3 Ways to Identify Your Relationship Goals

3 Ways to Identify Your Relationship Goals

Let’s look at relationship science to see what truly healthy relationship goals are.

A goal is something you want to achieve or experience – it is the mental representation you have of something you want (Austin & Vancouver, 1996). So relationship goals are our desired relationship outcomes and experiences. Since relationships are so central to our well-being, it is no surprise that almost all of us can identify goals we have that concern the establishment and maintenance of close relationships (Reis et al., 2000). For example, most people want to experience loving relationships and conceptualize such a relationship as including companionship, a sense of friendship, and in the case of romantic relationships, sexual attraction (Graham, 2011).

At the same time, relationship goals are unique to each person – each person combines these possibilities into a set of goals that reflects their own personality and needs. For example, introverts and extroverts differ in their approach to social networking sites, because they often have different relationship priorities and see social media as meeting their needs differently (Wang & Zhang, 2018).

“Life is too short. Show appreciation to the person you love. Let them know how you truly feel. Show them you care. Spend quality time with them, because you never know how long you will be with them.”
― De philosopher DJ Kyos

Benefits of Relationship Goals

The main benefits of having relationship goals – and taking action to achieve them – are better mental health and overall well-being (Lee et al., 2019). The whole “action” part is especially important: people who are willing to pursue their relationship goals, even if those goals aren’t fully met, will typically experience greater well-being than people who avoid pursuing their relationship goals (Lee et al., 2019).

Also, knowing one’s own relationship goals, and pairing up with another person who has similar relationship goals, will generally result in greater relationship quality (Fonseca et al., 2021). In this sense, being aware of your own relationship goals can help you find friends and romantic partners with whom you are more compatible.

Tips on Relationship Goals

Here are a few related tips for developing and committing to relationship goals that will increase the depth and meaningfulness of your relationships:

1. Focus on generating positive experiences, not avoiding negative ones (Impett et al., 2008). Focusing on avoiding negative interactions encourages us not to engage with other people (Gable & Gosnell, 2013). It could also encourage us to look at the world through a lens of fear. Instead, we can focus on moving toward experiences that we do want to have in relationships.

2. Work to establish safety in all your relationships. There are multiple kinds of safety in a relationship (Markman et al., 2001): physical, emotional, commitment, and community safety. You might ask yourself these questions: “Do people feel physically comfortable around me? Can I share my emotions and do other people feel comfortable sharing theirs? Do people know that I am committed to upholding my relationships with them? And are my relationships based in safe places – communities that I feel good about?”

3. Make conscious, intentional decisions (Stanley et al., 2006). Making relationship decisions that we can directly relate to our relationship goals helps us avoid being overcommitted or under-committed to our relationships.

In Sum

Hopefully this article has given you plenty to think about as you formulate and reflect on your own relationship goals. The healthiest relationship goals are flexible, positive, realistic, and based on your values. They are goals you share out loud with others so that they can collaborate with you. They are goals that evolve as you evolve or as your friends and partners do.

References

● Austin, J. T., & Vancouver, J. B. (1996). Goal constructs in psychology: Structure, process, and content. Psychological Bulletin, 120, 338-375.

● Fonseca, A. L., Ye, T., Curran, M., Koyama, J., & Butler, E. A. (2021). Cultural similarities and differences in relationship goals in intercultural romantic couples. Journal of Family Issues, 42(4), 813-838.

● Gable, S. L., & Gosnell, C. L. (2013). Approach and avoidance behavior in interpersonal relationships. Emotion Review 5(3), 269–274

● Graham, J. M. (2011). Measuring love in romantic relationships: A meta-analysis. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 28, 748-771.

● Impett, E. A., Strachman, A., Finkel, E. J., & Gable, S. L. (2008). Maintaining sexual desire in intimate relationships: The importance of approach goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(5), 808–823.

● Lee, H., Lou, N. M., Johnson, M. D., & Park, S. W. (2019). A socioecological perspective to understanding mental and physical health: The mediating role of relationship mindsets and goals. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(10), 3117-3138.

● Markman, H. J., Stanley, S. M., & Blumberg, S. L. (2001). Fighting for your marriage. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

● Reis, H. T., Collins, W. A., & Berscheid, E. (2000). The relationship context of human behavior and development. Psychological Bulletin, 126(6), 844.

● Stanley, S. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2006). Sliding versus deciding: Inertia and the premarital cohabitation effect. Family Relations, 55(4), 499-509.

● Wang, K., Lv, Y., & Zhang, Z. (2018). Relationship between extroversion and social use of social networking sites. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 46(10), 1597-1609