What are some marriage goals to set as a couple? Looking for smart goals for marriage for long-term goal setting?
As a divorce attorney, I see first-hand the reasons that marriages fail. My clients share intimate details of their relationships from when they first met to when they split.
As a wife and mother myself, I know personally that marriages are hard work – especially when life piles on caregiving responsibilities, health crises, work stress, and financial pressure (and if you think those things won’t happen to you, just wait a year or two).
While I am committed to guiding my clients through their divorce crises, I often wish that these couples had taken the time before it ever got to this stage to talk about what they really wanted out of the marriage and to set SMART marriage goals.
Learning how to spend time together setting relationship goals is the best marriage advice you’ll ever hear. Married couples need to make it a priority today to work together on your marriage relationship now, before it falls apart later.
What are Marriage Goals?
Marriage goals are like mission statements for your relationship. They are personal to each couple and can be as complex or as simple as each couple wants. Good marriage goals reflect both partners’ core values.
It is also important that your marriage goals are flexible and adaptable to different stages in your lives. It’s a good idea to write down your marriage goals and keep them in a safe place so that you can pull them out again later.
Marriage goals are not just an expression of where you are right now in life, but also where you are headed. Good marriage goals are like a roadmap that you can return to when things get tough. You can pull them out and remind yourself of what is truly important and what you need to focus on.
Marriage goals can help you decide what should take priority when you and your spouse both feel there is not enough time in the day, or when money gets tight at the end of the month. Marriage goals help keep you on track and provide reassurance that you’re headed in the right direction or can offer a reminder to change course when things don’t feel right.
Do you and your spouse need to start setting goals for your marriage?
Why Should You Set Marriage Goals?
First, the process of setting marriage goals will force you to sit down and really think about what you and your partner want from your marriage. There is nothing wrong with being in love and attracted to another person, but marriage is more than attraction.
Marriage is a commitment to go through life’s ups and downs with another person. You should ask yourself why you want to get married, what you’re looking for from your partner, and what you need from your marriage. At the same time, you should also think about your own personal goals, as well as the needs of anyone who relies on you for care, like your children or aging relatives.
Second, the process of setting marriage goals forces you to talk about these issues with your spouse. For so many of my clients, communication has been a problem in their marriage long before either side hired a divorce attorney.
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Setting marriage goals is a good place to practice respectful communication and compromise. The discussion can provide important information about your partner’s values and how your partner thinks.
The process also helps reveal if couples share the same goals for marriage or if they want different things from the marriage. If a couple discovers they have different marriage goals, then the next step is to see whether their goals are compatible, or if there is room to compromise.
If your goals are incompatible, it is better to know this before you walk down the aisle than to hire someone like me ten years later to fight for custody and support.
What Are The 5 Principles of Marriage?
Before you sit down to start writing your goals, I suggest that you first think about what’s important in a marriage. Based on my experience as a divorce lawyer, I’ve seen the same themes come up repeatedly in my cases.
As a result, I think the following five principles of marriage summarize what is necessary to make the relationship and partnership work.
Without trust, all the other principles of marriage fall apart, which is why it’s my number one principle. Trust is having faith in your partner. You have to trust your partner to have your back and be in your corner in life, both with your accomplishments and failures.
You have to trust that your partner will make good decisions about parenting, finances, and life in general. The need to micromanage or control a partner is toxic in a marriage and I’ve seen many divorcing couples list that as their number one complaint.
Finally, you have to trust your partner to be faithful. ’ve had many cases where adultery has undermined all trust between two parties but by the same token, I’ve also seen where unfounded paranoia about cheating and jealousy of the partner’s friends and coworkers have also been toxic to the marriage. You cannot have a healthy marriage without trust.
A loveless marriage is a lonely, awful place, so for a marriage to work, there must be love. However, many young couples mistake lust and excitement with being with a new person for the deeper love that is so important. Also, knowing your spouse’s love languages, showing and reciprocating love.
Love comes with knowing another person on a deep level and respecting them. Love requires both kindnesses in your interactions and true compassion for what your partner faces in life. This kind of love goes beyond physical intimacy, but rather an emotional connection.
I’ve had so many cases where one spouse resorts to name-calling, cursing, belittling, tearing down the other person, and calling the other person crazy. When I talk to these clients, they often tell me they are so ashamed that they put up with this for as long as they did.
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Communication is so important for a marriage to work. You have to be able to talk about topics that may be upsetting, embarrassing, or about which you and your partner may disagree. You have to be able to talk about sex, finances, health problems, mistakes you’ve made, and more.
