BLOG: Couple Goals: How to Turn Your Lofty Visions into Everyday Realities
WANNA PLAY A GAME?
“We need to talk” are NEVER the words anyone wants to hear. It’s like fingernails on the chalkboard - most people will instantly tense up.
“Let’s play a game!” is usually MUCH more enticing. It’s not hard to understand that it’s easier, (and more fun), to Aim for Awesome as allies than it is to pick apart a problem and dissect a drama as adversaries.
That’s why Raj and I, (and my coaching clients), lean into Loving Better by creating 90 Day Games, where we set our shared goals, three times a year, year after year.
GOALS = HAPPINESS
One of the top proven practices for creating happiness is to pursue goals. So why not apply that to your marriage? Why not create and pursue goals TOGETHER as a path to generating ongoing and evolving happiness in your marriage?
Couples who set and pursue shared goals together are more likely to experience higher relationship satisfaction. The couple that pursues goals together, not only stays together, they THRIVE together!
Couples who actively set goals and prioritize shared activities are 50% more likely to experience higher relationship satisfaction. (Source: Journal of Family Psychology)
THE PLEASURE IS IN THE PURSUIT
It turns out, it’s not even about ACHIEVING your goals. Research has shown that it's the PURSUIT of goals that makes you happy even more so than achieving them.
"It turns out that the process of working toward a goal, participating in a valued and challenging activity, is as important to well-being as its attainment.” - Sonya Lyubomirsky
The fantastic book, The How of Happiness, (quick summary video here), outlines the 12 practices proven to create happiness. You guessed it - PURSUING goals is one of those 12 healthy habits for happiness.
The practice of pursuing goals together is in and of itself a happiness-inducing act. It also helps you stay positive and focused on forward momentum. It fosters partnership, playfulness, and promotes peaceful interactions. Plus of course there’s all you can accomplish and experience when you stop fighting with each other and start focusing on your shared goals instead.
INTIMACY vs IRRITATION
For most couples, the default dynamic in a relationship is to slip into autopilot, get caught up in conflicts and let layers of let downs build up until there’s a Relationship Residue so thick, intimacy turns to irritation and eventually irreconcilable differences.
If you want a happy, healthy and hot marriage, it takes INTENTION, ATTENTION and ACTION. It is NOT automatic, especially over time!
If you build a habit of investing in intimacy, then the connection will only get better and better and better.
If you fail to invest in intimacy and you let yourselves and your marriage slip into the day-to-day-default relationship, it can be disastrous.
SETTING GOALS vs PROBLEM PATHOLOGIZING
Wouldn't it be easier, more enjoyable and so much less draining to focus on aligned SOLUTIONS rather than getting "stuck in the muck", problem pathologizing or dissecting dramas in your relationship?
Can you imagine the difference in your relationship and everyday life if you were focused as allies Aiming for Awesome rather than adversaries at odds over even little things?
When one beloved blames, the other beloved defends. It’s relationship math. Then you’re on a slippery slope that can easily turn a misunderstanding or bad day into a messy fight with deep and lasting impact.
THE PROBLEM WITH FOCUSING ON THE PROBLEM
It is normal, natural and even understandable to want to fix what isn’t working. Yet it can be draining, polarizing and detrimental to what you actually want. Focusing on problems is an unhealthy habit and there's a price to pay.
- You build distance by blaming, shaming, complaining and criticizing.
- Communication is adversarial and pulls you apart.
- Fear + frustration are the norm / the fights are “dirty.”
- You’re NOT hot for each other / the sex is “clean” or rare.
- You’re in it for your own happiness / winning is for one.
- You feel unsafe, unaccepted or unappreciated.
- You do NOT trust each other.
- You end up sad / hopeless over the state of your relationship.
- You don’t like each other or your life very much.
- Others notice the quality of your love - your relationship is a source of embarrassment. (“That” couple)
- Conflict is a natural byproduct of focusing on problems, so you waste time, energy and any goodwill and often get FARTHER from what you want.
THE BENEFITS TO PURSUING GOALS TOGETHER
While those behaviors above are all way too common, they are NOT helpful nor enjoyable. It takes something to shift from fixing a problem to Aiming for Awesome and setting clear shared goals - yet the rewards are huge.
