It’s easy to start off the year with lofty goals – personal, professional, and in your romantic partnership. It feels good – especially exciting relationship goals!
“Let’s go running every morning together! Let’s travel without a hitch this year! Let’s work our way through the Kama Sutra!” Even setting more serious, mature goals, like building greater trust, shine with a new year’s promise.
Oops…What Was My Goal Again?
But we all know that steep rollercoaster drop from setting a goal to realizing you have no idea how to achieve it. Pretty soon, you’re fuming at each other in an RV in the middle of Wyoming, covered in poison ivy from trying to combine the Kama Sutra with primitive camping.
It can make you not even want to set goals. Is there any way to dream without falling so hard?
While there is no shortcut to attain a healthy, thriving relationship, focusing on the building blocks rather than the endpoints can help. In other words – according to the recommendations of the Gottman Institute – make your habits the goal instead of the outcome of those habits.
Picking Habits Instead of Resolutions
It’s simplest to work backwards. Start with the goal, then find the corresponding habit. Example, please? Of course!
You and your partner feel like you’ve drifted apart due to busyness in the past year. Your goal for 2023 is to be close and spend more time together again. What habits will support that?
You decide to cultivate the habits of noticing and and listening to bids for connection. Bid interactions include things like:
Sharing feelings and receiving empathy from your partner
Listening when your partner tells you personal news
Your partner taking your hand when you reach for it
Goofing around with your partner when they show that they’re in a funny mood
Habits really break down long-term goals into the small steps that actualize them. Practicing a habit also allows for you and your partner to celebrate many small successes instead of just one big achievement – like, hey, we listened to each other really well today! All right!
And when you feel that sense of mastery in your relationship, instead of being overwhelmed, you’ll enjoy the by-products of reduced stress and greater security and happiness. So, pick a few habits this month. And if you need help translating goals into habits, don’t hesitate to reach out to a licensed professional counselor.