Sex & Relationships

21 Expert-Approved Relationship Goals For 2021

More day trips, less Netflix.

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2020 was the year of tie-dye, random crying, and really interrogating what actually matterys to you and your partner. Perhaps that's why this new year, your relationship goals for 2021 are all about tuning inward, and tending to your love life like it's a delicate houseplant in an overpriced (but aesthetically pleasing) planter from Anthropologie.

In a world without nightlife or vacations in the foreseeable future, you and are your partner are forced to really live in the moment and with each other. You have to continually find ways to make your relationship feel exciting and fresh without the ability to travel, go dancing, or get bottomless mimosas. And when you can't go out with your friends or head to your parents for the weekend, you'll have to deal with conflict head-on, especially if you're living together.

As you grew and evolved through the whirlwind of 2020, so did your love. And for longevity, resilience, and all those gooey feelings, here are 21 romantic goals for the new year.


Be Intentional With Your Time Together

Social distancing isn't an excuse to watch movies and get takeout every night. You can be safe while still being intentional with your time — take a Zoom cooking class, do an at-home art project, phonebank for a cause you care about, visit a local nature reserve. More day trips, less Netflix. The couch will still be there when you're done, I promise.


Play Hooky

Everyone deserves a mental health day sometimes. In 2021, make it a point in your relationship to prioritize free time, rest, and a little spontaneity. Pick a day you can both play hooky and switch from GChat to g-spot.


Cultivate Gratitude

If 2020 was the year things you couldn't do, consider 2021 the year to be thankful for the things you do have. A few times a week, exchange lists with your partner about what you both are grateful for. (Warm food? Comfy Clothes? Friends that send you memes?) You'll be amazed at how quickly it will change your perspective.


Turn Your Damn Phone Off

While working from home, you may feel like you and your partner are in a polyamorous relationship with your iPhones. Set out specific phoneless dates to enjoy each other's company — unplugged.


Have "You Time"

Being in love doesn't mean loving all the same things. Take that Zoom yoga class your boo laughed at, marathon that trashy TV they don't get, order from the Thai place your partner can't stand. After months of self-distancing together, scheduling some weekly "you time" is more important than ever.


Practice Saying & Hearing "No"

Long gone are the days of saying "yes" to things you don't actually want to do and then secretly getting resentful or trying to steamroll your partner into doing something they're not into. 2021 is the year of "No." Practice setting boundaries when you need to and accepting them, even when you don't want to hear it. You don't have to go to every Zoom family dinner, nor do your partner need to watch you bleach your roots.


Find New Hobbies

Your quarantine routine may have looked like takeout and True Detective reruns every night, but the new year is a great time to find some new hobbies — learn a foreign language, start a Black author book club, or even take up knitting.


Create Novelty

Stories about one-night stands or summer flings are exciting because they are novel — they're new and unfamiliar and exciting. You can still have this in a long-term monogamous relationship, but you'll need to find little ways to create novel experiences. Rent a nearby Airbnb for a staycation, try getting it on in a different room — heck, order Chinese from a different place.


Learn What Makes You Super Turned on

Sometimes you eat because bored, and sometimes you eat because you're starving. The same goes for sex — you know when you're neutrally into it, versus so totally consumed and ready to go you can't imagine not getting it on right this second. Learning what makes you and your partner feel super turned on, and do more of that.


Address Issues Early

Rather than letting little things built up and stew, try addressing issues early and often. This doesn't mean being confrontational 24-7; it means being transparent with your feelings at the moment and saying when something makes you upset.


Know What You're *Really* Fighting About

Are you fighting about the wet towel on the bathroom floor? Or are you fighting about not feeling heard in your relationship and feeling taken for granted? Knowing what you're actually upset about will help you fix it.


Quiet The Peanut Gallery

Your relationship is between you and your partner. It doesn't need approval or understanding from your mom, your hairdresser, your best friend, or your sister.


Establish Your Own Timelines

Traditional relationship milestones are tired. You and your boo work on your own schedule, and you get to make your own plans. Rather than feeling pressure to conform to some outside idea of what your relationship should look like, make plans for yourself.


Make Smaller DailyGestures

Sure, lavish gifts and big declarations of love can be exciting. But smaller daily gestures (bringing someone a cup of coffee, sending a "thinking of you" text, doing the dishes, helping carry groceries, etc.) make caring a habit rather than an event.


Talk Openly And Frankly About Your Sex Life

Even with long-term partners, getting honest about your sex life can be daunting. Are you having sex enough? Too much? Is there something you want to try? Thinking of switching your birth control? Having smaller, more frequent check-ins and conversations about sex is the best way to normalize talking about it and nix any potential hurt feelings or awkwardness.


Manage Your Expectations

From family planning to who's paying for dinner, expectations come in all shapes and sizes. Being transparent with your wants and needs helps you and your partner manage your expectations without feeling totally surprised or betrayed if you're not on the same page.


Spend Quiet Time Together

If you've pictured growing old with someone, consider channeling your elderly selves. Snuggle up to read, draw, or just enjoy each other's company in quiet. Tune out all outside distractions, and let go of the pressure to fill every silence.


Actively Listen & Remember

This is the year to remember to ask about that big meeting your partner has on Thursday and that their boss' name is Chris. Active listening shows your partner that you care about the things they say. If you're a spacey sweetie, write things down or set reminders in your phone. You don't have to remember every little thing, but a little effort goes a long way.


Say "I Feel..." Not "You Are..."

When tensions start to rise, it's easy to name your partner's behavior ( "You're selfish") before expressing your own feelings ("I feel ignored"). Try framing your thoughts with "I" statements and describing how you're feeling, rather than what they are doing. This allows you to express yourself without accusing your partner and gives them space to discuss their intentions.


Put In The Work

Like a house plant or kombucha scoby, relationships take nurturing and care: check-ins, sexy time, unsexy time where you talk about bills and work schedules, conflict mediation, and showing up for each other. Decide to put in the work — together.


Discover Your Own Goals

Think about what you want from your relationship this year — passion, excitement, security, trust? Do you want a weekly date night? More transparency with who you're texting? New sex positions? Decide what matters to you as a couple, then discover how to achieve and prioritize that.