Have you ever tried to visualize your future life with your partner in the most positive light the two of you can imagine? As many couples will tell you, intimate relationships can take work. If you're not thrilled with every aspect of your relationship-- and/or you're both facing some challenges individually or together-- setting couples’ goals is one way to bite the bullet and put real power behind a simple hope for a better life. 

Let’s say you want to improve some things in your relationship. 

Lots of individuals have benefited by using methods associated with SMART goal setting. That is to say, they create goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-limited. 

SMART goals aren’t just something you heard about one time at a career development workshop or on the Oprah Winfrey show. It’s a super simple process any person can use to ensure that you aren't just spinning your wheels and moving in no specific direction. Today we’ll talk a bit about how couples can do this in TANDEM.

Have you thought about where you'd like your relationship to be in 6 months? 

Think about that as you review some of these example SMART goals that a couple might adopt to improve their relationship and life together.

Goal 1: Actively cut unnecessary expenses, invest whatever is left over and increase our Net worth by $3,000 by 6 months from now

According to a report by CNBC, 1 in 5 couples say that money is their biggest relationship challenge. Other reports suggest that about half of couples clash over finances at least once per month. Being financially ‘better off' might not translate into earning more income; it may simply mean improving the management of your finances. Better money management tends to result in fewer spousal battles over finances.

If you and your partner are financially stressed, hey it’s not something to be ashamed of, just something to work on together. It’s common and to get it under control, you’ll need to set some financial goals together. 

Cutting back on non-essential purchases is one surefire way to improve your financial situation, allowing you and your partner to arrive at a more stable place financially in six months’ time. But what’s non-essential? Well, that will vary from person to person but one good way we’ve found is to look at bank and credit card statements regularly. Maybe you do it together. Maybe one of you volunteers to the task and reports what he/she found for discussion -- and possible cutting. 

Pay close attention when you find recurring expenses! There is likely something that you aren’t benefiting from any more (or not as much as you were when you okayed the regular expense). 

A second thing could be to link your cards and accounts to the Rocket Money app-- it’s free and pretty fast. The app will identify any subscriptions you might not want any longer. If there’s recurring subscriptions you’re no longer using or feel are worth the value-- the app will help you cancel them with a click. The service also does cool stuff like helping to negotiate on your behalf to lower bills with companies like DirectTV, AllState Insurance, Sirius XM, and many more.

If you’re anything like Mr. and Mrs. Cubic Zirconia, you may have subscriptions set against one of the many bank accounts, debit cards or credit cards you have open-- and maybe you just forgot about the damn thing. It’s more common than you think. Monthly, quarterly, annual and weekly payments for stuff really add up.

A third idea could be investing your spare change by using one of the “round up” apps that takes each debit card purchase and invests the change (we’ve used the Acorns app for some of our purchases and it sends money to our kids’ ‘for the future’ accounts). 

The Acorns app is only available for U.S. subscribers, not sure about the RocketMoney one. But all that does is make something easier. If you’re international or not into smartphone app banking, the principle behind these techniques is the same: there’s money in many transactions/weeks that we as human beings will waste if we can, but we won’t miss it if it gets transferred away to invest…and recurring subscriptions can be tough to track in modern times, most of us are wasting money paying for at least one thing we no longer want or need.

Is cutting out a $15 per month recurring bill you forgot about going to add 3 grand to your net worth by 6 months from now? Nope and neither is stashing the coins from each debit card purchase in a “hidden” account set aside for investing that you don’t see every day (and thus aren’t tempted to spend). 

But at $180 in unwanted subscription costs the next year no longer disappears when you didn’t realize it, and 200 debit card transactions per year dropping a bit less than a buck in change into an account for investing…it’s a start. 

Once you get those things going, maybe your next step is to look at investing in index funds. Or to make sure you’re maxing out your employer retirement-account contributions. Or to look into whether life insurance that accrues cash value is a good step for you and your family. Whatever it is, step one leads to step two and you’re getting momentum towards your goal together to spend less and invest more.

ONE FINAL EXAMPLE: Yes, due to the nature of our business, we’d be remiss not to mention that rather than struggling to pay for a diamond engagement ring, a couple could consider a dazzling high-quality cubic zirconia engagement ring. That’s a great way for not-yet-married couples to get in the habit of cutting down your financial obligations to size. And the exercise may free up funds for a “Diamond Dollar Difference” big splash of a wedding more expensive than you might have thought you could pull off. Or it may lead to the couple opting for a smaller budget wedding.

