communication patterns for future disagreements.  You have the power, the responsibility, and the choice to set the stage for conflict between you and your partner. So what will you choose?