Goals—you likely incorporate them in most areas of your life, from your professional career to your gym routine, so it only makes sense that they’d play a role in your dating life. Relationship goals are plain helpful. They help us envision what it is we’re truly seeking—and what kind of ending we’re searching for. “Relationship goals are a way to maintain your focus and objective in what you are looking for in a partner, and can be helpful in preventing you from getting caught up in a relationship that can distract you from what you really want,” explains Lisa Bahar, licensed marriage and family therapist, professional clinical counselor and certified drug and alcohol counselor.
Relationship goal setting when it comes to dating may not be for everyone, but experts agree that its benefits far outweigh any drawbacks since you’re less likely to waste time on the wrong potential suitors. “Relationship goals can prevent you from experiencing that dreaded ‘rude awakening’ that can then leave you feeling crushed and far less able and willing to pick yourself back up and try again,” adds Bahar.
If you’re in the market for a relationship and much less a casual fling, here are the relationship goals experts say are important to instill in your search for the right one.
Stick to your standards
You’ve most definitely heard the phrase, or, better yet, bit of unsolicited advice, “don’t settle.” Well, as annoying it is to hear for the 100th time, from everyone from your mom to your obnoxious co-worker, there’s some truth to it. “When it comes to online dating, you can get tired and be tempted to avoid the hassle by committing too quickly with someone you know isn’t ultimately right for you,” warns Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor, relationship coach and business owner in the Columbus, Ohio area. To avoid this, he recommends jotting down out a few core values that you really want to see in a partner (e.g. educated, employed, wants a serious relationship, etc.) and sticking to those standards as best you can.
Make dating a priority
Like anything you hope you achieve, making it a priority in your life is one important step in helping you get there. After all, if you’re only dedicating a little bit of time to something, and allowing most everything else in your life to come before it, it’s going to take you a whole lot longer to achieve it than it would if you made it a priority. Dating is the same—you have to make it a priority, according to experts. “This includes setting aside time to go on dates with the people you match with and message online,” says Bennett. “While you certainly need a balanced life, if finding a quality person is one of your last priorities behind work, family, friends, hobbies and pets, it likely won’t happen for you anytime soon.”
Put your best self forward
This advice not only comes in handy when you’re on dates, but also when creating your online dating profile. “Many people throw up a few photos, write a few lines on a profile and expect to meet their soulmate,” explains Bennett. “However, if you want to meet a quality person, you’ll need to put real effort into creating a profile and then matching and messaging.” By putting your best self out there at all times (online and “real world”), you’ll make sure that you’re attracting suitors of equally quality.
Listen to a trusted friend’s criticism
…constructive criticism, that is. No one wants to hear that they’re doing or going about something the wrong way, but, if it is the case that you are, knowing it ahead of time will help you in the long run. “If your friend tells you something about your online dating profile or the ‘type’ you’re going after that may hold some truth, listen to them,” says Chicago-based dating expert and matchmaker, Stefanie Safron. “If you want to learn from experiences, you need to listen to a trusted friend’s opinion.”
Make sure your partner is on the same page
Does he or she really imagine having a house in the suburbs with two kids or can they see themselves living the city life forever with or without children? Susan Edelman, M.D., psychiatrist in Palo Alto, California, explains that it is smart and realistic to determine whether your partner truly wants the kind of relationship that you want. “Do they want something serious or a casual fling? Do they want monogamy?” she asks. “You want to be on the same page so that you won’t be sorry later.“