The year behind us is gone, and millions of couples are having important conversations. We’re all looking ahead with trepidation at what comes next — unsure of ourselves and our world after the exposures of the past 20+ months. Some couples have forged new connections through some of the darkest of times. Others have held on tight to what they have, despite the crushing pressure and the endless blows of social and economic unrest, the raging pandemic, and unfettered climate change.
Our heads are reeling. Our wallets are empty. And now we’re standing on the brink of an entirely new year, and another chance to send our lives in a new direction. What direction are you and your partner heading in? Getting there requires serious goal setting, and intentionally making space for one another (and your individual needs).
The best goals couples can set for the year ahead.
You’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about what your personal goals are for the next year. But what you (probably) haven’t done is consider what your goals are for your intimate relationships. For those in committed partnerships, you need to use this opportunity to set yourselves up for success. The world is stressful. Your relationship shouldn’t be. Be present, center communication, and work together.
Focusing on present moments
One of the hardest things to do in this strange new world is to stay connected to the present moment. We’re constantly shamed for our pasts, and condemned to worry incessantly about our futures. But neither one of those places brings us peace or power. Those can only be found in the present moment. As a couple, you and your partner must also seek a present dwelling place. Learn to focus on the action you’re taking in the here and now. Those small steps are where you will repair, make, or break the love you’ve shared throughout these years.
No relationship can thrive long without a firm foundation of centered communication. We are social creatures. We connect by speaking to one another, sharing our values and beliefs — and hearing those of everyone around us in return. You and your partner have to talk to solve your problems, align your goals, and address the challenges that life brings your way. As a goal, all couples should seek to communicate more often, more effectively, and more honestly…every single day.
Intentionally creating space
As much as you and your loved one need to come together in the new year, you also need to build enough space to craft out an individual life. Each of you has your own inner world. You need your own experiences, and you need to time to nurture your other relationships. Give each other as much time and space apart as you spend together, and use that time to build fulfilling personal lives that make you better (and happier) partners on every level.
Aligning major milestones
Great relationships are built on milestones, of which both partners share a core desire to achieve. Milestones differ from goals in that they provide foundational achievements that allow you — as a team — to achieve all the other goals you have in your relationship. For example, some of your milestones may include buying a house (so you can start a family). Or getting promotions at work (so you can start traveling or saving).
Establishing more interests
Having goals keeps a relationship working across the long-term. But having similar interests is the glue that helps to keep partners together. Sure, it’s not important to have all the same desires and interests. It’s certainly important to share a few passions that overlap, however. Think of them as the biggest bids of attention in your relationship. Sharing a handful of similar interests makes it easier to stay interested in one another. So set a goal to find simple experiences, hobbies, or pastimes you can bond over in the new year.
Finding the fun again
Fun is another crucial part of passionate and happy relationships. As much as we can handle the challenges of life, we thrive when we’re laughing and having fun with one another. You and your partner must find a way to bring this light back to the center of your lives together. What makes you laugh? How do the two of you best enjoy spending your time? Find the fun again little by little and establish a positive store of memories to bank on when times get tough.
Making it happen as a team.
Tackling the above goals doesn’t happen unless you and your partner learn how to work as a team. Getting there is a lot easier when you focus on your needs individually, then come back together to create a plan. Create a relationship schedule for yourselves and commit. Life may get better or may it get worse over the next 12 months. Be intentional with one another and celebrate the minor victories along the way.
1. Write it out and show it
As you take action to establish goals as a couple, you must start somewhere. For most, this journey begins on an individual level. To understand what your partner needs, they need to understand what they need. The same goes for you. Both of you have to go away, identify your individual needs and desires, then come together to work out a compromise which enables both of you to get the things that can improve your life (as a couple).
Before you come together to track the changes you want to make, spend some time on your own, getting clear on your needs for the year ahead. How do you want to feel? What do you want to experience? On a personal level — what do you need in order to feel as though the next 12 months are better than the last?
Once you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish for yourself, meet with your partner. Sit down and compare your plans for the new year. Is there crossover? If so, where? Consider how you can each show up and be a part of the active change that your partnership needs. Show your goals to each other. Feel them. Relate to them. Find the compromise where you need to and get yourselves on the same page as a couple. It’s crucial so you can move together in unity.
2. Create a relationship schedule
One of the best things that my partner and I came up with to improve the year ahead included the completion of a “relationship schedule”. This schedule works not just as a weekly and yearly planner, but like a bucket list and scrapbook too. It’s the all in one place we’ve laid out our plans to celebrate and connect as partners, lovers, and friends in the year ahead.
Start out by getting a planner with lots of room to record memories and record milestones. Highly personalized planners like the Erin Condren LifePlanner or even a basic planner like those from Papier work well. Map out your goals and plan out time — weekly — to connect as a couple.
Use your planner to design a year that’s full of tasks, projects, fun, and simple memories. Putting dates on the calendar makes you both more accountable. You’ve got to make space for each other, and that’s easier to do when you plan. Record every bit of what you hope to do, then come back and record with pictures, quick journalling; anything that helps to bring the joy of your relationship into sharper focus for you both.
3. Be intentional and celebrate
Listen, no matter how much we plan and idealize the year ahead — it’s never going to work out the way we want it to. Date nights are going to get bumped. Bad things are going to happen. Fights will follow. There are going to be nights when you don’t even want to look at the person who you sleep next to. All the same, find a way to see the good. And in that space, you have to be deliberate and mindful about celebrating the difficulties of your life.
Don’t wait for the “perfect moment” to stop and appreciate where you are. Take time — in the moment — to celebrate the little wins. Celebrate even if you don’t check everything off the list or get entirely where you want to be.
Because the truth is, it’s never going to be “perfect”. You’re never going to get all the projects done, all the money, all the time. None of that ever happens. We do the best that we can with the accessibility that we have. And we catch our breath along the way and look back briefly to appreciate where we’ve come from. Check in regularly and congratulate one another. Appreciate the relationship that you’re building and the life you’ve put together.
Putting it all together…
We are living through unprecedented times, and they are proving stressful in our closest relationships. As we stride into the new year, it’s important that we assess our partnerships and what we desire to gain within them in the months ahead. What do you need from your time with your loved one to feel like you are spending your time well and wisely?
Avoid setting yourself superficial goals and focus on what matters. Strive to be happy together and to create fun, exciting memories you can rely on when times are tough. Communicate more often and more honestly, and make a conscious effort to address your problems and your issues in the present moment. Sit down and write out your goals for the year. Encourage your partner to do the same. When you’re ready, come together and write out a plan for the year ahead. BE intentional. Spend your time together mindfully and celebrate the little wins along the way.