We often make goals for ourselves, but it’s also beneficial to make goals in our relationships. If you’re married, the most critical relationship on earth is the one with your spouse. Marriage – the blending of two very different people into a new, special unit – is challenging by its very nature, but it can and often does bring a sense of joy and completeness to life when done well. As a marriage counselor, I have the privilege of helping couples strengthen and heal their marriages so they can truly know that joy.
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There are certain fundamentals that are necessary for every healthy marriage, and talking these out together and committing to them will put your marriage on a very strong foundation. These qualities include:
- Committing to putting effort into your marriage
- Treating each other with respect and trust
- Building healthy communication
- Committing to quality time together on a regular basis
- Being willing to compromise, and accepting fundamental differences
- Appreciating each other’s differences and focusing on strengths
- Regularly fulfilling each other’s need for intimacy and tenderness
- Forgiving each other when your imperfections hurt each other
These qualities don’t always come easy to everyone, and as a counselor, I help couples work through them, develop them, and strengthen them.
How to Apply the Big Picture Goals to Daily Life
Applying these fundamentals can differ from couple to couple, depending on their personalities, situations in life, and personal interests. But here is a list of some things I have suggested to couples that have been very helpful, depending on their particular needs:
- Less time looking at the screen, more time with each other: Set a time of the night when phones, TV, etc. go off and you spend time together instead. Commit to no phones or distractions at dinner! Turn your attention to each other and your children, if you have them.
- More date nights: Plan them into your schedule and commit to them. It doesn’t have to be dinner out, it can be a shared activity or sport, like biking together. Just plan it and do it.
- Add a new relationship ritual: You could write each other a weekly love letter; share coffee in bed on Sunday mornings; have a daily 30-second hug; say a prayer together before bed.
- Celebrate the day: Talk about what went well that day, and share at least one thing that you’re grateful for. Some people talk about their day’s highs and lows, but studies show that focusing on highs is healthier emotionally. This is not to say we should ignore bad days or sad feelings. Discussing what’s bothering you is very important, but focusing on the positive is a formula for healing.
- Read a book together: Reading a book and discussing it is a powerful ritual. The book can be about a shared interest; it can be about something one of you is interested in and wants to share with the other; it can be about improving your marriage or improving communication; or it could be a work of literature. Pick something you both agree on and take the time to read and discuss it over a few weeks, building shared experience and delving deeper into each other’s thoughts.
- Plan a romantic getaway: Depending on your budget and time, it can be a day-trip, a weekend, or a trip of a lifetime.
- Commit to improving your communication skills: Keep the big picture goals in mind at all times when communicating. Consider reading a book about marital communication together, and find what techniques work for you. If you have a real problem, an experienced marriage counselor can help you develop the key skills necessary for healthy communication.
- Get physically fit together: It’s fun to work out together or choose healthier foods together.
This is just a short list of possible goals you can set. Talk with your spouse about which of these ideas you might both enjoy doing, or come up with your own. There are many marriage websites, books, and support groups with other ideas.
Marriage goals are not an opportunity to bludgeon the other spouse with something that you don’t like, for instance, “don’t be so lazy” or “stop spending so much money.” You may have those issues to work out, but these goals are meant to be shared commitments to each other to strengthen your marriage. And I have found, from my experience, that when couples focus on the big picture goals and choose specific activities to put them into practice, other problems improve.
If you need help, don’t give up. Talk to a marriage therapist in your area, or reach out to me in the NYC region to help your marriage flourish.