You've seen the hashtags all over social media: #relationshipgoals, alongside a cuddly couple watching a movie together, or a holding hands walking down the street eating ice cream, or hiking a mountain in the southwest at sunrise. Great — but what are some real #relationshipgoals, straight from dating and love experts, that we can all work toward? "#Relationshipgoals is a hashtag that people use as aspirational living," Gestalt life coach Nina Rubin tells Bustle."Some people use it who are already in relationships and want to show how picture-perfect their relationships are," she says. It's cute, and fun, and quirky, but generally it's all for appearance.
Others who use it on social media may be single, but ready to mingle (or, of course, there's the contingent of those using it ironically). "Singles use it to show that they're ready for … a new partner," she says, adding that some of those who are unattached and using the hashtag on social may be feeling "jealous" as well. "In the age of posing and taking pictures for Instagram and Snapchat, demonstrating a couple's love is regarded highly, especially among Millennials," she points out. Indeed! Read on to find nine excellent #relationshipgoals that you can aspire to even when you're offline.
"One word: longevity," author and relationship expert Alexis Nicole White tells Bustle. "It’s easy for people to get together, but few are actually staying together." Instead of always thinking things would be better with someone else, learn how to be a unit. "People have forgotten that there is no such thing as perfect," she says. "There will never be a perfect man or woman, but there would be a perfect person for you."
Instead of always being ready to jump ship, figure it out together. "Rather than treating people as though they are disposable, try actually working through any issues that may be present," she says. "The grass is not necessarily greener on the other side."
"The number-one relationship goal should be for happiness with your partner," online dating expert Anita Covic tells Bustle. "A recent international online dating survey notes that companionship (67 percent), true love (60 percent), and a life partner (59 percent) are the top things sought by online daters." Those elements are all important, but without happiness, it's hard to find any of them.
"Each partner should recognize what makes him or her happy and strive to find that element with the other as well as alone," she says. "For a relationship to work, each member of the relationship has to give 100 percent to find and keep that happiness in the long term." If you can complement each other's happiness, you can find long-term love.
3. Active Listening
"Listening better — the number one issue that most couples have is that they make assumptions about one another," Janet Zinn, a New York City–based couples therapist, tells Bustle. "When we learn to listen, asking questions when we assume we know what our partner means," life — and love — gets a lot easier. We don't always know what our partners mean, and this practice "helps to circumvent misunderstandings that lead to arguments and upset." Win-win, all around.
4. Focusing On The Positive In Each Other
"Researchers found that the only common trait amongst couple in long-term happy relationships was the ability to maintain positive illusions of the other," Dawn Maslar, a.k.a. “the Love Biologist,” tells Bustle. "Over time, we can focus on the negative traits instead of the good." But either way, we're making a choice. "Happy couples make it a point to look at the part they love about the other." If you think about how awesome your partner is in certain areas all the time, you won't be focusing on negative traits.
"A great daily relationship goal is to simply choose one quality that you like about your partner," she says. Focus on it, and really learn to live in the positivity. "Bonus if you tell them," she adds.
5. Being Your True Self
"The hashtag #relationshipgoals is typically pretty accurate online," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. "[They]mostly accompany funny pictures of couples eating lounging, eating, being lazy or cute together." In other words, it doesn't have to be super lofty. "The reason this is the 'goal' is because these couples seem to be completely comfortable being their true selves in front of each other," Rogers says. "They don't care if they ate too much or didn't put their 'best self' on display."
By being relaxed and in the moment with your partner, you're fulfilling the relationship goal of being real. "They're just being themselves," Rogers says. "And that should always be the goal — to be authentic you no matter what."
"This is a little cheesy, but the reality is that in long-term relationships, couples drift apart and mistake the business of taking care of a long-term relationship for romance," New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. "Going over bills and choosing paint colors for walls is not going to keep your relationship fresh." Making sure to take the time for little acts of romance every day will ensure that this doesn't happen. "Having a relationship goal of romance — not sex, but actual romance — is a great opportunity," she says.
"Making romance a long-term relationship goal requires more than instituting regular date nights," Masini adds. "It requires you to dig deep and really get to know your partner and yourself and find out what, over the course of a long term, really makes you feel connected to each other and to life." Once you know that, you can try to do those things for each other regularly.
"The ultimate goal is open and honest communication," Nicole Martinez, who is the author of eight books, including The Reality of Relationships , tells Bustle. "This helps to build mutual respect, understanding, and support of your partner, and your relationship as a whole." If you can't talk it out, you won't make it through everything. "Without this basic goal, it would seem nearly impossible to build upon anything else," she says. So keep talking, no matter what.
"Maintain an atmosphere of appreciation and admiration," relationship coach and therapist Anita Chlipala tells Bustle. "Couples don’t disconnect overnight — it takes months or years, but they often stop focusing on the positives about each other." If you appreciate each other through it all, it'll make it hard to give up or disconnect.
"A couple should get in the habit of acknowledging each other — praise, compliments, the traits that they admire in the other. The most important thing is to share with your partner," she says. "The couples I work with will admit that they think good things about their partner but don’t tell them. It does more good for a relationship to actually tell your partner what you appreciate and admire." Say it out loud — and let them know how you feel.
9. Working On Yourself
"If all couples decided to deeply get to know themselves individually, meaning their own inner world of motivations, thoughts, feelings, and personal programming, so to speak, their relationships would go so much smoother," life coach and psychotherapist Dr. Jennifer Howard, author of Your Ultimate Life Plan, tells Bustle. "First, if we understand what is happening when we have a reaction to something, and then learn the skills of navigating what is coming up inside, life in general becomes so much easier." If you get to know yourself, you'll have a better time in a relationship.
"If we cultivate self-soothing, calming our inner reactive storms, as well as self-validation, then listening, understanding, and validating our loved one become more possible," she says. "These skills allow for our needs and the needs of our partner to be seen, heard, and incorporated into a happy healthy relationship." The more work we do on ourselves, the easier it is to work on our relationship.
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