Love changes everything, even our goals. We've all seen or felt the way a new relationship gives partners tunnel vision and makes them forget the rest of the world. It's OK for a little while, but if you're not careful, before you know it, your relationship will sidetrack your goals in ways you might not even realize. And there's nothing worse than waking up after a serious love binge and realizing that you've missed opportunities to become the person you want to be.
Like is about balance. You don't have to have either goals or a partner. But you do have to have a solid plan to keep yourself on track, even when you're in the bliss bubble of new love. As a former Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I have experience with people who put their goals on the back burner when they fall in love. Unfortunately, that often leads to resentment, regret, and anger. Those three things don't usually add anything good to a relationship.
If you're in the throes of love and happiness, it's easy to think you're fulfilled. But eventually you'll need to return to the real world. Look out for these scenarios in your relationship, and address them ASAP. Because you can't forget that part of being in a healthy relationship is becoming (and remaining) a healthy individual. That means moving forward with your personal goals, no matter how much you'd rather Netflix and chill. Or Hulu and Hang. Or whatever it is you like to do.
1. You Slack In School
Once, when I was out of my mind in love, I skipped a crucial midterm to hang out with my crush. It put me really behind, and my GPA took a hit. But I didn't care (until months later) because those love chemicals had my head in the lesbian love clouds. Love affects your judgement. And it can make you skip class, skip study sessions, skip homework, and, if you're like me, skip tests. Yikes. If you're in school, you have to make a serious commitment to slack as little as possible.
2. You Miss Networking Opportunities
When you're in school, in a job on your career path, or heavily involved in whatever it is you do, you get a lot of networking opportunities. You meet people, you go to speakers, you join clubs, you do internships, you go to shows, and so on. When you get into a relationship, it's easy to spend so much time together that you stop going after all of those opportunities. Skipping one guest speaker or club meeting is no big deal, but dropping out of the game in a significant way can slow your goals and deprive you of life-changing opportunities.
3. You Get Distracted
Most of my friends are writers or artists, because that's who I went to school with. When I run into one of them who is also in a new relationship, I'll ask something like "how is your writing going?" and usually get an answer like, "Um, I've kind of been distracted." Getting distracted happens. But there's getting distracted by love and there's getting completely derailed by love. If you're not doing what you love anymore, even if you're happy, you need to think about things in terms of the bigger picture. Will you regret this lost time? Do you want to be a person who doesn't do what they do?
4. You Become A Unit With A Singular Purpose
When you meet someone you want to build a life with, you have to remember where your goals fit in to that life. Sure, it's nice to have joint goals, like travel, weddings, houses, and kids. But you should't replace all of your individual aspirations with joint ones. There should be room in any relationship for all partners to grow and to cultivate their individuality. It's also important to have a sense of independence. Otherwise you're putting your whole life ad your whole identity in one basket, and if you lose that basket, you'll be a mess.
5. You Become Your Partner's Cheerleader
True love involves a fair amount of sacrifice. Some couples have circumstances that only let one of them follow their dreams at a time. Maybe one partner works to put the other through school. Maybe one takes care of the family while the other works the late hours needed to get that big promotion. There are lots of reasons why one partner's goals take center stage. But the other partner needs to get their turn. And if there's a way for both partner to work on their goals, both partners need to make that sacrifice.
6. You Get Too Comfortable
Who doesn't want to snuggle with their honey instead of doing hard work? Relationships can make people lazy. They can make people lose interest in the things they loved in their single lives. It's probably one of the reasons people joke that love is like a drug. It almost always seems more appealing than things that you could fail at, that are hard work, that take lots of time, or that have a learning curve. You can't let love be your excuse.
7. You Have Kids
Kids are a full time job. Sometimes they're also a life-changing surprise, and a surprise that happens at the worst possible time, in terms of your career or life goals. That doesn't mean you have to give up your goals. A lot of parents say, "I was going to do X and then I had kids." In many cases, even though those goals might have to wait a little bit, or happen at a slower rate, they're often still possible. Kids benefit from happy parents. They learn about hard work, determination, and achievement from seeing their parents work toward a goal.
8. You Enable Each Other
Enabling is a dangerous habit to get into. It looks something like "I should really study, but I don't want to" followed by, "Well, you can study tomorrow, you deserve some fun and relaxation." Or "I should run today," followed by, "It's so cold out, I would understand if you wanted to stay home and watch a movie with me." Enabling doesn't always come from an unhealthy place. Sometimes it feels like you're pleasing your partner when you're helping to let them off the hook for achieving their goals. But when you do it too much, you can actually sabotage more than you help.
9. You Get Lost In Your Partner's Interests
Being in a relationship is a cool time to learn new things. You have all your skills and interests, and your partner brings a whole new world of skills and interests. Sometimes you try something they love, and you love it, too. And before you know it, that's all you're interested in doing. And that's great, if it brings you true satisfaction. But if you have a true passion that you know you never want to abandon, you have to be careful that you're not nurturing it. It's really easy to join in on your partner's life than to combine both of your lives.
10. You Can Only Focus On Drama
Relationships can start with drama, they can be a wild ride of good or bad drama, and they can end in heartbreak. You may want to focus on your goals, but the emotional turmoil just doesn't let you. Sometimes emotional pain can be so overwhelming that you wonder how you'll even get our of bed, let alone go to school or work. Unfortunately, that's the risk you take then you get into a relationship. If this happens to you, you'll be OK with time, and if you're struggling, it's really worth it to check out therapy.
11. You Make The Relationship Your Goal
No disrespect to those people who find fulfillment and satisfaction in raising a family, or being a great partner. By all means, you have the right to do you. But some people fall into that lane out of convenience, and not because it's the right choice for their personal fulfillment. Only you can decide if making a life with your partner is the right goal for you. Just remember that you can do multiple things and have multiple goals.
And even if you've been slacking on your goals, it's never too late to get back in gear.
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