You also have to be able to truly listen and understand the perspective of your spouse, rather than assuming that your spouse sees things the same way you do. It is important that you talk to your spouse about these issues rather than complaining to a friend, family member, or worst of all – your child.
In so many of my cases, communication has become so broken that each conversation becomes an argument.
Intimacy should not be underrated in a marriage, and it is not just about sex. It’s about sharing the intimate details of your life with someone else, details that you would never show the rest of the world.
It’s about finding out what brings the other person pleasure, and what the other person needs. It’s about expressing love through touch. It can be about experimenting in the bedroom or just cuddling while watching a movie.
Just because the initial lust wears off does not mean that intimacy becomes unimportant. I’ve had a surprising number of cases where one spouse has just turned off and stopped being intimate with the other, and this causes all sorts of ripple effects of hurt and rejection. Intimacy is necessary.
Everything in a marriage is a compromise, from simple decisions about what you eat for dinner to life-changing decisions about where you live.
When one spouse feels the need to control these decisions, an unhealthy dynamic begins where either every decision becomes a fight, or the other spouse acquiesces to keep the peace, but secretly resents their partner.
To avoid this unhealthy pattern, make sure that you are asking your spouse what he or she wants and truly listening before a decision is being made. By the same token, make sure that you are marrying someone who is able to listen to you and is open to finding solutions that meet both your needs.
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What Are the 3 Most Important Things in a Marriage?
Again, being a divorce lawyer gives me a unique perspective on what goes on behind closed doors, even in cases where friends and families were surprised by the split.
From my experience, these are the three most important things in a marriage:
You have to have your spouse’s back and your spouse has to have yours. Life is full of unexpected challenges that push you to your limits, but your spouse should be there by your side as you face these crises together.
You and your spouse should present a united front to your families, your children, and the world. You should never have to doubt that you have your spouse’s full support as you navigate life’s ups and downs.
It may seem counterintuitive that one of the most important things in a marriage is space, but I’ve represented individuals who felt stifled and controlled in their marriages. To be the best possible version of oneself, everyone needs physical, mental, and emotional space.
If you have a spouse who wants to tell you what to do in your career or micromanage how you interact with the children, then you’re not getting the mental and emotional space you need. If you have a spouse who doesn’t want you to go out and meet up with friends, or there’s nowhere in the house you can go to just have a moment to yourself, then you’re not getting the physical space you need.
Paranoia, jealousy, control, codependency, and micromanaging are all relationship killers. Your spouse cannot and should not be everything to you, and it’s healthy to have friendships and interests that you do not share with your spouse.
It’s about finding that balance between being present and having time for your spouse and having time for you as well – and ensuring you are with a partner who values both.
In order for a marriage to succeed, both spouses need to take personal responsibility for themselves and for their role in the marriage. Issues like depression, anger, addiction, severe chronic illnesses, and unexpected unemployment can put a strain on a marriage, but they do not have to end a marriage as long as the spouse with these problems takes the necessary steps to try to solve them.
I’ve had clients tell me that they have begged their spouse for years to get help to become sober, or go to the doctor for their diabetes, but their spouse has refused. I’ve had clients tell me that they don’t blame their spouse for getting fired, but they got fed up with begging their spouse to at least try and find a new job.
It wasn’t the layoff or struggle with prescription pain pills that doomed the marriage. It was one spouse’s refusal to take personal responsibility for seeking help that finally convinced my clients to hire me.
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15 SMART Marriage Goals to Set As a Couple
Now that I’ve gone through what I believe are the 5 principles of marriage and the 3 most important things in the marriage, let’s look at some examples of SMART marriage goals for a successful partnership.
Short Term Goals for Marriage
#1. Creating and sticking to a monthly budget:
It is important to remember that marriage is both a financial and emotional partnership and financial struggles can put tremendous pressure on the union.
Have an open and honest conversation with your spouse about income and expenses and together, create a monthly budget that covers all reoccurring monthly expenses, and uses what money is left over to save for unexpected costs, like car problems, and allots each spouse some money to spend each month on themselves without asking the other spouse’s permission.
#2. Making time for each other:
Whether it’s through date nights or catching lunch together in the middle of the workday, it’s important to set aside time for each, free of the distractions of children and chores around the house.
It’s not necessary to have an agenda, but you do have to put away your phone and be fully present for each other. Having quality time is one of the essential goals married couples need to set.
#3. Dividing chores around the house:
Life can be so busy between kids, work, and other activities that both partners need to commit to doing their fair share around the house. If one partner stays home, he or she may do more, but the important thing here is that it’s a discussion and that neither partner feels that they are doing more than the other.
