Here's When Making It A Goal To Find A Partner Works — And When It Backfires

by Laken Howard
Michela Ravasio/Stocksy

At the start of every new year, there's an invigorating "clean slate" feeling in the air that makes it the perfect time to reflect on the past year, think about what you want to accomplish in the coming year, and set goals for yourself. If you're single and want to change your relationship status in 2019, one of your goals might be finding love in the New Year — but if you want the best chance at success, it's important to be careful about the way you think about that goal and how you plan to accomplish it.

"There is nothing wrong with making it a goal to find a partner; however, that goal needs to be realistic," Josh Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. "If you never look you may never find. But if you look you may also not find. So make the goal to actively look for [a] partner versus finding a partner. If your goal is to find a partner you may find yourself compromising on your criteria as the search lingers on."

While making an active choice to change your relationship status can be a healthy first step toward finding a relationship, getting caught up in making sure you don't "fail" at your goal can create a lot of potential problems for your dating life. Before you set off on your journey to find love this year, here's a look at both the benefits and the drawbacks of "goal-ifying" the process of finding a relationship.

The Benefits Of Making It A Goal To Find A Partner

If you're a goal-oriented person, finding a relationship might already be just another item on a long list of goals you want to accomplish. But if you're someone who tends to be apathetic about dating and relationships, deciding you want to make an effort to find love in the New Year can actually be hugely helpful.

"I like it when I hear that people are actively focusing on looking for love because it clarifies their intentions and allows them the control to make things happen," Kevon Owen, licensed clinical psychotherapist and relationship counselor, tells Bustle. "Love and marriage include a lot of great things, and among them are discipline and choice. That person who is choosing to look for love has aligned their expectations towards being in a relationship and working to make it a good one."

Although you can never truly control when or how you meet someone with relationship potential, you're much less likely to meet someone if you aren't making any effort at all to do so. When you're actively focused on finding love, it can give you the motivation you need to do things that might normally fall by the wayside, like making a dating profile or going on more dates.

"The benefits of making it a goal to find a partner can be powerful," Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist and relationship expert, tells Bustle. "Those who are held back by fears or anxiety might be more willing to investigate online dating, social activities, or other forums for dating than if there was no motivating goal present."

How Actively Seeking A Relationship Can Impede Your Dating Success

Hannah Burton/Bustle

If you typically lack the motivation to improve your dating life, it can be beneficial to set a goal to put more effort into dating and building relationships — but it's important not to let your newfound love-centric goals cloud your vision and cause you to make bad dating decisions, like settling for just anyone or ignoring red flags early on in a relationship.

"A resolution to find a partner by a certain date might make someone more willing to accept 'any' partner or a partner who is not the right fit — just in order to make certain that the goal is accomplished," Manly says.

Another drawback of goal-ifying your search for love? It can create even more unnecessary pressure to find a partner — something we already feel plenty of from all the romance-focused media we consume — which can make your dating life feel tense and anxiety-inducing rather than how it's supposed to feel: fun and empowering.

"When we put pressure on ourselves to achieve something as monumental as finding the person we are going to spend the rest of our life with... our brain creates a negative association with that activity/behavior due to the amount of anxiety it usually causes you," Travis McNulty, licensed mental health counselor, tells Bustle. "After a while of being exposed to this negative pressure you start to look at dating and finding the 'right one' as stressful and unfulfilling."

In short, if you're putting pressure on every date to be "The One," it's easy to get burnt out and give up on dating entirely. If your goal is to eventually find a healthy relationship, it's important not to have some arbitrary timeline in mind. Instead, remember that all relationships require time and effort to both find and maintain — and you shouldn't be discouraged if your search for love isn't happening at the same pace as a love story in a made-for-TV movie.

"We tend to romanticize relationships, so it’s vital that people know that great relationships don’t just happen; they result from hard work, honesty, and effort," Manly says. "So, set your goals, put yourself out there, and keep your eye on the type of person and relationship that will bring out the best in yourself as well as the other person."

Tips For Finding A Healthy Relationship In 2019

So what can you do if you're serious about finding a partner in the coming year? The first (and most critical) step is making sure you're in a healthy emotional place with yourself first. Do you feel confident in asking for what you need from a partner/relationship? Are you happy regardless of your relationship status? Do you have the time and energy to devote to maintaining a healthy relationship? These are all questions you need to consider before diving headfirst into a relationship with someone.

"If one is looking for love in the New Year the first place to start is taking an honest assessment of how well we treat ourselves," Dr. Frank Niles, social and behavioral scientist, tells Bustle. "If we have a healthy relationship with ourselves this becomes a magnet to other people because we’re not needy of a relationship but rather are open to a relationship."

Aside from checking in with yourself about whether you're really in a good place to start a relationship, it's also useful to sit down and really think about what you want in a partner — and feel confident in asking for that as you meet new people and explore potential new connections.

"I often advise my clients to create open, honest lists of the qualities they are looking for in a companion (e.g., work ethic, moral code, common interests, as well as physical attributes) as well as the qualities they have to offer others," Manly says. "Far from setting unrealistic expectations, this technique helps people focus on what is truly important."

As long as you're confident in what you're looking for and unafraid to pursue that, finding a relationship doesn't have to feel daunting. If you're going into 2019 with the goal to be open to a relationship and actively seek opportunities to meet people, you'll be less likely to view bad or blah dates as "failures" — instead, those dates will be nothing more than a blip in your journey to meet your goal and find love.

"You’re not in charge of whether you find a partner, but you are in charge of whether you expand your social circle, start doing new activities where you’re likely to meet new people, craft a good online dating profile, and be the kind of person you’d like to date," Joan Price, senior sex and relationships educator and author, tells Bustle. "Instead of a goal to 'find a partner,' create an action plan so that your future partner will be able to find you, too!"

Ultimately, finding love is something that's never predictable. Even if you're doing all you can to meet new people, foster connections, and date in a healthy way, you can't control when or how you meet someone. But if you want the best chance at finding a healthy, happy, lasting relationship this year, the most important work you can do is getting clear about your intentions, setting realistic dating goals, and being willing to get out of your dating comfort zone a little. From there, it's a waiting game — but one that will hopefully be worth it in the end when you find an amazing partner.