Either way is cool, and either way can be a use of  SMART goals like “Save $5000 on the engagement ring so we can get married sooner and with a more expensive wedding than we can budget if we choose diamond for the proposal”. Maybe waiting to buy that perfect diamond makes sense for some guys. But, for others a delay of even 6 months is intolerable-- especially if the delay after deciding to get engaged has already been considerable...and just enough money is what’s lacking. Only you know your goal(s) for where you want your relationship to be in 6 months, dear reader.

These are concrete goals. Here before you go any further: set a plan to save a specific amount of money. Write it down. Maybe in six months, “we plan to increase our net worth by $3,000”. $3000 USD net worth increase in 6 months is a realistic goal for some people. Easy for others. Tough for some. 

But whether the amount you choose to increase your investments in the next 6 months is a breeze or a stretch, your amount should be one that's easy to measure. Up the amount if that’s too easy. Decrease it if you’re feeling like it’s impossible. Pick an amount and commit to it as a couple. There. You’re on your way-- TOGETHER.

Goal 2: Schedule 2 More Dates Each Month Out of The House-- and away from the Routine-- with No Kids, No Devices, No Responsibilities and No Big Plan But Enjoying Each Other’s Company

Just being together on a daily basis doesn't necessarily equate to ‘quality time'. This is especially true for Mr. and Mrs. Cubic Zirconia. As parents and business partners we can spend a ton of time in the same house, office or room-- without really ever connecting on a man/woman level. 

Too often, partners take their romance for granted, but without proper care and maintenance, that romance can dissipate. We’ve seen it happen with others. We’ve felt it happen with us. It’s no fun for anyone to be living and sharing a bed with a non-romantic roommate for weeks or even months on end. The frustration can build and arguments become more common when one or both partners are lacking a degree of physical or emotional intimacy they signed up for-- but aren’t getting. 

Frankly, this too happens more commonly than people want to admit.

To ensure that you and your partner are spending quality time together, you can’t be shy nor passive. It isn’t sexy or even romantic but if needed, use your calendar to schedule more dates. Your dates don't have to be extravagant. Plan a picnic or a hike at a nearby forest preserve. Have lunch together at a local cafe. A premium coffee and conversation without devices. The idea of what to do is less important than getting out of the house, away from any kids or responsibilities and  routine…and doing that together (even if it means hiring a babysitter it’s worth it).

Marriages are dying every day because of couples’ failures to continue dating, but it's hard to make time due to our urgency addictions, modern busyness, procrastination and inertia-- especially after having kids. Here's one date ritual to make time for memorable moments together: 'pull a date out of a hat'.

As you set your goals, think about how much time you and your partner currently spend together. Think about how a few more dates a month could help you de-stress more. In six months, you may find that your extra time together outside of the daily routine is the best time you spent all month.

Before you're married: make sure you have what you love.

After you're married: make sure you love what you have.

Simple stuff, but powerful.

Goal 3: Improve Health and Fitness by Adopting One New Good Habit Plus His and Her “30 Days Without” Challenges to Work Towards Eliminating an Unwanted habit or Consumable

No matter where you are on the health and fitness spectrum, it can always be a bit better, right?! Exercising and eating healthy can be challenging on your own, but it may be less difficult when you have a partner to set goals with. 

That’s especially true when the two of you may do your shopping for groceries together (or at least make the list together). 

We won’t say here which of us has an Oreo Cookies addiction, but his flabby belly would have less flab if he spent more time trying to dunk a basketball and less time dunking those delicious chocolate cookies in milk.

One cool way you can trick yourself into new healthy habits is to just commit to “30 Days Without” and put that goal at the top of your grocery list. Or write it on a piece of paper and magnet-stick it to the fridge, like so..

  • Him: 30 Days without Oreo Cookies
  • Her: 30 Days without french fries

Those are super simple SMART-style goals. 

Maybe your thing is different from those examples. Some people are addicted to greasy foods. Fried foods. Cheese on everything. Cereal that wasn’t even healthy for you when you ate it as a kid. Or processed stuff in a bag or box. Packaged deli meats and salty chips. High-calorie sodas. Whatever.