- You get on the same team, you lift each other up and focus on creative solutions that work for both of you.
- Your communication brings you closer as collaborative partners.
- Care and connection are the norm - the fights are “clean” and rare.
- You’re hot for each other / the sex is “dirty” and happening
- “Win-win or no deal” becomes a motto to meet BOTH your needs.
- You feel safe, expressed, heard, accepted and appreciated.
- You build trust and intimacy.
- You get hopeful and excited about your relationship and future.
- You don’t just love each other, but actually LIKE each other and your life.
- Others notice the quality of your love / your relationship is a source of inspiration. (“It” couple).
- Problem solving is a natural byproduct of goal setting so you not only accomplish and experience more of what you DO want, you also address what you do NOT want!
ENOUGH "problem pathologizing". Focus on what you DO want and stop wasting your finite energy on arguing about everything you DON’T want. The problems will get handled, just from a different perspective, as obstacles to the actual goal, not the problems themselves.
Live and love from a clear VISION of what you want, THEN look at the “problems” ONLY as to how they get in the way of what you REALLY want.
One of the best practices for setting and reaching shared relationship and life goals is the 90-Day Game.
Every January, May and September, my husband and I, (and my coaching clients), pick our top three shared priorities and set goals together. This 90 Day Game provides a structure for clarity, accountability, inspiration and support to not only overcome challenges, but also create a more playful, peaceful and passionate marriage.
A 90 Day Game is about not just avoiding blaming and complaining, (although that IS a big deal when you can Nip Nagging in the Bud). It’s not just to create a lovely vision to use to turn your complaints into creativity. It IS most importantly about practicing a habit to turn your stretch goals into more and more of your day-to-day REALITY.
The Game provides a habitual, forward-focused approach toward creating more and more of what both actually DO want and less and less of what you don’t want.
It’s a CYCLICAL HABIT for up-leveling your love life in a reliable and consistent way.
90 ON / 30 OFF
We recommend couples create goals together / play a 90 Day Game three times a year, focusing on three core themes/seasons…
- PLAY (May 15 to Aug 14)
- PEACE (Sept 15 to Dec 14)
- PASSION (Jan 15 to April 14)
Each season, follow the steps below to create, monitor and assess your shared 90-day goals.
Just don’t forget, in all the stretching and striving and growing and evolving and "aiming for awesome" you do for your relationship, it's good to take a break too. It's vital!
In between each 90 Day Game, be sure to release striving or any intentional aim and just give yourselves and your relationship a breather from any improving energy or effort.
READY, SET, GO!
Use these steps to play your own 90 Day Game and enjoy more of what you BOTH want in love and life:
READY: EXPLORE & ALIGN
EXPLORE what you want in your relationship and life. NOTE: Just jump into setting goals OR first create a clear and inspiring shared vision, aka Marriage Map, to inform and guide your goals.
- Pick your PRIORITIES. What are the top 3 areas to focus on for the next 90 Days? Select from this list (or come up with your own areas). Communication, Sex & Intimacy, Finances, Partnership & Connection, Spirituality & Growth, Health, Relating (family, friends and community), Independence / Interdependence or Lifestyle/Flow of your Day/Year.
- First on your own and then together, take turns finishing the sentence... "One way we might get more of what we both want in this priority area might be to..."
- Offer a variety of suggestions or options, but do not make any demands or be right about what to do.
ALIGN around what goals and habits you think could be helpful to create more of what you BOTH want.
- Discuss what goals might be the most meaningful for your relationship. What would it take to look back on this 90 Day Game as a positive turning point for you and your relationship?
- Say "Oh I'm IN. Game ON!" if you are an enthusiastic yes. If not, still be gentle if you’re not aligned with their suggestion. Say something like "I like the creativity, but I'm not really feeling that one. What else have you got? Or “What do you think about if we tried…?"
- Do this until you each have a list of at least 3 possible goal IDEAS that you would BOTH be up for.
SET: DECLARE & BE S.M.A.R.T.I.
DECLARE what YOU will do and what specific actions you will take to reach your shared goals.
- Together, draft, edit, then DECLARE 1-3 goals for each of your three priorities you aligned on in the previous step.
