When we imagine our ideal life partner, most of us envision someone who wants to share our life journey, believes in us and supports our goals. People who thrive in life are able to be their best in a relationship, giving their partner the same support in return.
But two people don’t always want the same things at the same time in life, which can build into anger, resentment and feelings of loss of control. What can you or you and your partner do together to support each others’ goals and ambitions?
Believe in the Dream
Even if your partner’s dream seems far-fetched and not something you would ever pursue, tell them often that you believe in them. In contrast, don’t be controlling and dictate what your partner should be doing. Controlling tactics usually backfire. Give your partner the freedom to make their own choices and, along the way, support their freedom. Words of support can go a long way toward helping your partner have the needed confidence to take steps toward achieving his or her goals.
Set Realistic, Achievable Plans
Do you or your spouse want to try windsailing, write a novel, or learn furniture making? Work together on a plan and make sure yours supports each others’ goals. Being a team is a key aspect to feeling supported.
Cheerlead in Public; Keep Intimacies Private
Social media makes this easy. Recognize your partner’s accomplishments with some public boasting on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media channel. If you are out to dinner with friends, be the first to brag about your partner’s new idea or recent accomplishment. Don’t overdo it or brag beyond the comfort level of your loved one; do just enough to show your engagement and pride. But make sure to keep anything shared confidential behind closed doors.
Maybe one of you is more of a fitness buff than the other, while the other is willing to try new experiences. When discussing fitness goals and one partner says, “I’d be willing to do that, too,” take the opportunity to accomplish something together; it will feel like a mutual goal! For example, visit your local gym, such as 24 Hour Fitness, and take a fun, new class together. Choose something that’s new to both of you, such as yoga or indoor cycling. Achieving a goal together helps couples feel more connected.
Recognize Dreams Change Over Time
Last year, did your spouse want to run a marathon and take meditation classes? Did they say they wanted to pursue a Ph.D., in Economics, only to decide instead they wanted a MFA in Creative Writing?
As we age and our priorities change, so do our dreams. It can sometimes be difficult to keep up with your spouse’s new desires. But don’t be critical when they announce a new change in direction. Instead, ask questions like, “What made you decide this new college major is right for you?” And “Why does this new direction feel like the right path?” Be flexible, curious and realize that their changing mindsets may be signs of growing maturity and ingenuity.
Celebrate the Good Times
Each time one of you reaches a milestone achievement, make it a celebratory event. Because, truthfully, it’s really a shared achievement, even if what was achieved was one person’s goal. Not only will celebrating be fun, but you will associate positive feelings toward your partner with the achievement of their goals. Go out to dinner, buy a small gift, or make a special cocktail together. But whatever you do to celebrate, make the celebration mean something to both of you.