Growing Together Through 2021
How to set goals that will strengthen your relationship through the new year.
After the challenges of 2020, you may be feeling that it’s extra important to go into this next year with confidence and direction. Setting goals and and intentions for the year in small but mighty ways can be grounding. A typical new year’s resolution looks something like vowing to go to the gym every other day or promising yourself that you’ll actually use your vacation days. These goals are great for your personal growth, especially if you’re able to stick with them, but have you ever thought about bringing such a goal-oriented mindset to your relationship?
All relationships, including romantic ones, require growth to be sustainable. As you grow as an individual, you’ll need your partner to grow with you (and vice versa). And since no relationship is perfect, odds are there are probably some points in your relationship that you and your significant other want to work on and grow through together.
Putting these goals together will help you and your partner get on the same page about your relationship and its strengths and weaknesses. Even if you don’t fulfill all of your goals by the end of the year, this can be a useful exercise in itself to strengthen your relationship. To help you both get started, we’ve put together several goals that resonate with many couples.
Create a system for household upkeep
If you live together, things that need to get done around the house can be a primary source of tension in a relationship. You may feel like you’re the one constantly doing the dishes or that the laundry is simply never getting done. Or maybe your partner finds it really important to keep the house neat and in order, whereas you’re more comfortable with a little clutter. When one person feels like the other is not carrying their weight in roommate duties, resentment can make a home with them.
To avoid this, come up with a plan to make sure that things get done. Maybe one of you commits to vacuuming once a week and the other follows that up with a mop. My partner, for instance, hates folding laundry, so we came up with a system where I take over folding duties after he’s put the clothes through the wash and dryer. Perhaps more importantly, come up with a plan together on how to communicate when one feels the other is not stepping up around the house.
Learn to let things go
In nearly every serious relationship, control issues tend to bubble to the surface. No two people are exactly the same, so your partner probably makes some decisions that you wouldn’t necessarily have made. It can be hard to let your partner just be themselves sometimes, but there is a fine line between communicating about things that bother you and trying to fundamentally change your partner. This year, you and your partner may want to work on letting the other flourish in their own unique ways and try not to micromanage each other. This will lead to a more open relationship where you can communicate about the problems that actually matter.
Communication is perhaps the most important element in any functioning relationship—romantic or not—yet it can be so hard to do well. Learning about your own communication style and how it clashes and matches with your partner’s is essential to a relationship that grows in a positive way. Better communication is probably on every couple’s list of resolutions, but succeeding in this goal will look totally different to everyone. It’s also not a quantifiable goal, so you and your partner may want to set milestones that help you check and see how you’re doing in this department throughout the year.
Nourish each other’s individual goals
To be a strong couple, you need to be happy with yourselves as individuals. As you and your partner come up with goals and resolutions for the new year, communicate with each other on the best way to provide support. So many resolutions go unmet by december, but having someone who can provide support, accountability, perspective can give you that extra push to really commit. Being there for each other in this way can help to positively build your relationship.
Support each other’s self-care plan
Sometimes it’s hard to ask for what you really need, especially when you set ambitious goals for yourself. The only way both of you are going to meet those goals in a way that improves your life together, however, is if you care for yourselves throughout the process. So while you may be forming goals around how to be better together, don’t forget to set goals for your self-care and self-love. Then, let your partner know if you need anything from them to complete that goal.
Spend more quality time
Pretty much every relationship can use a little TLC. The world and our lives get so crazy sometimes that we forget to prioritize the people we love—even our significant other. This year, you and your partner may want to commit not only to spending more time together, but doing so in a way where you put all the craziness of life away for a few hours and just be together. This is especially important during the pandemic, which can have us feeling more isolated and in need of deeper human connection.
This goal is not easily quantifiable, so you may want to come up with more specific quality time resolutions. Maybe committing to a movie night once a week where you both turn your phones off and just cuddle on the couch to good flick. You could decide to learn a new skill together, go on a walk every other evening, or just take ten minutes every night to hear about each other’s day. Whatever it is, come up with something that won’t be too difficult to commit to regularly.
These are just a few, and they are very broad and generalized. There are probably some that are more specific to you and your partner, but don’t shy away from that! This goal-setting exercise is about your relationship, so get creative and be honest with each other about what you need and what you’re hoping to get out of each other and the year.
All paths towards growth will have bumps in the road and maybe even a few detours. Some goals may become irrelevant by the end of the year, while others you may want to carry over to your 2022 resolutions. Setting goals is not a test to evaluate how successful your relationship is—it’s an exercise in growth and an opportunity to get your priorities straight. You want to seriously commit to these goals, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t meet all of them come December.