Q. Why is it helpful to set a relationship goal?
A. I don’t think a lot of people have a relationship goal. Or at least they don’t give voice to it.
But it’s helpful to overtly name how you would like your relationship to feel – and what you both value most about being in a relationship together. And that’s because we tend to make all kinds of assumptions. For example, you might think a particular aspect of your relationship is working well, but your partner might not.
So deciding to set a relationship goal can actually bring up important conversations.
It forces you and your partner to ask yourselves: how do we want to feel in this relationship? And that’s the key question.
Q. How do we know what our goal should focus on?
A. You can approach your goal from two angles.
On one hand, you can look at what you tend to argue about or disagree on the most, with these questions:
It’s about reflecting on those cycles – and coming up with a goal so they don’t happen anymore.
Or, you can create your goal from a more positive angle, by reflecting on the feelings you want to cultivate more of in your relationship.
It’s coming back to that essential question I raised earlier of how you both want to feel in the relationship. And then asking, well, what makes us feel that way?
Is it travel? Is it a regular date night? Is it hiking, parenting together or having a home of your own? Perhaps it’s having open conversations about things that really matter.
Q. How do we ensure our goal actually comes to life?
A. The key here is to get practical about it. It’s the same as setting any other goal.
You need to be specific about what will move you towards achieving your goal.
If you can, put timeframes on things. Then, try to make action plans. Is your partner going to organise the dancing lessons while you arrange the babysitter?
Are you going to book a restaurant every Thursday night and your partner will cook one night a week?
You also need to make sure you both truly want the goal – and know why you’re doing it. This will help increase your motivation.
Because without a why, there will be no will.
Q. We’re still having trouble thinking of a goal. Could you give us some common examples?
A. Often, my clients want to feel more connected. More like a team. They want to eliminate fights, bickering and defensiveness.
Others want to have more romance and affection. Or they want to find the excitement again in their sex life.
Perhaps you’re looking for more quality time with one another – without kids and the distractions?
From my experience, the most helpful goal to succeed in a relationship is to not be defensive and overly reactive with one another. Instead, you need to be each other’s dear friends. Of course you can have other best friends, but your partner should be one of them.
Having a trustable friendship is the most important foundation for any relationship… Perhaps you need to work on nurturing that?
Q. What are things that might get in the way of achieving our goal?
A. The biggest obstacle would be not getting your diary out and scheduling your action plan.
You need to be proactive. And specific.
If you’re not focused or don’t care about it enough, it won’t happen.
It’s also important to prioritise. It’s only natural that competing demands will arise, but when you make your goal – and your relationship – a priority, you learn to say ‘no’ to things that aren’t as important.
If you’d like some qualified relationship advice from Dr Debra Campbell, or one of our other psychologists, we’re here to help. Please call us on 1300 995 636 to make an appointment. Or learn more about cultivating healthy relationships in Dr Debra Campbell’s’ book, Lovelands.