A Very COVID Valentine's: Relationship Goals & Meaningful Gifts
With COVID-19 lockdowns, many of us are forced into long-distance relationships. Why might Valentine's Day be extra difficult for long-distance couples? When physical intimacy isn't possible, emotional intimacy is that much harder. LDRs have to work extra hard on the emotional intimacy side to make up for lack of physical connection. What are some tips/ways long-distance couples can celebrate Valentine's Day? Well, with self therapy app LIFE Intelligence, we're a bit biased. We think the best way to improve intimacy is through deeper conversations, which we facilitate using in-app studies and prompts. Plan more meaningful zoom dates/conversations by discussing thoughts, feelings, dreams, memories, etc. But if that isn't for you, here are 7 other ways to improve emotional intimacy and make those relationship goals.
Looking around, it seems like relationship goals are everywhere. Smiling photos symbolize a healthy, lasting relationship. We often read about couples who have been happily married for several decades and wonder: how do we achieve those relationship goals? More realistically, you might be in a relationship where you’ve been together for a few years and are just beginning to hit a rough patch. Or, maybe you’ve been married for a long time, but have always felt something missing.
No matter how new or seasoned the relationship, everybody would like to know how to keep their partner and themselves happy. How do we actually achieve those relationship goals? Valentine's day is right around the corner, and it's a symbolic time of year where we consider what gifts can truly make our loved one happy. This year, self therapy app LIFE Intelligence hopes you'll focus less on the physical gift, and more on the intangible actions and intimacy that really influences long-term relationship satisfaction. Here are seven real relationship goals to maintain a healthy, loving, and exciting relationship for years to come.
Especially when getting involved in a new relationship, it can be easy to lose part of yourself in the process of making another person such a large part of your life. In relationship psychology, there is a term referred to as couple identity clarity, which is the extent to which each person in a romantic relationship believes that the two of them confidently know who they are as a couple.
Across four studies with a total of 780 participants, by issuing surveys to each member of several couples, researchers found that those with more established personal identities – those who were able to reflect on their personal beliefs, goals, and values and feel that they had a clear idea of who they were – were more likely to be involved in relationships with higher couple identity clarity. These same couples were also found to be significantly more committed to their relationships and therefore less likely to break up (Emery et al., 2021). There is no reason to believe that you should sacrifice key elements of your personal identity for the sake of your relationship. In fact, both you and your partner can benefit from your confidence in who you are.
We have all heard time and time again, in a romantic relationship, it’s important to have common interests. Participating in activities that both of you enjoy is key to relationship satisfaction. One study with 146 participants found that extrinsic investments in relationships such as shared friendships and common interests can account for up to 42% of an increase in relationship satisfaction. Essentially, this means that engaging in activities enjoyed by both partners and spending time with mutual friends can significantly influence each individual’s satisfaction with their relationship (Moore & Campbell, 2020).
Of course, boundaries are important, too. As with any kind of relationship, too much time spent together can often lead to undue conflict. Part of maintaining your personal identity involves continuing to engage in activities that you like, even if your partner doesn’t. It’s just as important to enjoy time spent together as it is to take time for yourself.
We’ve all heard that relationships should be somewhat give and take and that nobody’s ever benefited from comparing their relationship to someone else’s. In one study with 253 participants, questionnaires were issued to individuals in romantic relationships and the results suggested that having low levels of sacrifice expectations may actually be more beneficial to each partner than having high levels of sacrifice expectations.
Of course, whenever we hear that we should lower our expectations, we worry that we’re selling ourselves short and giving our partner a free pass. When it comes to romantic relationships, though, it’s important to put yourself in your partner’s shoes when it comes to making sacrifices. You have to ask yourself if you’d be willing to do what you’re asking of them. In this way, you’re not reducing yourself to less than your worth, but you’re making your expectations a bit more realistic for your partner. According to the study, because it’s easier for the person making the sacrifice to impress their partner, both people are more satisfied with the relationship when their sacrifice expectations are lower (Zoppolat et al., 2020).
While some degree of mystery can add some excitement to the relationship, it’s important to be communicative. No matter how well you think your partner knows you, they cannot read your mind. So, keeping something from them for too long with the expectation that they’ll eventually figure it out is not beneficial to either one of you.
A study with participants from 66 couples found that, by issuing extensive questionnaires, partners who frequently internalized their feelings were more often involved in relationships in which both people perceived high levels of jealousy and negativity from one another. In other words, when one partner fails to communicate their feelings regarding a lack of satisfaction with the relationship or another personal concern, the other often assumes them to be jealous, and therefore adopts the same negative feelings of jealousy themselves (Laursen et al, 2020).
So, for the sake of both you and your partner, it’s always better to just tell them how you’re feeling. Even if they don’t react the way you’d like, they’ll appreciate your honesty and your communication skills will become stronger because of it. As the receiving partner, practice empathetic listening to help the other feel heard.
