One of my major pet peeves is when people say that a marriage or long term relationship is “hard work.” This declaration is usually made by a married person to an unmarried person with widened eyes and a serious tone, and carries the mental weight of a thousand marital spats.
It’s not that I think that long term relationships are easy. In fact, I find it pretty obvious that when people coast along in relationships and don’t put any energy into maintaining them, bad things happen. And, uh, I’ve certainly had my share of marital spats!
It’s just that the phrase “hard work” seems so unjustly onerous. To me, a relationship is like a lot of other things in life: you get out what you put in. So, if you pay attention to your relationship and your partner, and put in effort at maintaining it, you won’t put yourself in a position where you need to dig yourself out of a deep hole with “hard work.”
Still, it’s not as though maintaining a great relationship is easy or effortless. It does require a plan, and follow through on that plan. Which means that, just like most other things in life, relationships require some organization! There are as many ways to organize a relationship as there are people on the planet, but my husband and I have found a process that works for us: we set and review our goals once a year.
Like all the good things in life, the process of goal setting is as important and rewarding as the outcome. So, to make the process feel special, we carve out a specific time in a specific place each year. Said time and place is during our anniversary getaway and usually involves martinis, to be honest.
To get down to the nitty gritty, we have a shared Evernote notebook with a note for each category: things like health, philanthropy, finances, travel, work, and family. We go through each category one by one and review each item within the category. Sometimes we get to congratulate ourselves on a goal accomplished, sometimes we have to re-evaluate a goal or the timing thereof, and sometimes we add more plans for the future. The process reminds us of the things that are important to us - and at the same time reveals the things we’ve been dealing with that are just distractions.
Still, the thing I find most fun about our goal setting sessions is that it puts me right back into that feeling of discovery and possibility that we had at the beginning of our relationship when we were first getting to know each other. You know that time: when you’re starting to share your hopes and dreams for the future, and you get unbelievably excited when you find out that you have some of said hopes and dreams in common. You’re madly in love and the future feels limitless, no matter how cheesy that sounds.
Yes, I realize this seems somewhat implausible: a regular, systematic process of creating and benchmarking against goals sparks a romantic renaissance. But it’s true! I always leave the conversation feeling renewed, connected, and excited about the future.
Organizing: it can be for your long term relationship too!