Romantic relationships always need work, even when there aren't any red flags that something is going wrong. Setting goals can help couples work toward and measure the strength of their connection. For those who need a few ideas to start, it's helpful to begin with an understanding of what makes a relationship healthy. These four signs of a thriving couple are great ambitions to strive for, no matter where you are in your romance.
Do Your Own Thing
There are times in a relationship when it feels like the two individuals have become one person, spending most of their time together, day in and day out. Although it's good to feel in sync, being joined at the hip isn’t necessarily positive for couples, either.
Instead, it's healthy for each person in a relationship to have their own hobbies, interests and friendships. Couples can struggle when they turn to each other to meet all of their needs, and a commitment to doing their own thing helps prevent that misstep.
Have Fun Together
Being committed to another person can begin to feel like a well-oiled machine, not a romance — especially when there is full-time work or children involved. No matter how efficient two people have become at managing household tasks, carpools and doctor appts, it's always important to prioritize having fun together.
Many assume that fun times just happen spontaneously. But that isn’t generally the case, according to marriage and family therapist Esther Boykin. Boykin recommends intentionally creating fun, playful experiences, rather than waiting for them to happen. To have more fun in any relationship, schedule a date night at least once a month and don’t cancel unless absolutely necessary.
Put Each Other First
Healthy couples put each other first. Loving partners think about the other person when it comes time to make choices, big and small. This can play out daily with caring actions, like making a cup of coffee or picking up that bathroom towel without a word. Although more difficult, this also looks like taking a step back during a disagreement and choosing to think about the other person’s needs and perspective. This means remembering that person and saving a bite of that treat or choosing things they like.
Stay Committed During All Seasons
Relationships are built during the good times, characterized by love, affection and excitement. But things don’t stay this way, and all romances will face struggles at some point. When the going gets tough, a healthy couple will remain committed to one another and the task of working through whatever has changed in their lives by establishing the healthy common ground they stand on first. When winning becomes more important than feeling good in the relationship, the couple may be in trouble.
For some couples, setting goals might not be enough. If there are old wounds or stubborn habits, it can be difficult to move toward healthier ways of being in a relationship. If this feels true, reach out for help. Marriage counselors can be a great resource for couples in all phases of life.