Why do so many marriages end in divorce? The answer is simple. Couples go on autopilot. They stop being intentional about their marriage. Instead, they go through the motions. They don’t think about the future of their relationship and lose sight of what they want. When people don’t have clear goals, they get lazy, complicit, and go off track. If this is you, know that you are in good company and this don’t mean that you are going to get divorced. It just means that you need a little help and some resolutions to set.
Perhaps your marriage is currently derailed. Or maybe you are doing pretty well but want to take your relationship to the next level. Either way, this exercise can help. Goal setting is critical to living the life (and having the marriage) that you want. And what better time to capitalize on goals than with the start of a New Year?
Many people set resolutions for health and career during the New Year but they don’t always do the same for their relationship. Which is interesting because healthy relationships are associated with lower stress levels and a myriad of health benefits. So the best thing you can do for yourself this year is to invest in your marriage.
Now if you’ve ever made and failed to follow through on a New Year’s Resolution, you know that goal setting isn’t always simple. Don’t worry, I’ve got tips to set you up for success. My mission is helping people have epic relationships and awesome lives. You don’t have to settle. Your life and relationship can be much, much better.
Goal Setting as a Couple: Recipe for Relationship Success
Focus on what you WANT
When couples come to my office they can often share what they’d like to change. Usually it’s what they want their partner to change. And it’s frequently framed in what they DON’T want. “I want her to stop nagging” or “I want us to fight less.” While this is a good start, you want to focus on what you’d like to see instead. Change comes from deciding and aiming for what you’d rather have in your relationship—connection, support, love, etc.
The truth is that we see what we focus on. So if we’re focused on nagging, we’ll see if ALL THE TIME. But if we focus on acts of affection, we’ll start to see the moments of our partner trying to connect with us. Focusing on what we want gives us direction and hope. And both of those are crucial here.
Another mistake people make is to pick vague goals. When goal setting, you want to pick clear, actionable, and measurable goals. For example, “I want to feel more connected” is too vague. A better goal would be “I’d like to talk about our day once the kids go to bed” or “I’d like to go on a date night once a week” or “I want dinner to be screen-free.” These are the kinds of goals you can easily implement. Which makes it more likely that you’ll follow through. And, let’s face it, you want things to be better.
Setting clear, action-oriented goals that you can measure is helpful for two reasons. One, as I mentioned already, you can actually take action on them. And two, you can tell if things are getting better. You can tell that you and your partner are making an effort to feeling more connected versus having to rely on intuition alone. And, if you’re anything like most of the couples that I work with, you want tangible signs of improvement.
Too often we choose big picture goals. Think wedding vows. It doesn’t get much loftier than that. So while you might not be living up to those, you can start small with this year’s couple goals. And starting small will set you up for success. Because manageable goals are doable goals. They are ones that you can do and follow through on.
So don’t make your goal fixing your communication, conflict resolution, or infrequent sex problem. Make your goals a set in the right direction towards fixing that larger problem. If you are struggling with conflict resolution, make your goal to calmly express yourself and take a break if things get heated. Start small and then you can build on it.
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