In romantic relationships, one person’s individual aspirations and goals has a huge influence on the other person’s own hopes for themselves, a new study confirms. This may explain that whole ‘couple goals’ phenomenon.
The study from the University of Basel looked into the interdependence of “approach goals and avoidance goals” for more than 450 couples, whose average age was 34, and who had been together an average of around 10 years.
Results from the study, which appeared in The Journal of Gerontology, found that “what one partner in a two-person relationship wishes to avoid, so too does the other partner — and what one wants to achieve, so does the other”.
Essentially, the study’s coordinators discovered that when one half of a couple is seeking to achieve growth and has big aspirations for themselves, the other half of the partnership may also decide to go after a more meaningful experience — to match them.
But this works the other way around too. When one half of a couple avoids stress and conflict and prefers comfortable patterns, the other may try to do the same.
These results were observed across the board, with gender, age and relationship length showing no bearing on the outcome.
The team of psychologists behind the study, led by author Professor Jana Nikitin, said that one person’s influence on the other person’s goals was not instant, and that it often took weeks or months for the long-term goals of one partner to have an impact on the goals of the other.
As for why that is, Nikitin hypothosises: “This could be an adaptive mechanism to maintain the stability of the relationship,” she says, “by not being influenced by every momentary shift made by the partner.”
It’s not a bad thing for one half of a couple to subconsciously encourage the other person to push themselves to achieve their goals. In fact, shared interests and aspirations would typically be seen as a good thing for couples who wish to grow together over time.