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Nobody ever said that being in a romantic relationship is easy… at least, not all of the time.
In fact, I’d venture to say it takes work most of the time in order for it to grow and, ultimately, go the distance.
Despite it being the strongest bond two people can engage in with one another, marriage may be the most fragile relationship of all.
It’s quite the conundrum.
You see, finding each other was the easy part… then there was dating, planning a wedding, the honeymoon.
Maybe a baby entered the picture?
Let’s face it, once you uttered “I do”… things got real!
And when things get real, they have a tendency to weigh on a relationship… finances, work and family obligations, repetition, boredom, loss of free time or personal space.
So what do you do?
How do you keep the relationship going?
Well, setting tangible marriage goals is a good place to start.
In this article, I will outline 25 marriage goals to help keep your relationship on track… and get you across the proverbial finish line, together.
25 Marriage Goals Every Couple Should Set
1. Exercise Open, Honest Communication
I cannot begin to stress enough the importance of talking to your partner… and not just idle chit chat about your day, but about real stuff.
Your partner may be your best friend… but he (or she) is not a mindreader.
Lack of communication can be frustrating, especially when your partner completely shuts down and refuses to talk.
If something is bothering you, they need to know. And the sooner the better. (Check out these set of questions you can ask your potential spouse.)
Letting emotions fester will only lead to them boiling over into an argument… an argument that likely could have been avoided had you let your feelings be known sooner.
Here are some great books on marriage that can help you improve your communication skills.
2. Focus On The Positives
It is only natural to feel annoyed at your partner now and again.
After all, living with someone day in and day out for years can get repetitive at times… not to say that routine is bad. But it is just that… a routine.
Cooking meals. Packing lunches. Cleaning up. Going to work. Driving here or there. Meetings. Activities. Bedtime rituals.
While there is definitely something comforting about being comfortable around another person… it poses its challenges.
I mean, when is the last time you read a fairytale where the princess loved picking up her husband’s dirty socks from the floor? Or the prince just couldn’t get enough of his wife’s snoring all night long?
The best thing you can do when your significant other is resting on your nerves, or testing your pet peeves, is to take a step back and focus on their good qualities.
Go for a run and make a mental list of sorts – pros and cons.
Maybe he doesn’t put his plate in the sink after dinner… but he always helps you unload the dishwasher the next morning.
Or maybe she always forgets to close one window after she’s been airing the house out… but she never forgets to pick up your dry cleaning.
Trust me, for every little thing that “irks” you… there are likely at least three more things that you love about your partner. Important things that show they care.
3. Promote Small Gestures
Love should never be about greed and materialistic things.
Sure, most people don’t head into a marriage wishing they are going to be poor forever. They have hopes and dreams, just like the rest of us.
That being said, keeping sight of what really matters is where you will find a relationship’s true value.
Loyalty, compassion, trust, resilience… these are just some of the things that a marriage needs to weather the worst of storms.
When establishing your wish list of marriage goals, think about the small things.
The kind and selfless gestures you can extend to each other every single day.
Gather wildflowers on your morning walk to put in a vase for your wife, who’s been taking care of your sick child for two days.
Or perhaps you can surprise your husband with his favorite meal after a long day at the office.
Leave a love note under your spouse’s pillow, so he finds it when he first wakes up.
When it comes to love, and marriage, a little gesture can say a lot… and is almost always guaranteed to get you a smile.
Don’t you just love their smile?
Check out these apps for couples that can help promote small gestures.
4. Make Date Night A Priority
Just because you’re married, doesn’t mean you should stop making romance a priority.
And one of the best ways to keep that flame burning red hot is by simply going on a date.
Date night is a great way to leave the rest of the world and its problems behind you, even for just a little while, and focus on each other.
Forget about what happened at work or with the kids… and just enjoy a break from it all.
A date can be as simple as going for a hike and picnic lunch… or as fancy as dinner and a Broadway show.
Heck, maybe you can even pull off a weekend trip in the wine country.
Whatever it is you decide to do… just be sure to make it about the two of you. Nobody else. Choose something you’ll both enjoy and escape for a while.
