It’s hard to give generic relationship advice because every person and every situation is different. I’ve seen moves that would be massive relationship-ending mistakes with 99% of people end up a tremendous relationship-defining success with one person. What might be good advice to a 22-year old might be horrible advice for that same person at 30. There is one thing that I’ve seen that is always a mistake, making someone else into a goal.
Let me be clear. It is absolutely wonderful to have relationship goals, no matter what they are. If your goal is to have a one-night stand and never call the person back, that’s perfectly fine (as long as everybody’s safe and that’s what you’re into). If your goal is to fall in love, get married, have a bunch of kids, and spend your golden years sailing around the Caribbean, that’s a fine goal too. It’s ok to have a different goal than what other people think you should have, and it’s ok for your goals to change as you evolve as a person.
It’s also not a problem to take actions that work towards your goal. If you want to pursue marriage and family, don’t date people who are just “having fun.” If all that you want is an uninterrupted string of wild evenings, for the love of God don’t force yourself into a relationship that you don’t really want to be in. Don’t be afraid to tell the person that you’re with what you really want or what you’re looking for.
The problem occurs when you take a generic goal like, “I want to have sex,” or, “I want to eventually be a stay-at-home parent,” and apply it to a specific person like, “I want to have sex with Pat,” or “I want to stay at home with Pat’s kids one day.”
A person is not something to be attained or a completion mark in a checklist. A person is not a flawless, pure being that will perfectly fit into your plans and ambitions. A person is never something that you can achieve, no matter how much time and effort you put into them.
You have to separate the person that you’re with from the goals that you have. You should never be with someone, whether for a night or a lifetime, because they are the means to your goal. That shows a complete lack of respect for them as a nuanced, unique being. You should be with someone because you enjoy their company, and you should always treat them with the respect that everyone inherently deserves. Nobody wants to be a notch on a bedpost or a checkmark in a life plan, and no one should be treated like one.
If you make someone into a goal without focusing on them, it will eventually lead to resentment and quite possibly cause whatever relationship you have to fail. It’s hurtful to be a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself. How is your partner supposed to think that you care about/love/are attracted to THEM when you actually think of them as a means to an end? Why would someone move forward with you when they can sense that you are mainly interested in moving forward generally, not enjoying their company while moving forward?
If you don’t separate the goal from the person, you will never get what you want. Whatever you imagine your fling or your marriage being, it won’t be that because nothing is ever as you envisioned it. It is impossible for anyone to live up to the expectations you have set for your generic goal, and unfair and unreasonable for you to expect them to. You will always be disappointed in them, which will make both of you unhappy.
Work towards your goals, and enjoy the person you’re with, whatever and whoever they are, just don’t combine the two into one.