Have you ever been scrolling through social media, seen an adorable picture of a happy couple, and thought to yourself: ugh, relationship goals? When you're constantly barraged with these kinds of images, it can be hard not to compare your relationship to others'. But, while it's perfectly healthy to have goals in a relationship — things you can work and grow toward together — it's not healthy to have unrealistic expectations for what your relationship "should" look like.
"When [couples] set their goals too high, that may lead to disappointment in their relationship, create unnecessary issues and also may cause them to wonder if they are good enough for their partner or if their partner is good enough for them," relationship expert and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport tells Bustle. "Any relationship goals that they set for themselves should be practical, down-to-earth, attainable and contribute to the positive growth of their relationship."
Practical, healthy goals in a relationship might look something like having more date nights, trying one new thing in bed each month, or using your phones less when you're together. As for what should be avoided, here are eight common relationship goals that are best ignored, according to experts.
Spending All Your Time Together
Particularly in the early stages of a relationship, you might think it's "goals" to be with your partner 24/7, but space and alone time are crucial in any relationship... and you shouldn't aim to spend every waking moment together.
"Space can be very helpful to any relationship," Paltsios says. "If you are constantly with someone you technically never get to miss them. If you allow your relationship to involve space, than you may realize missing someone is a great feeling to have in a relationship."
Always Having Lots Of Sex
Although many relationships start out super hot and heavy, sexual desire ebbs and flows in any relationship (and in individuals, too). According to Kayla Lords, writer and sexpert for JackandJillAdult.com and co-host of Loving BDSM, the type or amount of sex you have at the beginning of a relationship may not sustain itself over weeks, months, or years.
"While maintaining a positive sexual connection is good, focusing on the amount of times you're having sex isn't," Lords tells Bustle. "What's most important is how satisfied you and your partner are when you have sex (however you define it) and whether it helps you feel connected or not."
Expecting The Relationship To Be "Easy"
Movies and TV shows might lead us to believe that true love is magical and requires no effort — but in reality, maintaining a healthy relationship is tons of work, and it likely will not feel "easy."
"Putting in the effort to understand where your partner is coming from, compromising when needed, and expressing yourself in healthy ways often require sincere commitment and a decent amount of energy," Daniel Olavarria, licensed therapist at The City Psychotherapy, tells Bustle. "The idea is that the investment is worth it if you are in a fulfilling and loving relationship."
Changing Or "Fixing" Your Partner
There's a big difference between wanting to help each other grow and improve, and trying to fundamentally change someone for your own gain. If you want your partnership to be a healthy one, you should absolutely not have the goal of changing — or worse, "fixing" — your partner over the course of the relationship.
"If you can’t love and accept your partner for who they currently are, end the relationship," Stef Safran, matchmaking and dating expert, tells Bustle. "This doesn’t mean you can’t help each other grow but to try to turn them into someone you think they can be or you want them to be is a recipe for frustration and failure."
Never Going To Bed Angry
There's an oft-spouted piece of relationship wisdom that couples should never go to bed angry — but this "goal" is one that's best ignored. According to Rappaport, while it's good to try to resolve all arguments, there are some situations where it's wiser to say something like, 'let’s sleep on this so we don’t say or do anything that we may regret later.'
"While it may be a good idea to never go to bed angry, some arguments may escalate to the point where one or more partner may say or do something that cam damage their relationship," Rappaport says.
Fulfilling Each Other's Every Need
In a relationship, it's normal for your partner to be your number one priority, but you shouldn't aim for your partner to be your "everything." It's important to leave space in your life for others, and not expect your partner to fulfill all your emotional needs.
"You cannot and will not be able to fulfill every need for each other," Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT, clinical director & therapist at A Better Life Therapy, tells Bustle. "It’s important to recognize your life will be filled with each other but also with other important players like your friends and family."
Putting In 50/50 Effort Each Day
If you're someone who strives to have an equal partnership, you might assume that you and your partner should each be putting in 50/50 effort each day. In reality, things aren't always going to be exactly equal on the day-to-day, and that's OK as long as things are balanced overall.
"Each day brings us new challenges — busy work days, illnesses, exhaustion," Earnshaw says. "Because of this, the real goal is to learn to be flexible — sometimes it’ll be 80/20 and sometimes it will be 40/60. The ability to take on more on some days and give up more on others is the sign of a healthy working relationship."
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is that every relationship is unique, and there's no need to get caught up in comparing your relationship to everyone else's. The only goals you need to have in your relationship are the ones you and your partner set together — so feel free to ignore any misguided "goals" society and social media might have you believe are mandatory.