Goal Setting in Relationships

Setting goals with your partner can be a double-edged sword. On one end, when you achieve them you feel joy and exhilaration for having realized a dream or aspiration. On the other hand, when you fail to meet them, you may face disappointment as you are forced to reevaluate your ambitions. When it comes to your relationship, setting achievable goals with a tone of collaboration can help enrich each other’s lives and support the bond between you and your partner.

The Anatomy of Relationships

No relationship is the same, and just like people change over time, so does a relationship. According to Donald Peterson, contributing author of “Goal Concepts in Personality and Social Psychology,” there are five general stages that can be distinguished in the development of close relationships: acquaintance, buildup, continuation, deterioration and ending. Obviously not all relationships go through all stages, but the changes in goals from one stage to another are critical in determining the course a relationship will follow.

Stephen John Read and Lynn Carol Miller, also contributing authors of “Goal Concepts in Personality and Social Psychology,” recount how individuals may base their projections of what a relationship might be like with someone in part on how each other’s life goals will mesh with one other. The idea that “opposites attract” has been debunked by research showing how “most married couples tend to be more alike than different in regards to life goals, interests, values and personality dispositions, as well as education, economic status, and other sociological variables.” In other words, when evaluating a prospective partner, people look at how they can accomplish goals in common, for example having intellectually stimulating conversations, having children, etc.

 

Goal-Setting Strategies

Relationship goals can cover the gamut, including areas such as problem solving, emotional support, financial goals, creating a family, etc. One way to set goals in your relationship is by having a weekly meeting with your significant other to go over the upcoming week and set a ‘to-do’ list of items for each other. Then, review those same items from the past week and move forward anything still needing to be completed. As part of this process, share three positive things big or small that your partner did that you liked in the past week, and one negative thing you would like them to consider working on. In time, you will have created a habit of openly talking about where things are with your relationship, and where you want them to be.

Another way to set goals with your significant other is by applying some of the guidelines set forth in “Goal Setting: How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Goals.” Authors Susan B. Wilson and Michael S. Dobson recommend writing them down in specific measurable terms, so that you can visualize and achieve them with realistic deadlines. As part of defining these goals, make sure to keep them manageable and actionable, as well as include a regular review of their progress. Reward desired behavior, reinforce successes however big or small and provide feedback when correction is needed. When correcting, do so in private and be specific, focusing on the error and not the person to avoid grudges and keep a healthy outlook. Develop objectives for both the short and long term.

 

From Extrinsic to Intrinsic Motivation

In a study published in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,” researchers examined the connection between relationship satisfaction and self-regulation. “Individuals experiencing higher levels of satisfaction in their relationship exhibit higher levels of perceived control, goal focus, perceived partner support, and positive affect during goal pursuit.” This results in higher rates of daily progress on personal goals. In other words, as your relationship satisfaction increases, so does your motivation to effectively self-regulate your actions and progress toward achieving your goals.

According to Peterson, goals between partners tend to converge to the extent that transformations occur mutually. For example, “a person who initially stopped smoking to please a partner may genuinely come to find smoking abhorrent.” Changes in personal dispositions of this kind are independent of the relationship, and when they occur they can reduce the demands for accommodation by shifting the motivation from an extrinsic to an intrinsic place. Keep in mind that any union is limited by the biological needs and personal goals of the individuals in the relationship, so revisiting them on a regular basis can keep interests and values aligned in the long term.

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From: Live Strong by Raquel Villareal

When Your Spouse Doesn’t Like Your BFFs…

Remember those days when you first met your spouse and everything felt like springtime? Those initial months were full of all the best firsts—first dates, first smooches, first adventures, and of course, the first time you introduced him or her to the other “loves of your life”—your besties. In an ideal world, your pals like your partner just as much as you do, and vice versa. But when they don’t? It can wreak havoc not on the friendships, but rather, on your marriage, according to a new study.

For the study, researchers followed 355 heterosexual couples to determine the impact of friendships on marriage after 16 years. None of the couples was interracial, to rule out race as a potential source of tension). What the researchers found was fascinating: In white couples where the husbands liked their wife’s friends, 70 percent of couples were still together by the end of the study. However, in white couples where the husbands didn’t like their partner’s pals, only 50 percent remained together. For black couples, liking the friends didn’t seem to impact the relationship.