5. Find A Hobby To Enjoy Together
If you ever wanted to try something new… there is no better person to brave the unknown with than your spouse.
After all, they have seen you at your worst, which means your marriage is a “no judgement” zone. You can do a lot of fun things as a couple.
So if you’ve been dying to take up sculpting or try a pilates class, why not get your partner involved in your new hobby?
Nowadays, you don’t even have to leave your home… if that makes obtaining this marriage goal more doable.
Life gets busy, I know. But adding something fresh and exciting to the schedule can do wonders for the soul… not to mention your marriage.
Ballroom dancing, anyone?
6. Repeat After Me: There Is No “I” In Team
A classic mistake many couples make is to distance themselves from one another if and when something is bothering them.
For instance, if you know there is a chance you may lose your job – and decide to keep that from your partner – you are also making the decision to deal with that gamut of emotions alone… instead of as a team.
And, trust me, there is nothing to be gained from flying solo.
Marriage is a partnership, a joint effort.
For better or worse, you committed yourself to standing side by side with this person for the rest of your life.
Because you make each other better people… and you are better together.
The only thing isolating your emotions will accomplish is creating a divide between you. And that is never good.
As I said before, your partner is a lot of things… but clairvoyant is not one of them.
Unless you married a psychic.
If they don’t know what’s going on with you, you will be forced to fight the battle alone… which is next to impossible to win without your greatest ally in tow.
7. Support Each Other’s Dreams
From a very young age, we were encouraged to follow our dreams.
Family members. Coaches. Mentors. Educators.
At times, it felt as if they made it their life’s mission to convince us that we were capable of anything we set our minds to.
Confidence is a wonderful trait… and also a wonderful gift, once someone places it in you.
And that shouldn’t change when you get married.
Supporting one another’s hopes and dreams is one of the easiest marriage goals to master.
After all, just because you are now “two souls joined as one”… doesn’t mean you don’t have your own hopes and dreams.
If you’re lucky, though, those dreams now include one another.
Maybe it’s a bucket list of travel destinations after retirement?
Or a business the two of your have always wanted to open?
Perhaps you just want to sell the house and put down roots somewhere else?
Encouraging each other’s dreams is a wonderful way to show your support for one another… but it’s always a great way to start a discussion about the future.
8. Exercise PG-Rated PDAs
Our children are still very young, so when my husband and I exchange a kiss in front of them, they just giggle.
That is, if they even notice at all.
If you have older kids, they probably roll their eyes… maybe even utter the words, “gross”.
Eh… who cares? They won’t always feel that way. Trust me.
In public, however, my husband has always been very discreet with the PDAs (ps, those are “public displays of affection”… in case you didn’t know).
He feels there is a time and a place for touching… and I agree. But there is also a perfectly acceptable limit you can exercise in public.
Kisses on the cheeks.
Placing his arm around you on a park bench.
These are what I like to refer to as, “PG-rated PDAs”.
Similar to your favorite family friendly movie, these little gestures of affection won’t offend the masses… while simultaneously letting your partner know they’ve still got your attention.
Try it. It’s one of the more simplest marriage goals to execute and offers plenty of upside.
9. Start And End Your Day With A Hug Or Kiss (Or Both)
10 years married and four children later… my husband and I still start and end every day with a kiss.
There’s nothing necessarily romantic about it. In fact, I see it as more of a sign of respect and gratitude.
I’m grateful for the man that he is, for what we have together and for his contributions to our family. And when we exchange those kisses, I feel that he thinks the same about me.
Sure, sometimes it sends up a little spark… but nine times out of ten, it’s just another way of saying, “thank you”. Not to mention, a great note to begin or finish a day on.
10. Give Each Other Space
Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you should spend all of your free time together. In fact, one of the marriage goals so many couples often overlook is the need to give each other some space.
I’ll admit, I’ve been found guilty of this at times… but, in my defense, I generally play the “kids” card when this happens.
You see, having four kids under age 10, can keep a gal busy. Add to it that I’m a stay-at-home mom who works part time… and that equates to my getting very little time to myself. Let alone, grown up time.
I mean, I’m lucky if I get to go to the bathroom uninterrupted.
