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Our relationships with others are arguably the most important things in our lives.

We thrive on connection and closeness. Friends and family give our lives meaning. They’re there for us (hopefully) when we’re struggling and in need of a listening ear. Likewise, we can do the same for them.

Romantic relationships take this intimacy even closer. Beyond physical intimacy, there’s the overarching understanding that you’re committed to each other.

This commitment differs from the way you’re committed to friends and other family members. You share finances, a home, a bed. You spend more time together than you do with anyone else. At the end of the day, you come home to each other.

But, like anything in life, sometimes one or both of us longs for growth or change in this close relationship. Taking the time to set realistic goals is a helpful step when this happens.

Fundamental Differences

History and literature make it abundantly clear that men and women often struggle with their differences. (Of course, this is true for all relationships and friendships.) Women want one thing, and men want another. One partner, or both, frequently feel unheard and misunderstood in intimate relationships.

These issues often aren’t a problem in the beginning. They come to the surface after some time together. But if you’re thinking about relationship goals, you obviously still care for your partner and want to grow together. Learning healthy communication techniques can be vital before you jump into other goals.

Identify Areas of Potential Growth

As with all planning, brainstorming can be a great first step. Sit down on your own or with each other, if you can get your partner on board. (If you can’t, this may be a future goal to keep in mind!)

What types of disagreements and misunderstandings come up frequently in your relationship? What has caused hurt and pain in the past? At the same time, what creates joy and pleasure? What do you love about each other?

When you look at your list, choose just one or two areas to focus on at first. If your goal is to spend more time together, schedule a few date nights, for example.

Understand Who You’re Partnered With

Before setting goals for your relationship, also take time to think about what’s realistic. If you’re partnered with a sports-loving outdoorsman, for example, keep that in mind.

You may yearn for quiet nights snuggled up together watching Masterpiece Theater instead of listening to the roar of sports coverage. Maybe you want to learn to cook gourmet meals together instead of eating hot wings. You get the point.

So take time to think about what’s realistic for your relationship and how much you can expect from the other person. What baby steps can you take toward growth and change? Trying to do too much too soon often leads to disappointment and frustration.

Where can you compromise? What are you willing to live with? Remember that your partner’s cuisine and entertainment choices may seem like small problems compared to the infidelities of a friend’s partner.

Grow Yourself

If you feel stuck in your relationship or like you can’t get your partner on board, don’t give up. Instead, focus on your own life and how you want to grow as an individual.

Examine emotional or communication struggles that you may need to work through on your own. Nurture yourself. This type of growth may naturally carry over into your relationship or even inspire your partner.

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All relationships go through ups and downs. If you’re struggling and don’t know where to start, please reach out to my office. I’ve worked with many couples and have seen many of them set and achieve goals together.

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