What do psychologists think of this theory? Sex and relationships therapist Courtney Geter, LMFT, CST says that connecting friend groups is an important aspect of a relationship, and not getting along with one another’s tribe can lead to arguments. “It is typical for spouses to bring up friends in conversations. If your husband makes a negative comment about your friends, you may feel unsupported or torn between two aspects of your life,” she explains. “If you don’t address your feelings and resolve the conflict, it could impact other areas of the relationship, such as enjoyment spent with your husband or even areas such as sex.”

The disapproval of your friend group is worse when it’s coming from your partner, whose opinion usually means more than anyone else’s. “This is the person that we love and trust the most, so their assessment of others around us matters to us,” says psychologist Nikki Martinez, PsyD, LCPC.” We want to know that they agree that someone is a good person, that they are likable, and that they enjoy being around them,” she says.

One possible reason we may be bumping into this problem more and more in recent years is that dating patterns have shifted from in-person to online. So whereas we used to meet people at parties or through friends, where there was already a built-in connection and like-mindedness, increasingly we’re meeting people on dating sites and apps, where there’s no such framework.

This Internet lens can be tricky to navigate, as your partner gets to know your friends not at a bar or a BBQ but via their profiles and posts, which can be heavily curated. “Social media does not provide a realistic view of another person’s life, as they are posting the best-looking or most exciting pictures and status updates about their lives,” Geter says. “Since there is a screen between you and the rest of the world, humans are more likely to make comments they typically wouldn’t make in person or they can avoid conflict resolution with one click of a button or closing a window.”

So is your marriage doomed if your husband isn’t a fan of your BFFs? Definitely not, according to Geter and Martinez, but you might have to manage expectations on both sides. One key way to approach it is to have couple friends and individual friends, neither of which have to mingle.

In fact, it’s a good idea to have your own set of pals for support. “I encourage women to have friends outside of the couple relationship as well as hobbies outside of her husband’s interest. Not only does this allow distance for you to miss your husband, but it also provides opportunities for sharing when you are together,” Geter says. “Since you have your own personal friend group outside of the couple friend group, this may limit how often your husband is around those friends.”

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From: Reader’s Digest by Lindsay Tigar

Signs your ‘person’ is a commitment-phobe

You know a commitment-phobe when you see one on TV, or you wouldn’t have groaned every time Blair and Chuck got back together again. But in your own life, spotting that commitment-phobe in between all the “I’m not sure when I’ll be free tonight’s” is a tougher challenge. Here, Dr. Berit Brogaard, Professor and Director of the Brogaard Lab for Multisensory Research at the University of Miami, explains how to spot avoidant attachment in the wild:

1. You don’t feel “matched” in your texts. 

In your messages, you’ll actually go deep into details about how your day was, providing plenty of opportunities for the other person to ask you, well, anything. But a commitment-phobe, according to Brogaard, will have “a tendency not to continue a text message thread, by replying briefly or submissively with ‘K,’ ‘Sounds like fun,’ ‘Wow,’ ‘IDK’ and so on.” So before you let them off the hook for bad texting, consider the fact that they could be emotionally unavailable.

2. Even after a great date, you won’t hear from them anytime soon. 

Brogaard warns that commitment-phobes tend to not initiate contact first and will go through long periods of radio silence after dates—meaning YOU always have to do all the romantic legwork.

3. They’re irritatingly vague about their schedule. 

Here are some key phrases that Brogaard says raise commitment-phobia alarm bells:

  • “I’m really busy at work right now. But let’s get together in a few weeks when things slow down a bit.”
  • “Sorry I haven’t been in touch for so long. Things have been crazy around here. What have you been up to?”
  • “Sorry, didn’t see your text ’til now. How are you?”

Ok, we’ve all sent the “omg so sorry, just saw this!” text after a four-hour Netflix binge. There’s a huge difference, though, when someone does this all the time, to the point where your main interaction with them is rainchecking.

4. They only plan dates around what’s convenient for them. 

Since their schedule is just ~too busy~, their ideas of dates include inviting you to a bar where, oh wow, *their* team is currently playing and it’s suuuuuch a tight game! Who cares that you don’t know the full rules of basketball and don’t really care? Not this guy, who only tells you when he’s free three hours in advance!

5. They’re chronically late, chronically flakey, or a lovely combo of both. 

Because they don’t want to view dating as “serious”, they don’t stress over or prioritize getting there on time and don’t really care if them canceling screws up their chances with you.

6. They’re pretty impulsive, but only when it comes to you. 

“They may be very conscientious and hardworking at work or in school but then be impulsive when it comes to going out or getting together,” says Brogaard. Everything comes before the person they’re dating.

