'Realistic relationship goals': Experts explain what it takes for love to last

Accept that "we will not always agree, but we will have to talk about it."

Realistic relationship goals

The hashtag #realisticrelationshipgoals went viral this week as people shared advice on how to make a romantic relationship work. The tips ranged from silly to simple, often emphasizing kindness, empathy, and having fun. Some standouts include:

“Being able to communicate with one look that this event is boring and we need to GFTO,” shared one user. “Giving each other alone time when you need it,” another wrote. “Stop pretending your relationship is perfect,” one user emphasized, while another endorsed getting “with someone who embraces your weird quirks and wobbly bits.”

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Inspired by these tweets, Inverse interviewed two relationship experts about relationship goals: Celeste Viciere, therapist and author of Relationship Goals, and Suzie Pileggi Pawelski, a well-being consultant with a master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology. She co-wrote Happy Together with her husband, Professor James Pawelski.

Viciere notes that, while relationships can be complicated, there are four key points everyone should keep in mind:

  1. It’s important to maintain individuality in a relationship. Viciere says that, while in a relationship, it’s important to keep evaluating what you want and who you are, but we “cannot expect our partner to fill our every need.”
  2. Try to keep other people out of your relationship. Many times, people will struggle in relationships because they’ve allowed friends, family, and social media to “control the lens in which we look at our partner,” Viciere says. You have to decide for yourself what it is you’re looking for.
  3. Communication. Accept that “we will not always agree, but we will have to talk about it,” Viciere says.
  4. Be able to stay on the same page. Just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean that you don’t continue to evolve as a person. Viciere says that during that process it’s important to check in on the status of the relationship to ensure that you and your partner are growing together.
realistic relationship goals
realistic relationship goals
realistic relationship goals

Meanwhile, Pawelski, whose book is credited as the first to apply positive psychology research to relationships, emphasizes that there’s no “perfect” relationship and that couples should focus on what’s going “right” in a relationship rather than dwelling on what’s going “wrong.” Happily ever after doesn’t just happen, says Pawelski. Instead, research suggests it’s healthy habits that build happiness in the long haul.

“We emphasize the importance of couples focusing on what they put into the relationship rather than what they get out of it,” she says.

The relationship goals that the Pawelskis endorse are inspired by Aristotelian philosophy — particularly Aristotle’s insight about friendships. Being an “Aristotelian lover,” she says, is something to strive for. That involves identifying and loving the good in your partner, helping your partner grow that good and become better, and becoming inspired to become better yourself.

To become an Aristotelian lover, Pawelski says, is to engage in “an ongoing process.” Along the way, she explains, the science of positive psychology can help “by teaching us how to practice healthy habits to build lasting relationships.”

A version of this article also appears in the Sunday Scaries newsletter. Sign up for free to receive it on Sundays.