Some couples will read this and be gung-ho about buying his and hers gym memberships. That is cool and can be a good way to spend quality time together. Personally, we’ve never worked out together in any formal sense. But why not schedule a morning or evening walk together? That’s something we enjoy at least once a week when things are going well in our marriage. Some couples might have the courage to turn that into a job and that’s cool-- but we’d probably be too out of breath to talk while jogging-- and the ‘walk n talk’ is the reason we do it together. 

All we’re saying is that creative couples can combine some of your dates with fitness or even health food shopping.

To keep things simple, maybe before you read any further you just choose one healthy habit you can embrace or one unhealthy habit you want to try to eliminate (a “30 days without” challenge is a fantastic way to start something that you aren’t sure you can convince yourself to give up forever).. 

The truth is, partners bring some bad habits to their relationships. Smoking, excessive drinking, too much fast food, junk food, salt or sugar-- these may be typical lifestyle habits but they can erode a person’s health. 

Maybe quitting smoking is too big? And french fries or Oreos are too small? Well just get that one under your belt and try something bigger next month (maybe then it’s “30 days without packaged sweets” or “30 days without fried foods”). The point is this: what we can *realistically* do in 6 months is bigger than we probably realize…and starting small helps ingrain these choices into us as a lifestyle. 

Reducing unhealthy habits doesn't just benefit you; it benefits your partner's life too.

Lastly, maybe you pick one new positive healthy habit you always wanted to have and make it a part of your daily or weekly routine-- together with your partner. Is there something you know you can and should do? Give it a 6 month commitment!

When you better yourself, you better your spouse’s spouse.

Whatever new healthy choices you make, as a couple you can set realistic goals that you can measure-- and hold each other accountable, maybe even better than one person can do alone. After all, no one wants to let their husband/wife down (though it happens, if there’s love there then there’s hurt when you commit to something and fail).  Important: if you give your partner the green light to be your accountability partner if he/she sees you slipping on your commitment over the next 6 months, you can’t take it personally when they call you out for not following through.

Goal 4: Improve Household Management with a Couples’ Cleaning Calendar and/or Hire a Housekeeper 1/week for 6 months

It's never fun to clean up after a delicious meal or scour the bathroom on your only day off. And it’s even less fun to see the bathroom needs cleaning after you just pulled a full day at work-- and finished cleaning the dishes from a meal that you cooked and nobody appreciated. 

But somebody has to do these things or we’ll live in a steadily grodier house. 

It’s long been said that in a healthy relationship, both partners should tackle household chores. Yet here we are in the 2020s and the actual practice of that principle is just sad. There are women who go to the extreme of “women were oppressed for generations as second-class citizens and I’m not gonna clean anything, you can’t make me, he can do that.”. And there are men who think cleaning is women’s work. Both of those attitudes towards household management are just dumb in our opinion.

What chores are you doing? What are you not doing that you feel sure your housemate would appreciate? Is your approach to household labor affecting your intimate relationship? Do you and your significant other argue about housework?

Getting a handle on household division of labor sounds boring, but is a worthwhile goal that can enhance a love partner relationship. 

One of you has to step up and create a plan to improve how you tackle housework. Don’t dictate to each other. Just volunteer to be the notekeeper. There’s no president. No vice president. And no secretary. Just a cleaning crew of equals.

This may involve the creation of lists (of who does what and when) and designating certain days/times on the “cleaning calendar” for fulfilling household obligations. Some couples may accept our advice to try using the list method for six months and see how it can improve your mood and how you relate to one another.

And hey! If you still find that you're struggling to manage sticky floors and countertops, why not hire a housekeeper or cleaning service to help you out? It can make a real difference-- even once per week or a couple times per month. 

There are two primary causes for stress in a marriage:

#1 Finances.
#2 Division of household chores.

That’s why if you’re married-- or even just cohabiting-- and you’ve never considered hiring a housekeeper to spend a little money and get back a ton of time...we highly recommend it. You could start today with a phone call to a couple providers in your area. What’s it gonna cost to have a pro come in and do 2 hours of cleaning once per week for the next 6 months? Our guess: less than you thought. Our confident assertion: WORTH IT.