7. They constantly reiterate how casual everything is. 

Another key phrase Brogaard says to be wary of is “Not sure I’m ready for a relationship right now. Give me some time.” You’ll make your desire for monogamy clear, and rather than breaking things off to spare any hurt feelings, they’ll string you along with promises of a “maybe-one-day” relationship.

8. They’re “not great” with PDA. 

“It’s difficult for commitment-phobes to show signs of affection, especially in public,” says Brogaard. “They will tend not to say ‘I love you’ back, or they will only say it after drinking or the like. Some can only put it in writing but not say it (or vice versa).”

9. They usually don’t have true, close friends. 

While “they may still be part of a big circle of people who meet up” according to Brogaard, they don’t have friends they’ve stuck with for a long time and have a deeper relationship with.

10. They won’t actually admit fault in their past relationships. 

“They might blame the other person or simply say ‘we weren’t a good match’ or ‘we were just really bad for each other’,” says Brogaard. They have yet to experience any crucial post-breakup epiphanies about their own patterned dating flaws.

11. Or they won’t even call a past relationship a relationship. 

That girl he saw exclusively for six months was completely casual, and he has no idea why she freaked out and deleted their whole Eurotrip album when he sent her a breakup text.

12. They had lots of short relationships or pretty shallow long-term ones. 

“If they had long relationships, they were usually not very committed,” says Brogaard. “Even when they were committed on the surface (for instance, engaged or married), you might discover that the two of them led very separate lives.”

13. They’ll keep saying they want to “take things slow” as an excuse. 

Of course, cautiously easing into a new relationship is a perfectly normal (and emotionally healthy!) thing to do. But you have to wonder if your relationship is moving anywhere at all. “People who are taking it slow will tend to move forward,” says Brogaard. “Commitment-phobes will tend to provide obstacles to any relationship progress.”

14. They always need more space than you’re giving them. 

Even the honeymoon period of seeing each other a lot scares them. For commitment-phobes trying to work on their dating issues, Brogaard recommends dating someone who “is very busy in their own life”, so that space is never an issue.

15. They complain about the pressure to be in a monogamous relationship a lot. 

Obviously, societal norms can be annoying, but if they talk negatively about marital expectations more often than any of the upsides of a strong partnership, it kind of shows that they deep down think monogamy never really works out.

16. You can tell that something about relationships clearly freaks them out, but they can’t articulate it. 

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, after all. Brogaard suggests possible questions to ask a commitment-phobe about their fears of relationships: “Is it that they impose on your need for alone time? Is it that you have intimacy issues? Is it that you set unrealistically high standards for potential partners? Once you realize what it is, you can work on that particular issue (for instance, make sure that your partner is willing to give you plenty of alone time, if that is what you are craving).”

Commitment-phobia is definitely curable if a person wants to work on it and explore why they think that ALL relationships will end up being disappointing. But that dude sending you another “haha :)” before ghosting for two days is probably not on that path right now.

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From Cosmopolitan by Julia Pugachevsky

 

14 Signs You’re Low-Key Winning this Break up

1. You unfollowed or unfriended them instead of stubbornly trying to seem chill.

You know that if you still have easy access to their page, you will be hurt when you see them have any semblance of fun without you. You’d rather them know you need your space instead of letting a grainy pic of them eating a burrito ruin your day.

2. You immediately got rid of (or at least hid) the little reminders. 

Honestly, if you can Marie Kondo the vast collection of t-shirts you accumulated from them, you can handle anything.

3. You cathartically rehashed your whole breakup with your BFF. 

It’s the nights where you split fries and cheap wine as a prelude to a five-hour in-depth talk about relationships that really make you fucking grateful for your best friend.

4. You refreshed your look in at least one tiny (or major) way. 

TBH, the highlight of a breakup is going for that one haircut that always got an “Eh, sure, I guess, you do you but I do love your hair now, just saying!” from your ex. Get. That. Pixie. Cut.

5. You went out to a thing you weren’t thaaaat excited about but had a surprisingly great time. 

The moment your friend invites you to a party full of 95 percent strangers over an hour away from you, you will immediately regret sending that “sure!” But when your one expectation is “I need something to keep me from scanning WikiHow articles about how he’s not really over me but doesn’t know it yet,” being pleasantly surprised by a decent night is just the boost you need.

6. You went out to a thing you weren’t thaaaat excited about, but this time you were sad and just let yourself feel it. 

So you decided to put your new singledom to good use and go out with the girls. You Insta’d a gallery of you together in competitively plunge-y tops with a Beyoncé song lyric, except the night took a sharp turn when your friends found guys immediately and left you to buy your fourth margarita alone. But you’d rather glumly stare at your ripply cocktail reflection than force yourself to hook up with someone when you’re not ready. There’s power in that.

