How to Create Goals for Your Marriage

It's easier—and more important—than you might think.

couple first kiss under floral arch
Photo: Allen Tsai

It's romantic to think that our spouses will anticipate our every want and need, but the truth is that no one is good at reading minds, especially when the expectation of fulfilling newlywed roles gets mixed into the minutiae of everyday life after the wedding. Forming a tangible list of marriage goals—what each partner expects regarding date nights, intimacy, and moral support—alleviates the misunderstanding that undoubtedly pops up from playing the guessing game.

We all have different ideas of what a marriage entails, and if these ideas don't get communicated, issues can arise, says Ashley Kusi, author of First Year of Marriage: The Newlywed's Guide to Building a Strong Foundation and Adjusting to Married Life. Goals help build a solid base for your relationship to grow by blending your ideas of marriage and creating a cohesive mindset with which to move forward together. Here, experts share their best tips on how to set successful goals for your marriage.

Create a personal list of marriage goals before creating goals as a couple.

You can't communicate what you need from your partner unless you know what's important to you, says Seattle-based relationship coach Kathy Clayton. Think about what chivalry means to you, whether it's important for your husband to always open your car door, or if you want him to plan weekly date nights or alternate the responsibility with you. What's your definition of intimacy, both inside and outside the bedroom, and what regular actions from your spouse would make you feel special? "Once you have a grasp on your own motivations, then you can move on to understanding your spouse's," says Clayton.

Be straightforward with your goals.

The more specific your goals are, the more likely your needs are going to be met, says Kusi. Discuss how many times a week you expect to have sex. Agree to set aside a specific time frame, say 15 to 30 minutes a day, to talk without any distractions. Decide how much you'll share about your relationship on social media, which can be a sensitive topic if one spouse is more private than the other. Galit Ribakoff, a family therapist in Dallas, Texas, recommends making a goal to give each other one compliment a day. Eventually, it becomes a positive feedback loop and the one compliment leads us to concentrate on the more positive aspects in our spouses.

Incorporate new activities as often as possible.

After setting a goal for how many date nights you'd both like to have per month (experts recommend one a week), plan to try a new activity on each date. Instead of just going to dinner, take a cooking class together and then eat that meal you created for a richer experience, says Ribakoff. "When you experience something new together, you become closer," she says. "You are creating new memories only to the two of you."

Other ideas are reading the same book and discussing it, each telling a new story about your past, or trying a new sport together. The most important part is that you’re talking and reflecting on the experience, Ribakoff says.

Use positive language.

Oftentimes if we feel threatened or uncomfortable, we get defensive and accuse the other person of being wrong, says Clayton. Instead, rephrase your response to admitting that a goal makes you uncomfortable and you aren't sure why. "It opens up the conversation into, 'How do we grow together?'" says Clayton. Start with a vision statement—similar to a vision board for a wedding—for your life together, suggests Kusi, who, together with her husband, chose "peaceful" for her family. Each goal you make should fit into the theme.

Talk about goals outside the bedroom.

Set a time to talk about sensitive topics, and it should never be at night before you go to sleep, says Ribakoff. "Respect the bedroom as a sacred area," she says. Also, avoid discussing goals on date night when tensions should be non-existent. Instead, set a time when you both have the right mindset and aren't tired or distracted.

Revisit your goals often.

As your relationship progresses, so do your needs and expectations. Check in with each other more frequently on the difficult issues of your relationship, says Marcus Kusi, co-author with his wife Ashley Kusi. And don't be afraid to adjust your goals accordingly. If you need help creating viable goals, seek help from a professional before misunderstandings become deeply-set disagreements.

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