So, when hubby returns from work, I can be as bad as the kids are… vying for his attention.
I have no shame.
And on those few occasions where we are gifted a precious few hours off from the kids (i.e. the Holy Grail of parenthood), I have a tendency to assume we’d like to spend them together.
Which is the case most times. I’m lucky that we enjoy many of the same things – as well as each other’s company.
That being said, it’s also perfectly healthy to encourage each other to get out with friends… or to an exercise class… shopping… now and again. One of you simply offers to hold down the fort, while the other enjoys some “me” time.
The trick is to be fair and make sure you reciprocate equally.
Being too controlling in a relationship leads to trouble.
11. Leave The Past Where It Belongs
When you agreed to get married, you essentially entered in an unspoken agreement to leave the past behind you.
Who you dated before.
Good or bad, these things made you who you are.
They made you into the person you’re partner chose to spend the rest of his life with.
Thus, it would be unfair to use any of that against them when and if things come up in your marriage.
Who they were is not who they are now.
Life’s circumstances have seen to that.
Your marriage has seen to that.
On that note, marrying someone you are hoping to drastically change rarely works out in your favor.
So if you can’t live with their past… it’s likely not a situation worth compromising your future over.
12. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
Life can pose challengers upon all of us. That’s the way it works.
When you’re married, these challenges tend to have a larger target audience… you, your spouse, your kids.
If you let the little things bother you, such as a lazy co-worker or the town gossip, then you are essentially inviting them to disrupt the delicate balance of your marriage.
It is important to set marriage goals that will keep your inner circle a sanctuary, safe from outside influence and pollutants.
It should be a place of love and calm. Where you feel safe.
Do not let negativity in, no matter what.
Sure, you can talk about it with your partner… but if you let it consume you, it will almost certainly have a negative ripple effect on those you love.
13. Stay Away From the Words, “Always” and “Never” During a Fight
In the heat of battle, it’s hard to see clearly.
The same goes for arguments with your spouse.
When you are upset, it’s easy to lose your temper and start spewing words that are not only hurtful… but that can leave a lasting mark.
No matter how big, or small, the fight may be… using the words “always” and “never” can cause things to escalate to a point it didn’t need to go to.
Think about it…
“You never help around here!”.
“You always make me feel unappreciated!”.
Are these words really true?
Even though you may feel this way at any given moment… it is important to take a step back and ask yourself if it’s the truth all of the time.
I’d wager it isn’t. That you wouldn’t have married someone who ws innately lazy or made you feel bad.
So the next time you’re about to argue, make it one of your marriage goals to remove yourself for a moment, take a breath and change your wording.
Something like, “Lately, I’ve been feeling as if I have no help at home.” or, “I’ve been a little overwhelmed lately and would love if you’d acknowledge that.”.
These are two ways of getting your point across, without using damaging remarks.
Words have the power to sting harder than any punch when used the wrong way… and the impression they leave lasts much longer.
14. Never Lie
You might be reading this one and thinking, “Ummm, duh?”. Lies and secrets are never good when it comes to a successful marriage. That said, there are couples that still do it.
And I’m not talking about the white lies, which are still dishonest… but, sometimes necessary to avoid a silly fight or spare their feelings. I’m talking about the big ones.
The lies that can destroy the marriage, such as cheating or keeping a separate bank account your spouse doesn’t know about. Or telling your partner that you’re working late when you’re really hanging out with friends.
Lies such as these break trust. And once that trust is broken, it’s nearly impossible to repair.
15. Get on the Same Page
I often tell my husband that he’s wishy washy, which is basically another way of saying he is fickle. For instance, one day he’ll start discussing a ski trip for the kids… and a few days later decides he’d rather go someplace warm.
So here I’ve spent hours looking up properties and costs of lift tickets… and next I’m switching gears to airfare and VRBO rentals near the beach. Like I have nothing better to do (Hello! Working mother of four!).
He does the same thing with going out to eat and how we should handle gift opening during the holidays. We’ve been doing it the same way for 12 years… yet every year, he’s looking to mix things up. It’s exhausting being on what feels like a mentally draining merry-go-round.