7. You signed up for a totally random class that only severe heartache would make you consider. 

You never considered taking hot yoga classes…until now.

8. You’re not eating the soupy remains of your Ben and Jerry’s for dinner every night. 

The people who harness their newfound free time and cook a paella from scratch to go with that bottle of wine are the people who will survive the apocalypse.

9. You finally binged that show your ex showed no interest in. 

You judge them so much more for not giving The Handmaid’s Tale a chance now that you’ve actually seen it.

10. You’ve asked more people to hang out one-on-one than you have in a while. 

When you’re in a relationship, your Google calendar practically auto-fills with dates, double dates, and whatever party one of your now-merged-together collective of friends is hosting. Losing at least some of those thought-free plans means actually having to make the first move in asking people to chill and thus penciling in a night with friends you may have thrown to the wayside a little when you were dating (hey, happens to all of us).

11. You’ve joined a dating app and gone on a date. 

Even if it goes nowhere, it still feels validating to know that you can handle the thought of having to date (and subsequently, risk getting hurt) again.

12. You roll your eyes at people pitying your singledom a little too much. 

Yes, breakups are sad—devastatingly so at times—but you know you’ll be fine, even though other people weirdly don’t. You’re not here for the people nervously reassuring you that you’ll find someone better soon, as if you’re incapable of enjoying a solo lunch date.

13. You remembered, like, 75 things that annoyed you in that relationship. 

You’re at the point where you can truthfully say that your ex’s relentless habit of drenching french fries with serpentine squiggles of ketchup was always going to be a deal breaker.

14. A part of you kind of lives for being single again. 

Being able to freely starfish in your bed multiple nights in a row is a gift. Cherish it.

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From Cosmopolitan by Julia Pugachevsky

17 Signs You’re Into Someone More Than They Are Into You

Finding out you’re putting everything into a relationship or casual thing, and the other person isn’t, can be utterly heartbreaking. It’s a truly horrible feeling knowing that you’re crushin’ on someone harder than they are on you. But do you know what? Figuring that out and accepting it is a whole lot easier, healthier, and better for you in the long run than flogging the dead horse that is your relationship.

Everybody’s different and has totally varied relationship expectations. So just because your bae is guilty of a few signs, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not into you (it could be their personality that makes them not touchy-feely or romantic). But if you’re consistently finding a lot of the below signs to be spot-on, it’s best to have a long hard think about whether the feelings you have are truly requited.

  1. When they don’t answer right away when you call them, you find yourself trying again before they return your call.
  2. They seem unenthusiastic to hear from you (or are always preoccupied) when they do pick up.
  3. When you do speak, they either keep it short and sweet or don’t seem engaged in the conversation. Maybe they’re happy to talk about themselves but switch off when you’re talking.
  4. When they consistently take ages to reply to texts on a regular basis and offer no excuse or apology.
  5. When you meet up, it’s slightly awkward and almost cold when they greet you.
  6. Your attempt at a passionate “hello kiss” when you greet them is returned as a peck on the cheek.
  7. Your PDA attempts are always met with a side swerve of the lips or hands, or they never initiate physical affection. Obvs, some people are just not into PDA, so don’t rely on this too heavily.
  8. The natural warmth and easy-going vibe you put on when you hang out seems to be returned with a stilted and somewhat awkward attitude.
  9. When you go to sleep at night and reach out to show affection, they consistently don’t respond or they show a lack of interest.
  10. They do little to participate when you’re having sex and it feels like you’re merely going through the motions. The obvious physical and emotional distance creates an overall lack of intimacy.
  11. While you’re willing to be generous with your time, money, and resources, they’re cold and stingy.
  12. You show your partner off and include them in family and friend gatherings but they seem reluctant to include you and it feels like they’re keeping you at arm’s length.
  13. When you express your feelings about them, it’s either returned with little to no enthusiasm, or awkwardness.
  14. They don’t show much (or any!) interest in you and your world, but you have all the time for them no matter whats going on in your life.
  15. When it comes to special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, you make an effort with the present to make them feel special. But they make little or no effort, and nothing about their attempts screams attention to detail.
  16. You’re happy to be romantic, but they treat and talk to you like you’re a friend—doing things like talking about their attraction to others when they’re around you.
  17. Your gut instinct tells you they aren’t as into you, but rather than raise the issue, you ignore the feeling because you’re afraid of what they might say or that you’ll lose them.

