Setting Goals for Your Marriage and Family

When marriages fail, it’s often not because of the “big-ticket items” like adultery and abuse. Marriages typically die a slow, dismal death from lack of intentionality and attention. Those who don’t give their marriage focused attention quit settings goals and working on their relationship. Then, slowly and almost unknowingly they begin to drift as a couple, and one day they wonder why they are so different or feel so far apart … they drifted too far.

My father was raised on a farm that had cattle. He would often tell stories of the cattle regularly getting lost because they kept their head down to eat the grass and their simple life consisted of moving from one patch of grass to the next. Eventually, the cows veered off the property into someone else’s territory and were completely lost. Maybe that’s why we don’t see cows in the circus – they’re not real smart. That’s a perfect picture of what can happen to a well-intended marriage that doesn’t look ahead.

I encourage you to write a script for your upcoming marriage that ensures you won’t drift. In order to do this, you will need to set some realistic goals that will become a significant part of your marriage and family script. You will be living out your marriage and family based on a script whether you write it intentionally or not. When a couple is thoughtful and purposeful with their choices to be in an authentic relationship of oneness, outlining future goals is essential. Goals help you get where you want to go. They provide direction and give hope for the future.

What Are Your Goals?

So, what are your goals for your current relationship? Have you taken time to articulate them? Defining even general, big-picture goals (e.g., “We want to have a great marriage”) can be an important place to begin. Later on you can move toward more specific goals. For example, here’s what one couple wrote:

  • A weekly date without kids.
  • Learn something new together, like photography or dancing.
  • Pray together five times a week.
  • Join a couples’ group at church.
  • Create a budget and meet regularly to go over it.

Reaching your goals will require perseverance and determination. Most people who have achieved great things in their lives have had as many failures (if not more) as successes. Successful people set goals because they know the importance of having clear direction. How you spend your time and what you choose as goals will guide your priorities, and your priorities will play a significant role in the success of your marriage and family. Consider these five attributes of effective goal setting as you think through your goals. Ask each other:

Specific — Are the goals for our marriage and family super clear so that we both know what they mean?

Measurable — How will er be able to track our progress?

Attainable — What might be the primary obstacles that could keep us from reaching these goals, and how will we know when we’ve accomplished them?

Relevant — Why is this goal important to us and what impact will it have on our marriage?

Time-bound — What is the specific date by which we hope to accomplish this goal?


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Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord, which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, Closer, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; three sons-in-law, Steve and Matt, and Andy; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte and Huxley.

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