How to Set and Pursue Healthy Personal Goals

Pursuing realistic goals will help balance out your life and make your marriage happier.

By Sarì Harrar and Rita DeMaria | Ph.D. from The 7 Stages of Marriage

Finding Yourself
One day, marriage therapist Patty Howell confided in her husband that she’d always wanted to be a top-notch rose grower whose flowers were perfect enough to display in flower shows and even win trophies. “Ralph agreed to support and help me,” Howell says. “He dug holes for the roses, helped prune them in the winter, and helped transport the cut blooms to shows. He helped out quite a bit so that I could reach my goal.”

Relationships and Healthy Goals Finding your own personal bliss and pursuing it can enhance your relationship precisely because it makes you a happier person.
Eventually, Howell won a national trophy from the American Rose Society for a miniature, red-tipped white blossom called Magic Carousel. “I cut the flowers in my garden in San Diego, put them in a picnic cooler, and got on a plane to Lexington, Kentucky, for that show,” she says. “And when I came home, my husband was absolutely thrilled for me.” Howell says following her dream gave her deep personal satisfaction. Doing it with her husband’s blessing and encouragement took her marriage to a new level. “It’s wonderfully thrilling to be supported so completely by your partner,” she says. “Ralph was always enthusiastic and interested. He got excited when I won a trophy and never said anything like ‘Oh, we can’t afford to buy that special fertilizer you want.’ It was a great source of closeness for us.”

Setting off in your own direction for even a few hours a week, yet being married, is a tightrope walk. It’s joyful and invigorating, scary and sometimes a little lonely. Yet finding your own personal bliss and pursuing it can enhance your relationship precisely because it makes you a happier person. It can also reduce conflict and frustration in your marriage by taking the pressure off your spouse for being entirely responsible for your happiness — and vice versa.

Further, it’s a great way to boost self-confidence. When University of California, Berkeley, researchers tracked hundreds of couples over several decades, one pattern they found was that people who had higher self-esteem and who saw themselves as effective were happier in their marriages. And so were their partners. Individual happiness will make your marriage happier. In a University of Missouri-Columbia study analysis of 225 research papers on happiness involving 275,000 people, researchers found that people who were happy had better social relationships, including happier marriages.