A strong, healthy relationship is a thing of beauty. Although the right relationship should never be too much of a struggle, if you’re currently in or have ever been in a serious, committed relationship, you’ll know that it involves a lot of work.
The first rush of hormones and excitement may seem like it’s going to last forever, but there will come a point where the flame will start to die out if you don’t consciously put fuel on the fire.
On the one hand, it’s true that no two relationships will ever look quite the same. After all, every individual is different and has different wants and needs.
On the other, just because two people’s idea of perfection might be unintelligible to another couple, that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain generic goals that we can’t all aspire to; goals that keep relationships moving forward and evolving rather than stagnating.
I’m talking real goals; goals for a relationship that goes beyond the superficial. Things to aspire to as a couple that go far deeper than just taking the perfect photo to upload to Instagram with the caption #couplegoals.
Whilst there’s nothing wrong with sharing your love on social media now and again, the main focus of your relationship shouldn’t be good photo opportunities.
But what should the main focus be?
If you’re serious about nurturing your relationship beyond the initial honeymoon phase, here are a few goals that the two of you could consider setting yourselves to make sure it continues to flourish and grow for years to come.
1. You Have Lives Outside Each Other
You know those couples who do absolutely everything together? Don’t be one of them!
It’s incredibly easy to get into a relationship and suddenly realize a few months (or years!) down the line that you have absolutely no life independent of your partner.
One of the keys to nourishing your romantic relationship is that you don’t let it push your relationships with your family, your friends, and even yourself to one side. If you do, you risk smothering the relationship.
Whilst it might seem strange that I’ve started this list by telling you to think about your other relationships and yourself rather than your partner, it’s important that you don’t become solely dependent on one person (or codependent on each other if you both let other relationships fall by the wayside).
No one person should be responsible for your entire happiness; it’s too heavy a burden to carry. That’s your job.
If you put too much pressure on your partner, it will only cause problems down the line. You’ll have far more interesting things to talk about if you can come back to each other after time apart with stories to tell and new-found knowledge to pass on.
Remind yourself not to take the relationship for granted at any point, and set aside time for the two of you to spend together.
Considering how hectic most of our lives are these days, particularly once children or other dependents are thrown into the mix, if you don’t schedule in quality time together, you probably won’t end up having any.
Aim to connect with each other daily for some one on one time. Fully focus on each other, even for just 15 minutes over a cup of tea, and arrange regular date nights or days when you can spend a few hours really enjoying one another’s company.
It can be helpful to see a relationship as a separate entity that actively needs nourishing. A fire, after all, will eventually die out when it’s burnt through all the available fuel. Time together is equivalent to stoking or throwing a log on the flames.
3. You Have Fun Together
I know, the phrase ‘working on your relationship’ doesn’t really sound like much fun. But it should be!
Make sure that as well as having the serious conversations, you’re also making time to have fun together.
Think back to the things you did together at the beginning of your relationship and dream up new things you could try.
Try not to take life so seriously and don’t be afraid to be silly and behave like kids again. Revive your in-jokes and take the Mickey out of each other. Enjoy each other’s company!
4. You Push Each Other
The ideal relationship shouldn’t be something that holds you back and means you stagnate; it should push you forward.
Have you ever witnessed one of those breakups or divorces where one or both parties go on to completely revamp their lives? Where they finally do all the things they always dreamed of, but never felt they could do whilst in the relationship.
Be the couple that does those things together, pushing each other and not settling for mediocrity.
Whilst you don’t have to take an intellectual interest in all of the same things, you should have a genuine interest in each other’s minds.
One of you might love an outing to a museum or reading a good book on a Sunday afternoon; the other might be more of a film buff.
But, whilst it’s good to have different interests, you should still be able to have conversations that go beyond the superficial. Whether you discuss culture, politics, or even the meaning of life, you should be interested in delving deeper into the other’s thoughts.
If you think this is lacking in your relationship, try turning off the TV now and then, bypassing the small talk, and asking them about morality, aliens, sex, religion, the stars, their insecurities…
When you dig deep into the psyche of the person you love, you’ll find buried treasure.
6. …And Sexually
For the vast majority of people, sex is an important part of any romantic relationship. At the end of the day, we’re all animals with natural sex drives.
It’s also fairly natural, however, for sex in a long term relationship to become a little lackluster and for both parties to lose interest, particularly when life gets busy and stressful.
What’s required here is a determination to make things work. Just as you should put your cards on the table about your needs in other aspects of the relationship, discussions about sex need to be frank, open, and unashamed.
You should feel comfortable enough with your partner to be able to communicate your needs and ask them about theirs (whilst respecting each other’s boundaries at all times).
If you put the effort in to keep the fire burning and are willing to try new things, there’s no reason why sex can’t continue to get better as your knowledge of each other’s bodies and desires deepens over the years.
7. You Put All Your Cards On The Table
Honesty is almost always the best policy. A healthy relationship shouldn’t be based on things that you both assume are ‘implied’ in a look or the way you phrase something.
Whilst discussions about relationships can be tricky to negotiate, if you both approach it with the intention of making things completely clear between you, talks like this will typically be positive and strengthen your bond.
Whether it’s a conversation about the future direction of the relationship or talk of a secret wish to emigrate to another country, yours and your partner’s expectations should be spelled out to avoid any confusion.
8. You’re A Team
If you’re in a committed relationship, you should view your partner as a teammate. If you share a household or have children or pets together, you need to be able to rely on one another.
Whilst the fairy tales don’t mention this part, the realities of cohabiting mean you both have to play your part to keep the show on the road.
At times, one of you will need the other to pick up the slack a little more, but it should always be reciprocated. When you need a bit more support, you should be able to ask for it, but you should always be more than willing to return the favor.
When you’re a team member, you always have each other’s backs and know where your loyalties lie.
9. Above All, You’re Always Kind
It can be very easy to find yourself lashing out at your partner. How many times have you cracked and said things you don’t really mean when you feel hurt by something they’ve done or not done?
It can be so tempting and so easy to let something scathing slip, but when you feel the temptation to lash out, keep it in. Passive aggressive behavior, manipulation, and sarcastic comments that you know will hit home will never help any situation.
They’ll only serve to drive a wedge between you and will probably mean your partner will start to put up defensive walls against you, not wanting to be hurt again.
You won’t always agree with one another – and that’s completely normal and healthy – but make it a priority to address any disagreements directly, quickly, and calmly, always holding the intention in your heart of not hurting your partner with any barbed words.
You know them so well that you know how to hit them where it hurts, but by committing to you, they’re trusting you not to use that knowledge against them.
Be kind and love with all your heart, and you won’t go too far wrong.
Katie splits her time between writing and translation. She writes about travel and self-care and never stays in one place for too long. She’s currently based in beautiful Cornwall, England, after long stints in Brazil and Mexico. She spends her free time trail running, exploring and devouring vegan food.