Earlier this year, as the new year rang in, my Facebook newsfeed was full of old school friends and their declarations of resolutions to do better in all aspects of life. Those who wanted to focus on improving their health made promises to fork over cash for gym memberships; most wanted to better their finances so they vowed to map out monthly budgets; others wanted stronger relationships–some wanted simply to be in a relationship. I came across a status from a friend who proclaimed she was ready to be in a relationship and after I left emoji eyes in her comment section, she proceeded to text and tell me about her wishes and someone she was interested in and what #relationshipgoals looked like to her.
We briefly delved into her love life, or lack thereof, and she admitted that she wanted something that what I had. Although this hadn't been the first time she expressed this to me, nor the first time I heard it in general, I was taken aback. My relationship was nothing to aspire to as she was vaguely familiar with my history with my partner and the rough patches that are only shared on my personal blog. Why did she want to be like us? I LOL'd at the response, but made sure to let her know that long-term and more so, lifelong relationships, demand that we put in work.
I strongly believe she was smitten by recent pics and posts, but failed to comprehend the trajectory from point A to Z isn't months or years of things going well. It's arguments over bills, frustrations that promises are broken, and sacrifices that call us to be selfless, to name a few. But Instagram in its totality is a filter that presents those scrolling through with a perception that things are how they look. Throw in a few hundred likes per photo and you've got validation that what you see is what you should strive for. While couples aren't uploading their personal struggles to the 'gram, it doesn't mean the things that you wouldn't qualify as #relationshipgoals aren't happening behind the scenes. In fact, I believe that this should be the year that we stop labeling couples as goals for that very reason.
Last year spawned thousands of articles that so-and-so were the prototype of perfection in relationships. If someone posted a photo sharing pizza or their last pink Starburst with their girlfriend, it was #relationshipgoals. Memes offered insight into what was consider ideal. If a couple had matching Louboutins, cars, rings–anything materialistic–it was classified as such, but in my opinion, individuals should strive for more in a relationship.
Devon Franklin, husband to Meagan Good, offered some words that not only resonated with me and my girlfriends, but was fitting for what I believe should be the ultimate goal in a relationship.
When you go out, and especially as women, a man wines and dines you but that could be a smokescreen. Romance can always grow out of connection but without connection, romance is a show. Everybody wants the show but everyone gets mad when the show is over, and the person you're in love with is not the person who put on the performance.Romance is fine and it's going to be there but I think real love is that consideration. Real love is that concern. Flowers are fine but on a day to day basis, do they care? Are they plugged in? You get so caught up in your day to day life that you can just get on autopilot in your relationship or your marriage. Just because you are with someone all of the time, you make the assumption that they're okay which is not always correct. The person right next to you, who you spend the most time with, could be going through hell and you don't know it because you haven't asked. Those small things is when you really have love and that's the foundation.
In the most recent episode of Danyel Smith and Elliott Wilson's podcast, ironically titled #RelationshipGoals, Danyel introduces a series of questions called 36 Questions on the Way to Love that “asks basic questions to promote intimacy" early on in the relationship. Some of the questions, created by psychologist, Arthur Aron, are:
Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
What do you value most in a friendship?
What is your most treasured memory?
What would constitute a “perfect" day for you?
Last month, she shared her thoughts on marriage with us in an interview.
“Everybody's marriage is complex regardless of how they're presenting it, but to me, it's one of the greatest relationships of life if you're lucky to have it and if it's something that you want."
In order to avoid becoming the next Tasha and Keith, it's best to moderately dig into the nitty gritty from the start so that you aren't falling for the front. Instead, we are falling for the idea of what someone could be and calling it potential because of the platforms that feed into our ideologies of what love should look like. We want a love like the Obamas, Jada and Will, Bey and Shawn, and Nicole and Boris, but when it's time to put in the effort to push through the period after the wonder years, we crack and give up because our expectations weren't met. How are can we foster healthy, long lasting relationships with people when we compare our lives to others and pray for someone else's fairytale?
[Tweet "We want a love like the Obamas, but when it's time to put in the effort we crack and give up."]
There are hundreds of sites that offer listicles on couples who define “relationship goals" or what constitutes things that everyday couples should strive for, but what some have forgotten is what works for some may not work for others. I once told a friend what I do to keep my man, may be how she loses hers, and vice versa. We're so quick to label everything #relationshipgoals, but aren't aware of what's happening behind closed doors. There are a plethora of celebs who live private lives and understandably so. We have so much access to the lives of others, we lose sight of the things that matter most, like that connection Franklin spoke about or the answers to those questions Danyel mentioned. We take things for face value and aren't willing to dig beneath the surface because what we may uncover could shatter our dreams of what a quality relationship is.
[Tweet "What I do to keep my man, may be how you lose yours."]
But I don't want a relationship built on the foundation of a Sex and the City quote or formed from my perceptions of someone else's marriage. I love what many of our favorite celeb couples represent (“Black love"), disproving beliefs that our relationships are merely rooted in baby mama/daddy issues wrapped in dysfunction, but I don't know what it took to get to 20 years of marriage, or to the White House, or to power couple status. I just want to figure out my own relationship as the road to happiness for us has had its own share of flaws. I can admit that. Picking up the pieces of someone else's bond and making it my own is just a recipe for disaster, not relationship goals.