Healthy debates are inevitably involved in every type of relationship. Two studies with a total of 385 participants in which counseling psychologists met with couples, though, found that most people believe that disagreements within romantic relationships are a sign that there is something fundamentally wrong. The researchers also found that these same participants weren’t disagreeing constructively, which contributed to their beliefs that disagreements have no place in successful relationships (Zagefka & Bahul, 2020).
While the idea of a constructive disagreement may seem like an oxymoron, it’s important to remind yourself of realistic expectations. While you want to avoid completely giving into your partner, you’ll both feel better if you at least try to understand their point of view. Constructive disagreement happens when empathy is a part of the picture, which should be somewhat natural in a committed relationship. We’ve written previously about conflict resolution strategies you can try. No matter how similar you believe yourself and your partner to be, you won’t agree when it comes to everything, so the key is to respect one another, accept the differences of opinion, and figure out how to best move forward as a team.
While this may seem like a basic tenet in any relationship, respect is incredibly important to ensure the satisfaction and commitment of both partners. In a study with 602 participants, relational equity scales and measurements of relationship maintenance behaviors showed that individuals were highly satisfied with their relationships when they perceived higher levels of equity and felt highly appreciated. In other words, those who feel like equals in their relationships and perceive feelings of appreciation from their partners experience significantly higher levels of relationship satisfaction than those who don’t receive the same displays of respect from their partners (Kayabol & Sümer, 2020).
Of course, if you’re in a committed relationship with someone you love and care about, you likely hold them in high regard and have a lot of respect for them. The idea here, though, is that they need to know how much you appreciate them. Think of the ways your partner shows appreciation for you and consider doing the same for them. Even openly talking to them about how much you respect and admire them is a great way to display your appreciation. The secret to lasting love really is just kindness.
Last but not least, it’s important to keep doing the things you did when your relationship first began. Go on spontaneous dates, surprise your partner with a small gesture of your love, spend time just talking to each other about whatever comes to mind. As relationships age, it can be easy to fall into separate routines and lose sight of what made them so fun and exciting in the beginning. Of course, as time goes by, the more limited you may feel, but that’s when you can have a conversation with your partner and figure out what you’d both like to do. This is another example of the importance of communication.
Three studies with a total of 993 participants found that the top-rated reason that people considered leaving their relationships was that they felt something was “missing,” whether it was a lack of satisfaction or unfulfilled needs (Machia & Ogolsky, 2020). Again, as easy as it may be to settle into a relationship because you feel that you and your partner are equally committed, unless you’re being transparent with one another, your partner may feel that the relationship leaves something to be desired. So, why not act as you did when the relationship was new to keep the excitement going?
LIFE Intelligence is one app to manage your entire LIFE, an all-in-one app for self, career, and relationship development (because each area affects the other!) Work stress will affect your relationship, and vice versa. That's why we cover hundreds of exercises on all LIFE's problems, from communication to relationship turbulence. It's a unique gift idea for someone to develop deep self awareness whether single or alongside their partner. The true "relationship goals" is to be happy and healthy, whether single, dating, married or divorced.
The app encompasses 9 core Missions (topics). Mission 7 is dedicated to helping you understand your own attachment style and change to become a more secure person and partner. Mission 8 can help you work through your conflict resolution strategies to help you grow a deeper understanding of how you may approach a disagreement with your partner. Try LIFE for a unique and meaningful Valentine's Day, however near or far.
Emery, L. F., Gardner, W. L., Carswell, K. L., & Finkel, E. J. (2021). Who are “we”? Couple
identity clarity and romantic relationship commitment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 47(1), 146-160. 10.1177/0146167220921717
Kayabol, N. B. A., & Sümer, Z. H. (2020). How to maintain a marriage: Maintenance behaviors,
equity, and appreciation in understanding marital satisfaction. Current Psychology, 1-14.
Laursen, B., Richmond, A., & Dickson, D. J. (2020). Male internalizing heightens the risk of
escalating jealousy and perceptions of negativity in romantic relationships. Emerging Adulthood. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167696820905395
Machia, L. V. & Ogolsky, B. G. (2020). The reasons people think about staying and leaving their
romantic relationships: A mixed-method analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167220966903
Moore, K. A., & Campbell, A. (2020). The investment model: Its antecedents and predictors of
relationship satisfaction. Journal of Relationships Research, 11. 10.1017/jrr.2020.15
Zagefka, H., & Bahul, K. (2020). Beliefs that contribute to dissatisfaction in romantic
relationships. The Family Journal. https://doi.org/10.1177/1066480720956638
Zoppolat, G., Visserman, M. L., & Righetti, F. (2020). A nice surprise: Sacrifice expectations
and partner appreciation in romantic relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 37(2), 450-466. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407519867145