How To Create A Five-Year Plan For Your Dating Life

A five-year plan: It’s one of those things we’re told to create to keep ourselves on track professionally and also the same thing we’re advised to throw out the window when things don’t go, well, according to plan. Depending on your age, where you think you’ll be in five years romantically might seem like a total 180: if you’re single at 28 and want a family, could you really be married and pregnant by 33?

But while the key with any type of projection planning — regardless if it’s business, babies or partners — is to make it a blueprint, not an outline. Having an idea of where you aspire to be isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can help you remember to dream when you start to lose hope after a string of disappointing dates or a sex life that’s mainly non-existent.

“Five-year plans are important because they keep us focused towards the future in a positive way, and allow us to have small, incremental goals and successes. They allow us to have clear goals and dreams, and to decide how we will achieve them,” Psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. “The danger in them is how we handle being thrown a curveball, or not achieving them at all. We have to be able to handle these bumps in the road and adjust course.”

If you want to get started, here’s how to create a five-year plan for your dating life that can grow with you:

Step 1: Write Down What You’d Like In A Partner

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Before you can consider where you’ll be in a year or even six months, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re looking for. Martinez suggests a really fun and easy exercise to get your juices flowing in the right direction. Grab a drink and write down every single little thing you would ideally want in a person, and even feel free to be a little unreasonable. Then the next day, go back and circle the qualities that you actually really need. It’ll help you get clear on what you want in a lifelong relationship.

“It is important to decide what you want in a partner. To know for a certainty what you will and will not want and tolerate in a relationship, and what your goals are for your relationship,” she says. “You have to have a clear vision, and put those thoughts and energy out into the world if you hope to find them.”

Step 2: Do The Same Thing For Yourself

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Just like you wrote down all of the characteristics you seek in a future mate, write down all of the good (and ahem, bad) qualities you bring to a relationship. What makes you a great partner? Where do you lack? What can you improve on? What makes you stand apart from the crowd? Be honest and be open, but make sure to give yourself kudos, too.

Step 3: Create A Year-by-Year Timeline

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For each of these five years, Martinez says to break it down by year. Realistically, from this moment in time, where do you hope your dating and love life is in exactly one year? And then in two? “This helps you to be realistic and flexible with timeframes, and serves more as an order of things, than it does a hard and firm timeline," she says. "We can not control when we will meet someone, and someone else's timeline and actions, but we can be clear about what we want and the path we are on.”

Step 4: Accept That Settling Isn’t An Option

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And if you have a #realtalk with yourself, you likely already know that you're not willing to settle. This isn’t a bad thing — but when everyone else seems to be pairing up, while you’re just warming up, it can be tough to remember. “Do not settle for less. We have to have standards and ideals, and we should not settle for something that is far off this goal and image just to be with someone,” Martinez says.

Step 5: Apply What You’ve Learned From Past Relationships

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Having multiple relationships — or even almost-relationships that lasted a hot second — do a great job of teaching us what we need to know about being in a couple. From what we don’t want to what we really crave from a partner, it’s those tiny details that you can only learn from the inside of a twosome that help you understand what will matter to you in the long run. Martinez says that part of creating a future is taking stock from the past.

“We should take what we have learned from past relationships, and decided what we want, and what we will and will not tolerate in a relationship," she says. "This helps us to set solid boundaries and a framework, for when we do get involved with a partner."

Images: Fotolia; Giphy