True compatibility is the feeling that you have a helpmate – someone who wants to help you reach your goals and develop as a person. And you must respect and be willing to support your mate’s development and goals as well. With such a strong base, staying together becomes relatively easy.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: people without any dreams or aspirations usually aren’t as interesting as those with a sense of purpose. If you’ve ever met someone who has given up wanting anything for his or her future, you know they tend to lack enthusiasm and are not much fun to be around. They lower the energy level in the room and are likely to be relationship challenged as well.

Once in a committed relationship, you often have to juggle time and energy for jobs, children, family members and friends. Something that is important to your partner can and should change how you plan your time – together and apart. Compromises must be made, but the big picture of a couple’s life together can often be lost before it’s even imagined.

Numerous studies have shown that people who write things down are more likely to get things done. Make a list of the things that are important to you as an individual and as a couple. Writing it down is important even if you never look at it again. Only share your list when you feel ready. And your partner’s list may surprise you!

Create Your Mutual Goal List:

1. Goals, Dreams & Wishes:

Write down all of your goals, dreams, and wishes, even those you (or others) believe might be unattainable.

2. Long-Term Goals & Needs:

In all of the craziness of daily life, it’s easy to lose sight of things that really matter. Keeping a list of what’s most important to you individually, and as a couple, can help make those important things your priority.

3. Places You’d Like to Visit:

List the places you’d like to visit together, and below each destination, what it would take to get you there—money, learning a language (doing this together would be a great way to bond), or scheduling a babysitter, etc.

4. Each Other’s Goals:

Share your ideas for yourself and for each other. For example, she might see herself as a not-so-great cook, and he might see her passion and talent without the self-critical goggles women tend to wear. He might suggest a dinner party for twelve using recipes she had been squirrelling away. Or she might have creative ideas about how he could increase revenue in his business and suggest he check back in with her when he has put the ideas into play to see if they succeeded. She might realize by the notes and emails he writes that he’s an excellent writer, and encourage him to get a story published, or he might help her realize how valuable she is at work and urge her to negotiate for something she wants.

5. Financial Goals:

Write about what you want out of life over the next five, ten, and twenty year periods, then describe how you plan to get there. What do you want retirement to look like? How much is it going to cost to make your goals happen? Eventually you will need a financial advisor or accountant, but for now just make a basic list and take the first steps.

Setting and reaching even small goals will make you feel better and get you further than you ever imagined. So when all else fails put this on your calendar: get up, get out, and do something – anything that will get you moving towards your goals.

If you’re dating “a keeper,” they will likely have compatible life goals. However, at least you’ve got the perfect exit line if he or she isn’t a keeper: “I believe we have different goals.” Remember: it is easier to reach the stars when you have a partner who is willing to hold the ladder.

Click here for a complete list of all Dr. Janet Blair Page’s articles.
Dr. Janet Page is a psychotherapist in private practice for 30 years in NYC and Atlanta, and taught for 22 years at Emory University. As the author of “Get Married This Year,” she speaks to audiences around the country about keeping love alive and finding your mate. Click here for more information on her practice, seminars, and events.
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