And let’s not forget the occasional “digs” about how I only work from home part-time, while he’s stressed out at the office every day, dealing with clients and compliance departments.
This is not meant to vilify my husband, who has many amazing qualities. And I am far from perfect… trust me. I’m also guilty of not always speaking my mind because I’m afraid of starting a fight.
But one of the best things you can do in a relationship is be on the same page as your spouse. Even if it’s not what either of you want to hear, you need to meet in the middle and agree to be happy with your compromise. No take backs.
16. Don’t dismiss the idea of marriage counseling
As happy as you once were, or think you still are, life happens. And when it does, it can cause strain on a marriage.
Health issues, financial problems, a nasty boss or children struggling in school are all good examples of hiccups that can drive a wedge between couples… some deeper than others.
This leads to fighting and can get downright nasty. So much so, in fact, that you start to drift apart or secretly resent one another. Before you get too far down that path and risk hitting the point of no return, it may be wise to consider marriage counseling.
Many churches and synagogues offer family services like these, if you find that your insurance won’t cover it. There are also online counselors and group therapy, which can be a less expensive option than private sessions.
17. Form a Unified Front when Disciplining Kids
This is a biggie. In fact, if you have kids, this is what I consider a golden rule among your marriage goals.
We talked earlier about the importance of being on the same page as your spouse. Well, when you have kids, it becomes critical that you present a unified front… especially when it comes to disciplining them.
Every kid since the dawn of time has asked their dad for something and been told “no” – then went to mom and asked for the same thing, assuming the answer might be different. It should never be.
It’s a good idea to set ground rules for disciplining your kids ahead of time. As in, the second they can start to sit, crawl and talk. Obviously, punishments must be age appropriate (ie, “timeouts” for toddlers vs. taking tech away from a teenager).
By agreeing upfront as to how you will handle certain issues, you’ll lessen your chances of them catching you off guard. You’ll also be sending a message that you’re a team that can’t be divided.
18. Keep Your Problems Between You
If you’re lucky enough to have a close group of friends, or a family member you tell everything to, consider yourself blessed. Having someone besides your spouse that you can count on is so important and something we all need.
Still, there is a time and a place for sharing… and there should also be a permanent moratorium on “airing your dirty laundry” to these people, even if you trust them with your life.
Sharing problems you’re having in your marriage with other people is like those nitpicky highschoolers talking behind each others’ backs. It’s petty and disrespectful. You married this person, for better or worse, and having outside opinions weigh in on your private matters is not going to help.
In fact, it typically makes them worse as you start doubting yourself and your choices. You may start to doubt your partner’s love and commitment to you.
Trust me, making your problems known to the world is like putting a magnifying glass over a papercut. It takes something rather insignificant on the surface and makes it appear to be a larger wound you’re forced to treat.
19. Do Not Seek Relationship Advice or “Vent” on Social Media
Did you ever have a fight with your partner and find yourself asking “friends” for advice in your newsfeed? Or just complaining about your husband publicly?
What may seem an insignificant post, such as “It’s happened! My teenager is officially neater than my husband.”… is actually anything but insignificant. While you may get a few lol emojis and likes from other women, you also run the risk of having male friends chime in with their own digs. You know, something like, “Isn’t it your job to clean up after him?”.
I’ve seen heated debates and virtual punches thrown over the most trivial comments. So one can only imagine the backlash that might occur from putting your relationship in front of an online firing squad. The internet is filled with people just waiting to take their shot, but they likely have nothing constructive to add.
And they will judge you.
Your relationship is yours. At the end of the day, only you know what works and what doesn’t. You married each other because you knew one another inside and out. You wanted to build a life with them and should do anything to avoid people who try to tear it down.
20. Avoid Self-Sabotaging Thoughts and Negative Self-Talk
One very important marriage goal is to stay true to yourself and remain positive. Self-sabotaging thoughts and negative self-talk is not only unattractive, but can make your partner see you in a different light.
If you don’t like that you’ve put on a few pounds, or don’t feel smart enough to go for drinks with your spouse's colleagues, your body language and actions will reflect that. You will make up excuses to miss out on life moments that you should be part of because your spouse chose you.
