You know summer is approaching fast when you start thinking about all of your goals. You have your summer body goals, summer reading goals, summer organizing goals, summer travel goals, summer writing goals, summer sleeping goals, and the list goes on. Or for those of you who have a more active work-life in the summer, maybe the weekends or the few hours you have after work are your time to start checking things off your list.
But in the midst of all our goals and plans, where do our relationships usually fall on this list? If you have a social media account, then you may have seen the hashtag “relationshipgoals”. This hashtag is usually left under pictures or stories of couples that are considered ideal or worth striving towards by others. For example, pictures of couples on a spontaneous excursion wearing matching outfits --or my favorite, doing acrobatic couple exercise routines--would warrant the hashtag ‘RelationshipGoals’.
Even though we are talking about some pretty important relationship goals, when we say #RelationshipGoals, we’re usually talking about a specific type of behavior. We’re rarely talking about some of the less flashy, yet equally important behaviors that are essential to making a relationship work. Often times, some of the more mundane things we should be striving to do in our relationships that also let our partner know that we’re present and that they are understood and cared for are left out of the social media conversation.
One #relationshipgoal might be to update yourself on the more intimate details of your partner’s life. And not in the sense of how their day was or what they thought about the restaurant you both ate at yesterday, but in a deeper, more meaningful way. This means getting to know their deepest fears and wildest dreams, and also the more abstract things like how they think their life might have been different if they lived 100 years ago. You may already have a good idea about how they might answer these questions, but checking in to see if any of these things have changed (as they do over time) is essential to the health of your relationship.
Relationship expert, Dr. John Gottman, would define asking these thought-provoking questions as building your love maps, or increasing your knowledge about your partner and their life. Our knowledge about our partner is what allows us to weather the storms that often come with relationships. In fact, it’s essential to the health and satisfaction of your relationship. Satisfied couples take the time to know the intimate details of their partner’s world and continually check in to see if they may need to update this information.
Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we forget to tend to our relationships. So the question is how do we make sure our relationships stay at the forefront? Maybe when we’re making our lists and checking them twice, we invite our partners to help us with what we have going on. Instead of starting that solo craft project or exercise routine, try turning these activities into a time where you get to work on your personal goals and your relationship by inviting your partner to join in. And when you’re in between stitches or doing some cool-down exercises, try slipping in a few questions about some of the good things happening in your partner’s life.
It’s time we start thinking about our relationships like the home improvement project we’ve been dying to get to or like the garden out back that’s in need of a little tender love and care. Make prioritizing your relationship your next goal by taking the time to get to know your partner inside and out. Your relationship will thank you for it.
Click here for a list of questions that will help you build your love maps with your partner.
Gottman, J. M. (1994). What predicts divorce? The relationship between marital processes and marital outcomes. Hillsdale, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Crown.