Imagine you’re holding a tray. You put a glass of OJ, a cup of coffee, and a lightweight glass of wine on that tray. The coffee mug is the heaviest, so it makes the tray wobble off balance. But all you have to do is move the mug to a different part of the tray to balance it out. And bam! You’ve successfully balanced out your tray. Let’s apply this to balancing goals in real life. Maybe you’re planning on becoming a head coach one day while your partner plans to start their own business. But together, you want to retire by age 50 and have three kids by age 35. How on Earth do you balance all of these goals? One of these goals may be the “coffee mug,” in which you have to move around in order to balance out the tray. This might look like pushing back your retirement goals or putting off the business for a few years.
One of the challenges that couples often face is balancing individual goals and interests with shared couple goals. Individual goals matter because they facilitate personal growth and fulfillment, but if you end up neglecting couple goals in the process, it can lead to feelings of resentment, dissatisfaction, and even divorce. Let’s explore the importance of balancing individual and couple goals in a marriage and provide tips on how to achieve a healthy balance.
Why Balancing Individual and Couple Goals is Important
First off, individual goals are the cornerstone for personal growth and fulfillment. Pursuing personal goals and interests can help people gain new skills, develop their confidence, and have a deeper sense of purpose in life. On top of that, individual goals can help folks cope with stress and overcome challenges. For example, if you have a set goal of becoming a yoga instructor, you can channel any negative energy you may be feeling into pursuing that. When a person neglects their personal goals, it can lead to frustration, resentment, and even depression.
As for couple goals, they are the shared interests, dreams, and aspirations of a married couple and what they want to achieve together. Couple goals may include financial goals, travel goals, family goals, and career goals. For example, maybe a couple wants to save up $300,000 by the time they turn 35 (financial goals) and start a family by the time they turn 36 (family goals). Why are couple goals important? Well, they provide a sense of direction and purpose for the relationship. People often feel a high level of relationship satisfaction when they achieve certain couple goals together.
Tips for Balancing Individual and Couple Goals
Alright, let’s dive into it. How do you actually go about balancing individual and couple goals? Remember, this is important for maintaining a healthy and happy marriage. Failing to do so can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction, resentment, and even divorce. So, here are some tips on finding that perfect balance:
- Communicate Openly
Open communication is a great way to balance individual and couple goals. Couples should regularly discuss their personal goals and interests and how they align with the shared couple goals. This can help identify any areas of conflict and find solutions that work for both partners.
- Prioritize Shared Goals
While individual goals are important, couples should prioritize shared goals, too. Whether it’s starting a family, building a house, or creating a business, couples should make time and put in the effort to achieve these shared goals. Prioritizing shared goals can help build a stronger bond and sense of teamwork.
- Support Each Other’s Goals
Don’t forget to support your partner’s individual goals. This can help build a stronger sense of trust and respect in the relationship. Couples should try to take an interest in each other’s hobbies and interests or, at the very least, provide support and encouragement.
Compromise is essential to balancing individual and couple goals. Partners to a marriage will need to make sacrifices and compromises to be able to achieve a healthy balance. This could mean compromising on the timing of personal goals or finding ways to integrate personal goals into couple goals.
- Be Flexible
Flexibility is important in any relationship. Leave room to adjust individual goals and plans as circumstances change throughout the marriage. Being flexible can help you and your partner overcome obstacles and strike a healthy balance across your shared and individual goals.
Example scenario of a couple balancing out their individual and couple goals
Tom and Toni are married, and they are struggling to balance their individual and shared goals.
Tom loves running and wants to train for a marathon, while Toni is interested in starting a restaurant. However, they also have shared goals of buying a house and starting a family.
At first, Tom and Toni were having trouble finding a balance. Tom wanted to devote a ton of time into marathon training while Toni was putting all of her efforts into the new restaurant. This left very little time for looking for houses, let alone even the thought of getting pregnant.
To address the issue, Tom and Toni sat down to have an open and honest conversation about how to start balancing their individual and couple goals. They talked about how they can support each other’s individual goals while still working towards their joint goals.
They agreed to set aside specific times each week for activities that took steps towards their goals, such as house hunting. They also wanted to make a plan to support each other’s individual goals. So, Tom decided he would train for the marathon early in the morning, which would leave after the work day to either spend time together or for Tom to visit the restaurant. Toni compromised as well by blocking off one whole day a week to go for a jog with Tom and do some family planning.
Eventually, Toni is able to open her restaurant while Tom completes the marathon. By that time, they had a few houses narrowed down. After they purchased the home, they decided to start trying for a baby!
In the end, they were successfully able to balance both individual and shared goals!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about individual and couple goals in a marriage
If you still have questions on your mind about balancing your goals and your relationship goals in your marriage, look no further. Below, we’ve laid out a few commonly asked questions on this topic.
Q: Can pursuing personal goals lead to a stronger marriage?
A: Certainly! By pursuing personal goals, it can help individual people develop new skills and a sense of fulfillment, which can, in turn, contribute to a happier person overall. Happier person = better partner = stronger marriage. When individuals feel fulfilled and happy with themselves, they are more likely to bring positive energy and enthusiasm to the relationship.
Q: What if one partner has very different individual goals from the other?
A: It’s natural for individuals in a relationship to have different interests and goals. Maybe one person has the goal of opening a butcher’s shop, while the other has a strong interest in veganism. It can certainly be difficult to navigate and balance out! However, it’s important to find ways to support each other’s goals and find a healthy balance, even if it’s not “up your alley.” This may involve compromise and sacrifice, such as the meat eater dabbling in veganism while the vegan visits the butcher’s shop regularly for support.
Q: How can couples prioritize shared goals when they have busy schedules?
A: Striking a balance can be tough when we only have 24 hours in a day! However, married couples should try to prioritize shared goals by discussing and setting realistic expectations of one another. This might look like scheduling regular date nights to discuss or work on these goals, even if that means cutting into personal time.
Q: What if one partner feels like they are sacrificing too much for shared couple goals?
A: This can definitely happen when trying to find the perfect balance, and it’s super important for both people to feel like their needs and goals are being respected and valued. If one partner feels like they are sacrificing too much, they might consider having an open and honest conversation with their significant other about finding a better balance. Maybe the other person can try to take the reins on the shared goals for a little while or try incorporating personal goals into couple goals.
Q: Can balancing individual and couple goals prevent divorce?
A: No one has a crystal ball that says whether or not a couple will get divorced because there are so many different variables at play. However, balancing individual and couple goals can contribute to a healthy and happy marriage. Finding a healthy balance between individual and couple goals can certainly help lower the odds of divorce and bolster a stronger marriage.
Everyone needs goals in life, both individual and marital. Balancing individual and couple goals can lead to a happy and long marriage. On the other hand, neglecting either shared or individual goals can lead to things like dissatisfaction, resentment, and eventually divorce. By communicating openly, prioritizing shared goals, supporting each other’s goals, compromising, and being flexible, married couples can do their best to make sure their “tray” isn’t wobbling out of balance.
David F Khalili is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, board-certified sexologist, author of Mental Health Workbook for Men, founder of Rouse Relational Wellness, a boutique sex and relationship therapy center serving San Francisco and all of California, and recently started Rouse Academy, an online learning platform to address sex and anxiety. You can learn more about David’s practice at rousetherapy.com.