Any relationship, no matter how strong it is, needs nurturing, reminds licensed clinical social worker Diana Gasperoni. "You need a plan to keep your relationship alive, so it goes the distance," she shares. "You want to recommit to loving that person all the time so the relationship doesn't become numb."
Meet the Expert
Diana Gasperoni is a licensed clinical social worker and the founder of Be.Well Psychotherapy Group.
One of the best ways to do that is to have relationship goals. They can cover any topic you care about as a couple. Maybe you want to have sex more often or spice things up in the bedroom? Maybe you want to save enough money to move into a dream home or go on an exotic vacation once a year?
If you are in a committed relationship you can set goals at any stage, whether you've been together for three months or 10 years. Take time to brainstorm individually and as a couple about what you want and then write down your goals. Make sure to update them as your relationship progresses.
It's also important to make time to check in with one another about how you are doing in achieving your objectives. "I have this one patient right now who has a dinner once a month as a check-in," shares Gasperoni. "They talk about where they both are in their personal growth and well-being and how they are feeling about one another. Are their needs getting met? How do they feel? As a result, there isn't a lot of tension in their relationship. And they don't just talk about the bad stuff. They also talk about the positive growth they've made."
To help you get started on your relationship goals, we've created a list of different types of goals to consider. See which ones resonate with you and get started drafting your own list. You'll be well on your way to having the relationship and life you want.
"Emotional goals are how to be close and keep the relationship alive," explains Gasperoni. "Relationships start with sparks, but then the day-to-day of life takes over, and you have to remember to keep the spark alive. That takes conversations with your partner." Here are a few examples of emotional goals you can set.
1. Find a Way to Connect Every Day
Even on your busiest days, find a time to really connect with one another. That can mean spending five minutes to talk over dinner about the highs and lows of your day or sending a text once a day asking how the person is feeling. At the end of every day, Gasperoni reccomends you "ask yourselves if we had some type of connection today where we learned about what was going on in the mind of the other person."
2. Learn Something New About Each Other Each Week
If you've been together for years you may think you know everything there is to know about your partner. But people are deep and complicated, and there are always surprises and new things to learn. Every week find a way to learn something new. You can buy a set of questions or draft them yourselves. "You can even ask [Amazon's] Alexa if she has a question for you both to answer like trivia," suggests Gasperoni.
3. Schedule Regular Check-Ins That You Don't Miss
Schedule time to really check in with each other emotionally. This can be a monthly dinner or a vacation once a year. Come to this event prepared to tell each other all the good and bad feelings you've been having. "You can either sort through your list of grievances and also share the positive things that are happening between the two of you," advises Gasperoni. This way, nothing will get swept under the rug and you can keep renewing your spark.
4. Do Something for Yourselves
While this may sound counterintuitive, a relationship is a partnership. That means it's about teamwork and being on a team means supporting one another individually, as well. Discuss your individual goals together and hold each other accountable for them. Perhaps you want to commit to a new fitness routine, learn a new language, or do some inner work on yourself. Strengthening yourselves individually will only allow you to better show up for your partner and cultivates an environment to evolve in tandem.
5. Try New Things
Variety is the spice of life and, unsurprisingly, just what the relationship doctor ordered for maintaining that initial sense of spontaneity for the long-term. Perhaps it's taste-testing your way through different restaurants or cuisines or taking on a new form of exercise. Whatever it may be, find what sparks joy for both of you and commit to weaving it into your lives on a regular basis, whether that's weekly or monthly.
Sex is a tricky subject for many couples, admits Gasperoni. "It's easy to think every other couple is having sex all the time, but that's not true. The only goal is for both partners to feel sexually satisfied and that you talk about it." Here are some sex-related goals you can make with your partner.
6. Have Sex a Certain Number of Times Each Week
Everyone has different sex drives, and for some individuals, it's important for them to have regular, constant sex. Discuss as a couple how much sex feels good. "Some couples will go a lifetime and have sex two or three times a week, and other couples will have sex every three months," she shares. "It's all OK. What matters is how much sex is really good for both people." Come up with a number and stick to it even if you are tired or busy. Hold one another accountable.
7. Experiment With Sex
Other couples get into sexual ruts, having the same type of sex all the time. If you want to spice things up, make it a goal as a couple. You can even designate one day a week (maybe Wednesday?) as experiment day.
8. Talk About Sex
Again, it can be difficult for couples to talk about sex, but it is essential, reminds Gasperoni: "The goal is to be open and vulnerable when you talk about sex and your needs." The same way you check in with your emotional needs, schedule a time to talk about your sexual needs. It may feel uncomfortable but try to talk about what feels good and what doesn't and if you're having enough sex (and the right kind!). "If you don't have sex you can become companions," she says. "You started off as lovers, and you want to end as lovers, but that takes work."
9. Create a Sex Bucket List
We all know what a bucket list is, now apply it to your sex life. Set aside time to each create your individual bucket list of things you'd like to explore. Then come together and go through both lists, evaluating which items you'd be open to trying, hesitant about, or definitely not into. This will help you gain clarity, and perhaps make this conversation easier to have, so you can compile the positives into your couple bucket list. Keep this as a living compilation and frequently go back to it to hold each other accountable, add, or edit.
Financial and Long-Term Goals
If you are in a committed relationship, you are building a life with someone. It's important to have financial goals and long-term goals that point you in the direction of where you are going. "You should have a lifestyle goal you are working toward and figure out how you are going to get there and how both parties are going to contribute," says Gasperoni. Here are some goals to discuss as a couple.
10. Stick to a Budget
Regardless of your financial situation, it is important for both partners to be on the same page about how much they are spending. For many couples that means having a clear budget that dictates how much they will spend, what amount they will save, and what amount they will invest. Being on the same page with your finances will mean not only avoiding financial fights down the road but having the money set aside for the life you both want.
11. Buy a Dream Home
Every couple should be working toward living together in a home they love. After all, that is where you spend most of your time together. Whether it's an apartment in a city or a home in the suburbs, decide what your future home looks like and create a plan for how to get there financially.
It's also important to think through not just what type of home you want now but in the future, encourages Gasperoni. "Where do you see yourselves in the second half?" she asks. "The kids are gone, what is your fantasy? What is the goal? Do we continue to live in a city or this house? Do we move to Paris? Your goals will change over time, and you want to be able to talk about it."
12. Raise Children
If you want children as a couple it's important to start preparing for that well in advance, both financially and emotionally. How will you save money to be able to give your children a certain lifestyle? When will you start trying for kids? What is your plan if you run into fertility issues? "If you want to have a kid, that is a big conversation and goal," says Gasperoni. "But you need to also talk about all the steps it takes to have and raise the kid."
13. Prepare for Retirement
You two are in it for the long haul, so it's important you get crystal clear on exactly what that means. What does retirement look like for you? Is there a certain age you'd like to be retired by? What kind of lifestyle do you picture yourselves having at this stage in life? Take some time to discuss and dream with your partner so you're both dialed into the same vision for your future. Then, keep a finger on the pulse of the matter and regularly evaluate if you're on track to achieving those goals.
14. Make Time to Play
Gasperoni says it is essential that couples set aside money and time to have fun with one another. "You need to plan time for dinners and vacations where you can be alone together," she encourages. When you are discussing your financial goals, take into account the money you will need to have fun with one another, especially once you have children. Decide what is important to you (do you want to have a date night once a week or a mini-vacation every quarter?) and stick to that goal.