Marriage is a lifelong commitment, if we’re lucky. We vowed to be there for each other, despite any changes we may experience. They say beauty comes from within. So does love.
Love is found within a person’s heart… and loving yourself is vital to feeling loved in return.
21. Make Time for Self-Care
Self-care is non-negotiable when it comes to setting marriage goals. Simply put, self-care means taking time for yourself to recharge and get some perspective.
Common self-care activities include a massage, a special lunch with friends, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, reading a good book and exercise. Anything where you can relax and pamper yourself a bit.
You can certainly plan some self-care activities with your spouse, but it’s perfectly okay to engage in them alone as well. After all, they say distance makes the heart grow fonder.
22. Plan a Once in A Lifetime Vacation
Many couples have enjoyed putting together a bucket list over the years. And it’s common for it to change as your life circumstances do. Personally speaking, I removed skydiving from my list once our first son was born. I just felt it was irresponsible.
That said, not all bucket list items have to be of the daredevil variety. Planning a once in a lifetime vacation can be whatever you want it to be… as long as it wows you. And you should plan one.
Vacations give you something to save for and look forward to. You can research online and create vision boards to keep you motivated. Think of this trip as the culmination of everything you’ve been through together and a celebration of your love and commitment.
23. Do Something Together that Makes You Uncomfortable
Over the years, you’ve learned most (if not all) of each other’s insecurities and fears. For instance, I’m terrified of lobsters and crabs. I equate them to the spiders of the sea (also not a fan of spiders). I also tend to get a bit claustrophobic at times.
So, what did I do? I got my SCUBA diving certification and swam through a cave in Key Largo, where white lobsters were waiting for me at the end. I took my breaths and got through… uncomfortable the entire time; but, feeling great afterwards.
That one was about me – and before I met my mate. But there are things that my husband and I both aren’t big fans of, such as singing karaoke in public or horseback riding. That is why we did both last year.
Not only did we survive, but we actually got a bit of a natural high from it… and a few good laughs as well.
24. Save Up for Retirement NOW
Tomorrow. I’d wager that it’s a word you say every day… yet it’s never guaranteed. Not only when it comes to our inability as humans to escape death, but simply our situation can change in a day.
We could lose our job or find out a family member is ill and will need care. Our house could burn down in a fire. Nothing is certain about tomorrow.
That is why it’s imperative to start saving for retirement today! Should something happen to you or your spouse, or both, you don’t want to have to sell everything just to put food on the table and clothes on your back. You don’t want to leave your children responsible for your debt.
You want to make sure everything is paid off and that you’re putting aside enough money to survive once you stop working. You want to invest wisely, possibly changing how conservative you are as you get older.
Retirement doesn’t necessarily mean saving up to travel the world… it means having enough money to live comfortably and enjoy your time together, while having a cushion for the unforseeable.
25. Avoid Inappropriate Situations
Marriage Goals 101: do not purposely put yourself in inappropriate or questionable situations. Situations such as:
These are just a few examples that could put you in hot water with your beloved. And while not all may turn out disastrous, trust me when I say that your partner would likely not be thrilled to find out about these things. And then what?
One thing to note… these are not absolutes and there can certainly be exceptions. For example, it’s still okay for you to spend a guy's weekend with single friends; however, if they want to bring girls back to their suite and one of them finds you attractive + you’ve been drinking.
Well, it’s not rocket science. Things can go wrong fast and one moment can ruin everything.
Bottom line here: use your common sense. And if something causes you to pause and that little voice inside your head starts giving you flack… it’s best to take a hard pass. Your marriage is worth more.
Final Thoughts on Marriage Goals for Couples
No marriage is perfect all of the time… but nothing worth having ever is.
And if there were never any bumps in the road, you’d never appreciate the end of your journey.
Setting marriage goals is a good place to start when it comes to mapping out a future together. Being mindful of them along the way will allow for smoother sailing… for many years to come.
If you need more specific examples, read our post on creating SMART goals to help strengthen your marriage.
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications, and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization, and product reviews.