When it comes to relationships, many people expect fate to throw them in the path of their perfect partner. More people fail to make a relationship work because they think romance should ‘just happen’ than for any other reason. The fact is, people who are successful at maintaining an amazing relationship are proactive and positive about it. Somehow it doesn’t seem ‘sexy’ to think about goal-setting in terms of relationships. We grow up reading fairy tales such as Cinderella, we watch romantic movies, and at no point does the romantic lead ever sit down and write a list of relationship goals – it doesn’t fit the romantic image we dream of. The irony is, setting relationship goals is the best way to create your ‘happy ever after’. In every other area of your life in which you want to achieve something you would set goals, make plans and take action, so why should romance be any different?
Be clear about what you want from your partner and relationship
Start by defining a few key needs you’re not prepared to compromise on in your partner or relationship. It might be trust, kindness or a sense of fun, for example. Then think further about your key preferences in terms of the lifestyle you would like to have. This is not about creating a ‘made to order’ list of requirements, but about being clear about what you want – and what you don’t want.
Set goals: what do you want to achieve?
Do you long to go out more with your partner? Have more fun together? Create more intimacy? Develop more common interests or a particular lifestyle? Improve communication within the relationship? Get married and have children? Be clear about not just the type of relationship you would like to have, but also your vision of the future and how you would like your relationship to be.
Plan for your goals using the SMART approach (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound). Will you create date nights, factor in more time to talk, or make more time for intimacy? Whatever you decide, make sure your plans are SMART so that you can make yourself accountable and track progress.
Whatever you plan, make sure that you now take action. Make it happen. Taking action towards your goals will give you a magnetic energy which will draw the two of you together. Take steps towards your goals every day and be positive in the face of any set-backs. Remember, the people whose relationships are the most successful are people who are proactive, aware and positive in their approach, whether this is to find a partner or to create a magical relationship. As the old adage goes, ‘true love isn’t found; it’s built.’
Remember, we are conditioned to believe that we need to find one ‘perfect’ person who will meet all our needs for the rest of our life. The problem that many people have in terms of meeting suitable partners is that they confuse ‘perfect for them’ with ‘perfect’. There is no such thing as a perfect person. None of us is, and expecting partners to be perfect will only result in disappointment. Stop expecting your partner to be perfect, or to fulfil your every need, and instead be open and willing to work on building the relationship that is perfect for you.
Make your goals specific
Setting specific goals in a relationship can help to ensure that you are on the same page as a couple – and it also helps to keep the relationship vibrant rather than static. There is also more chance that the relationship will succeed over the long term if a couple has shared values and their individual, relationship and long-term goals are complementary. Goal-setting not only helps to outline what each person wants from the relationship; it also means you have the support of another person who understands you and what you are trying to achieve.
Outlining goals can help couples understand what’s important to them both, and creates intimacy in the relationship as it encourages open and transparent communication. The key point is to make sure these goals move beyond the general (‘I want us to be happy’) to the specific (‘I want us to learn how to fight fairly and apologise to each other’).
To ensure that you are a good fit with your chosen partner, here are some of the things to think about when approaching love in this way.
· What are your short-term goals?
· What are your long-term goals?
· Where do you see yourself in six months? A year? Ten years?
· Which areas of your life are you willing to make compromises in?
· Which aspects of yourself are you not willing to change? Why? (This will help you to enter a relationship with a better sense of your own identity and what you most value about yourself.)
· Do you want children?
Once you have defined realistic goals, then you can work as a couple to put steps in place to make the relationship work. If you have different visions, you may need to work together, communicate and look at ways that you can both compromise. Make time to reassess your individual and relationship goals, as these can change over time, and you need to make sure that both people in the relationship feel that their needs are continuing to be met.
Though you must understand your partner’s goals, you also have to take into account your needs. Taking a pragmatic approach to love and having more realistic expectations of relationships can actually be empowering. This doesn’t mean that chemistry, lust and attraction are not necessary; it’s about making sure you have the best chance at love. When a person addresses their own needs, this tends to increase their self-esteem and confidence. Therefore, if you approach love in this way you are more likely to meet people who will be compatible with you, as well as increasing the chance of your relationship working out.