Goal 5: Do Something New Every Month and Kill Boredom Dead

Learning about the world, the mind and the body-- and how these things all work together-- shouldn't stop with the acquisition of a diploma. And learning about your spouse shouldn’t stop with the wedding.

People who prioritize learning and discovering new things tend to be more interesting than those who don't. And partners who continue to prioritize learning about their spouses long after walking down the aisle show a degree of effort and care that can’t be faked (and shouldn’t have to be).

Trying new things individually and as a couple will help you keep your relationship fresh. The same old routine can become boring. As much as you love your partner, you may still want to try things that spark new interests that they may not want to try (or try more than once). There's nothing wrong with that. When you have a life outside the marriage, it makes you more interesting and attractive anyway.

Consider setting a monthly goal to try something new. Try something new together. Try something new separately. Get his/her commitment to try it with you at least once. And sometimes, yeah, the thing you try for the first time this month-- it can be fun to introduce your partner to that thing as his/her new thing next month. 

These things could be stuff like:

  • listening to a friend’s recommended podcast for the first time
  • reservations at a restaurant serving an international cuisine you’ve never had
  • making a cocktail you’ve heard about but never made
  • crafting activity you saw on Pinterest
  • A new genre of book you’ve never read (historical romance fiction is a fun one)
  • new activity someone you know does but you haven’t ever done
  • even a new sexual position. 

These goals could be small (and they should be). There’s no need to over-complicate stuff. Just leave the house planning to do something new and see where it takes you. You can think about things that you'd love to do and make a goal to try them, or make a list of stuff to try. But nothing beats leaving the house with the idea to try something new and not coming home til you do.  

Your partner may or may not want to try all these new things with you, but that's okay too. Even pursuing individual interests can have a positive effect on your relationship because you'll feel fulfilled and possibly more eager for your partner to find new personal interests too.

Two of our own ‘try new things’ ideas that resulted in lifestyle changes not just for us but our employees too:

  1. Stealing time from work and kids to take guilty pleasure naps (HER idea: result = yes you can take a 2 hour nap on the clock once a week)

  2. Company cocktail hour at the end of the day (HIS idea: result = yes we’ve been doing this or a decade and we don’t hide it that if you call after 6pm EST the person answering the phone may have had a cocktail or two)

Relationship Goals

A relationship is just as alive as the persons in it. 

You can pamper a relationship.
Grow it.
  Shrink it.
  Feed it.
    Starve it.
    Heal it.
      Injure it.

Setting couples’ goals can help you support your relationship's well-being. 

Think about your current relationship. 

If you're having problems in a certain area, set a goal to improve that problem. 

Remember to set goals that are measurable so that you can evaluate your progress at the end of six months.

Even small improvements are valuable, so be sure you celebrate your milestones as you meet your goals-- and be gentle when you fall short. 

After 6 months, continue with the same goals if you need to or set new goals. 

It’s November 2023 and the headline “Improve our marriage this year” with a few small, specific baby steps in that direction has been written on a poster-board in our bedroom since 2020. That year was tough for a lot of people-- and we were no different. Each year since we maybe think about taking that poster down-- and then we leave it up.

What about you, dear reader? 

What concrete goals can you set to improve your relationship? 

Here's your first goal–make a date with your partner to hit a coffee shop. 

Order coffee or tea and then set some couple’s goals together. 

One date, a few actionable goals, and you've already made progress!

Imagine if you had a crystal ball and could fast forward your life to 6 months from now and take a peek at what awaits. 

What would your relationship with your significant other look like?

Would you finally be engaged?
 Would you have transitioned from engaged to having had a wedding?

  Would your marriage be out of the rut it’s kinda gotten in recently?
    Would the two of you be healthier, wealthier and happier?
      Would you be enjoying more quality time as a couple?
        Would you live a life of more sex, less stress, more fun, less arguing?

This future version of yourselves is possible.

What we’ve provided today is just a “smart” way to make it happen, together.

The result is that you'll both always be working to better your lives. 

Who wants to be courageous enough to comment publicly below with one or more of your 6 month couples’ goals? Go for it. Just remember to be SMART  (Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, Time-limited). 

Cheers to you (and a better ‘us’),

Mrs. and Mr. Cubic Zirconia