#4. Trying something new as a couple:
Whether it’s a cooking class, skydiving, dance, or meditation, doing new things together as a couple brings you closer together and gives you something to talk about and later reminisce about. Get out of your comfort zone and use the new experience to bond with your spouse.
You could make a bucket list of activities and adventures to take together as a couple, or as a family.
#5. Travel together:
Some couples would be happiest taking several international trips a year, whereas others only need a weekend at a cabin or a beach motel. Whatever your preference, it’s important that you talk about it and budget for it.
Once the planning is done, you can sit back and look forward to the time away together.
#6. Improving your sex life:
Just because the initial lust wears off does not mean that your sex life has to become less enjoyable. In fact, the opposite can be true. Being more comfortable with your spouse and being more familiar with their body can lead to more enjoyment and closer connections.
#7. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle:
Setting up healthy habits with eating and exercise as you age is so important, and having a spouse share the same goals can really help you stick with a workout or commitment to cooking healthier.
Long Term Marriage Goals
#8. Getting out of debt:
I’ve seen so many divorces where debt has been such a crippling financial burden. Debt can take many forms, including personal student loans, credit cards, mortgages, or taking out loans to cover education costs for your children.
It’s important to come up with a plan to get out of debt before you hit retirement and if necessary, you should talk to a certified financial planner to come up with a plan. It’s never too early to start.
#9. Raising independent and confident children:
If you and your spouse have children, it’s important to be on the same page about what you want for them. Commit to raising children who are independent and can solve problems even when you’re not around.
Encourage your children and instill confidence in them. You won’t always be around to do things for them, but it’s important to remember that they are the leaders of tomorrow.
#10. Providing care for aging relatives:
Statistically, many people will be caring for aging parents and relatives in addition to raising children. This can be both a financial and emotional burden, and it’s important to discuss with your spouse issues like whether it’s okay for a spouse’s parent to move into your home, or whether you are okay with one spouse scaling back at work to provide care at night for a sick relative. These are hard issues, and often there are no good answers, but communication is key with your spouse
#11. Saving for retirement:
It’s important to start saving for retirement early. Pensions are now rare and minimum contributions to 401ks may not be enough money to fund your entire retirement, especially now that people are living longer and long-term care is becoming so expensive. Set aside money each month and talk to a financial professional about how much you should be saving and the most tax-advantageous ways to do so.
#12. Planning for the end of life:
No one wants to think about their own death or what it would be like to have mobility issues in a long-term care facility, but as uncomfortable as it is, it’s important to talk to your spouse about these issues. If you and your spouse were to suddenly die, who would care for your children? Do you want to leave your money in a trust for the children? Have you spoken with a professional about having an advance medical directive?
#13. A Lifetime of learning:
It is important to go through life to be open to new experiences and have a growth mindset. Technology is changing rapidly. People change. What may have once been a satisfying career may become less interesting. Make a commitment with your spouse to being open to a lifetime of learning, and see where it takes you.
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#14. Being transparent about finances:
As I’ve said previously, a marriage is a financial partnership. You cannot be selfish, or think that you are more deserving of the ability to spend money than your spouse. I’ve seen arrangements with separate and joint accounts work, but what I’ve seen clients complain about time and time again is when one spouse is secretive and hoards money. This undermines trust and equality in the partnership. Commit to being transparent with your spouse about income and debt.
#15. Putting your spouse first:
Finally, commit to putting your spouse first. If your spouse has a medical emergency, that comes ahead of your friends, your extended family, and your work responsibilities. You must carve out time for your spouse in your busy schedule. When you and your spouse disagree, find a way to compromise. Forgive your spouse when necessary, and apologize for your own actions when called for. Put your spouse first.
Set SMART Goals For Marriage Together
Whether you just got engaged or have been married for decades, it’s never too late to sit down and talk about your marriage goals.
Get Your SMART Goals Worksheet
Ready to set good marriage goals as a couple? To start the conversation with your spouse? Sign up below to get your FREE SMART Goals Worksheet, form-fillable, and printable, and includes more examples to help you.
These discussions may seem daunting, but in a loving and trusting relationship, these conversations can shed light on the goals of both spouses and can bring you closer together as you plan for your own unique future.Want to set smart goals for marriage? Ready to set long-term goals with your spouse? Here are 15 good marriage goals for a lasting relationship. #Marriage #RelationshipGoals #Relationship #Goals #GoalSetting
What marriage goals will you set?
More About Guest Contributor
Nanda Davis is a Roanoke, Va.-based attorney who opened her own firm – Davis Law Practice – in 2014, specializing in divorce, custody, and child protective services matters. A mother of two boys, Davis graduated from the University of Virginia and attended George Mason School of Law, where she graduated magna cum laude.
Last Updated on August 25, 2022