- Declare what YOU will do and let your beloved declare what THEY will do. Just pick something YOU are committed to being intentional and in action around. If your beloved isn’t as inspired to participate as you are, don’t pressure them.
- Make your goals S.M.A.R.T. (see below).
- BE SURE you write them down. Don’t forget to include reminders/prompts so you DO it! I like the bathroom mirror or the refrigerator and/or calendar alerts.
- Go the extra mile and share it with a wider group for more public accountability.
Be S.M.A.R.T.I. about your goals. Make sure these statements are true for your declared goals.
- Specific: This goal is clear and unambiguous to us both.
- Measurable: We will be able to measure if this goal has been attained.
- Achievable: This goal is a stretch, but a realistic stretch for us.
- Relevant: This goal is important to us / we’re motivated to reach it.
- Time-bound: This goal has a target completion date.
- Inspiring: This goal is inspiring for both of us.
GO: MONITOR & ASSES
MONITOR – Track your progress and make adjustments as needed.
- Do brief check-ins daily or weekly on your own and weekly or monthly together. Questions for your check ins:
- Are we creating PARTNERSHIP and alignment as we pursue the goals together?
- Are we on track / making PROGRESS towards what we said we do? Are there any of our goals that are calling for some extra attention or effort?
- Are we staying PRESENT to our declared actions? How can we bring a new level of intention to our next steps?
- Do we feel accomplished or PROUD of our efforts so far?
- See how close you actually got to closing the gap between what you SAID you were committed to and what you ACTUALLY did.
- Consider what you did or did not do, then put the past in the past so you can move forward into the future. No matter how it went, don’t get STUCK in the past. Declare the results for that day, week, or month COMPLETE and set your sights on how to do even better next time.
"When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps." - Confucius
ASSESS - Evaluate what happened and make adjustments for the lessons learned.
- At the end of the 90 days, consider what you learned from the progress you achieved and any patterns you noticed.
- Ask - What went well? What could be better next time? How might you stack the cards in your favor?
- Capture any lessons learned to apply to your next 90 Day Game. Be specific. Could you break the goals into smaller chunks? Is there someone who might be able to provide support? Would personalized coaching be a good fit for you?
- Celebrate not just what you accomplished, but that you even set goals together in the first place!
MAKE IT YOUR OWN
The 90 Day Game is not one-size-fits-all Game. Modify any of this to fit your favorite format for your growth and development together. This is a model that invites you to experiment with what works for YOU and your marriage, while providing a basic framework that works, if YOU work it!
Find your own rhythm of what works. Just keep exploring and experimenting how to Love Better with the 90 Day Game.
PROGRESS NOT PERFECT
You aren’t perfect. Neither is your beloved. Nor will your 90-Day Game go perfectly.
This is a Game for a GREAT marriage. It’s a Game, NOT for loving perfectly, but for Loving Better. What you LEARN during your 90 Day Game is as important as what you create and accomplish. Just keep Aiming for Awesome and for doing even better next time.
PLEASURE NOT PRESSURE aka Focus On You!
Share and inspire, but don’t press or pressure your beloved to participate. Tap into teamwork, but allow for each of you to participate in your own way and time.
Even if your beloved isn't as, (or at all), into being as intentional as you are about pursuing goals together, keep going on your own. Good things come to those who focus on how THEY can grow.
If your beloved IS into being your playmate in your relationship evolution - fantastic. Just don't get stopped because they don't seem interested. It may take TWO to Tango but research shows it only takes ONE to change a habit. Plus, pressuring your beloved to do anything RARELY goes well. Never pressure them to participate.
PLAYING = WINNING
The last thing you want on autopilot is your marriage. Invest in intimacy as an ongoing HABIT or pay the price when problems inevitably pop up. Love is not just something you feel, it is something you DO. Love is a VERB!
Who might you and your beloved become and what results might you create if you let go of any blaming or complaining and instead set your minds and hearts on something you BOTH really want more of?
If you fail to invest in intimacy and you let yourselves and your relationship slip into the day-to-day default relationship, it can be disastrous. Life abhors a vacuum they say, so don’t let conflict and disconnect creep into yours.
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