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From Cosmopolitan UK by Paisley Gilmour

Why You Accidentally Ruin Your Relationships, Based On Your Love Language

Words Of Affirmation

You send good morning texts the second you rise from your sleep. You say I love you with zero hesitation. You brag to your friends about how you’ve found the perfect person for you. You are always talking about how much you like your person, but words aren’t enough. You have to follow through on what you say. Your actions need to match your voice. Telling someone you want to spend the weekend together or take a vacation upstate doesn’t actually mean anything if you back out of plans when the time comes. You have to keep your promises. You have to prove that your word means something.

Quality Time

When you like someone, you want to spend as much time with them as possible. You text them from morning until night. You invite them over every weekend. You expect to see them whenever you find free time in your schedule. Sometimes, without even realizing what you’re doing, you suffocate people. You make them feel like they aren’t allowed to hang out with their own friends and need to check in with you constantly. Sometimes, they will even feel like you don’t trust them. Like you keep such close tabs on them because you’re worried they are up to something. That miscommunication can put a strain on the relationship.

Receiving Gifts

You might not show someone your burning love for them on a daily basis, but when the holidays come around, you are the best gift giver in town. You show your affection by spending hours browsing through websites for a present that fits them perfectly. Because of that, some people mistakenly believe that you are materialistic. Shallow. That you only care about money. They don’t look close enough at your presents to see how sentimental they are, how much thought you put into them. They wish you would show your love through your daily actions instead of only through material items on special occasions.

Acts Of Service

You will buy groceries for someone who is low on cash. You will drive miles to pick someone up at the airport. You will risk getting in trouble at work to answer important texts. When it comes down to it, you’re too nice. You go out of your way to help people before they even ask and end up getting walked over. That’s why, sometimes, you feel like you’re already in a relationship when you’re not. You get invested in people, you try to save people, and find yourself in yet another almost relationship.

Physical Touch

You love holding hands while you walk. Resting a hand on their thigh beneath the table. Cuddling during movie dates. Getting touchy underneath the covers. Since you are so hands-on, some people mistakenly believe you are only interested in physical intimacy. They question whether you really like them or whether you are only using them as a warm body to press up against while you sleep. They need reassurance that you like their personality, too. That you aren’t only with them because you’re lonely and would get close to anyone who offered their affection.

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From Thought Catalog by Holly Riordan

I Didn’t Deserve The Pain You Put Me Through

Screw you for being too much of a coward to admit you had feelings for me. For worrying about how much I could hurt you in the future if you actually let yourself feel, so you decided to treat me like nothing instead. So you decided to push me away instead of pulling me closer. 

Screw you for letting your past get in the way of our future. For hating me for things that your ex did. For assuming I would hurt you in the same way that she did, even though I’m nothing like her. Even though I’ve proven to you that I’m someone different, someone worth your while. 

Screw you for getting scared off whenever I tried to get closer to you. For making me feel like I did something wrong, just by loving you. For convincing me that I was the problem, not you, never you. 

Screw you for calling me when you were drunk, when you had downed too many beers to think straight, instead of just being honest with yourself while sober. Screw you for only admitting you cared about me when you were six beers deep.

Screw you for lying about little things when you should have told the truth, because you wanted to keep a safe distance from me. Because you were worried about what would happen if you actually let me see the real, raw you. 

Screw you for hurting me ‘before I could hurt you.’ For thinking that our relationship was some sort of competition and refusing to be the loser. For bracing yourself for destruction instead of realizing that we could have actually had something great. 

Screw you for never giving us a chance. Because I’ve been hurt before, too. I could have blamed you for things my ex did. I could have let my fear chase me away from you.

But I didn’t. Because I was willing to take a risk to be with you. Because I genuinly cared about you. Apparently more than you cared about me.

I hate you for what you put me through. I hate you for making me fall and then leaving me to drop.

I didn’t deserve all of the pain you put me through. I didn’t deserve to be led on for months and then hear that you weren’t looking for a real relationship. I didn’t deserve to be strung along until you decided that you couldn’t handle me anymore.

But for some reason, none of the horrible things you’ve done have changed my feelings for you.

I still like you. I still want you.

So screw you for being so attractive, so intelligent, so much fun to flirt with. Screw you for making me want you, even long after you left. Screw you for being the one person I can’t stop thinking about.

Screw you for getting over me. Because I’m still not over you.

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From: Thought Catalog by Holly Riordan