Social media can be detrimental to self-esteem, cause major feelings of anxiety — and create a skewed image of #relationshipgoals. There are healthy relationship goals, based in honesty, intimacy and real life, and then there are superficial ones, which are often inspired by Instagram posts of seemingly perfect couples having seemingly perfect encounters. Not helpful.
"It’s time to get real," marriage and family therapist Esther Boykin tells Bustle. "You are not a pretty Instagram account or beautiful magazine layout." It's one thing to drool over celebrity couples in magazines or Instastalk your high school best friend and her picture-perfect beau, but that's not reality.
"You live a real life and want to have a real relationship," she says. And even those in the best relationships can feel pangs of jealousy after perusing #relationshipgoals on social media. No need to do that to yourself. "Some of the #relationshipgoals floating around the web are not the stuff of real happy, long-lasting relationships," says Boykin. "Kissing on a cliff, proposals that include Broadway-sized productions and his-and-hers Bugattis are not the stuff of true love. They’re props and fantasies — albeit nice fantasies that people occasionally live out."
If you're going for "true and lasting love," says Boykin, there are real #relationshipgoals to get you on the right path. Here are three.
#RelationshipGoal Number 1: A Partner Who Upgrades Your Life
"We’ve all heard the Beyoncé song, and while I’m sure my husband wouldn’t mind some VVS cufflinks, that’s not the upgrade I’m talking about," Boykin says. In the realm of real #relationshipgoals, an upgrade translates to more of a feeling and less of a material thing.
"I’m talking about being in a relationship with someone who sees how amazing you are and adds value to the life you already lead," Boykin says. "Real relationships are not about finding a soulmate to complete you."
That, of course, is because you are already complete, asserts Boykin. "If you’re not, then a relationship is not the answer. But finding someone who brings out the best of who you are and what you can do with your life is the kind of goal we all need to have." And if you wind up with the kind of upgrade Beyoncé is talking about too, so be it.
#RelationshipGoal Number 2: Empathy And Emotional Safety
Empathy is fundamental, Boykin says. "The single biggest factor in making your love go the distance is the amount of empathy you each have for each other." Without it, you can't feel safe with your partner — and if you don't feel safe, it's impossible to open up and be vulnerable. In other words, you can't show your true self to your partner without empathy.
And you can't put that on Instagram. "Empathy and the emotional safety required to be vulnerable is one of those intangible relationship goals that most people can’t quite describe, but you always know when it’s missing," Boykin says. "Empathy allows you both to feel heard, understood and most of all valued for your thoughts and opinions. Empathy makes us feel connected and loved at the moments in life when we are at our most fragile. Great communication and fabulous sex are wonderful, but the real glue that keeps you together is emotional connection. Empathy is the way we build and maintain that connection." If you're not sure whether you're empathizing or just sympathizing, Boykin suggests having a peek at this video:
#RelationshipGoal Number 3: Intimacy Beyond Sex
The arena of social media #relationshipgoals is rife with sex, sex, sex. "Great sex is a reasonable relationship goal — that’s part of what helps you connect, and it’s an expression of your love," says Boykin. "If sex is the only way you can express love and desire for each other or it’s the only way you feel close and connected, then you are missing a big part of what makes a relationship goal-worthy."
It's easy to tag a sexy shot of yourself lolling about on the beach in a bikini with your bae #relationshipgoals, but it's not as simple as that. "Intimacy is far more complex than just a getting it on in some beautiful or unexpected locale," Boykin says. "Intimacy is about connecting physically, emotionally and even spiritually (or philosophically) with your partner."
Great sex is important, of course, and if that's part of your life, mad props. "The same kind of passionate exploration that makes your sex life hot should be applied to every aspect of each other," Boykin says. "A relationship that lasts is built on a genuine desire to continually learn and enjoy all the facets that make you unique. If you want to keep that passion going, make sure you are finding ways to be intimate with your clothes on."
There's a #relationshipgoal for the ages.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy