As we’ve discussed in the blog this week, self-care is one of the most critical tools we have at our disposal in maintaining healthy relationships. In the words of William Shakespeare, “Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners.” Furthermore, in the words of Marcel Proust, “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” This weekend, we offer you a few of Dr. Gottman’s tips for goal-setting as you work to create a healthier lifestyle, both for yourself as well as for your relationship.


  • Make your goals specific and measurable. Rather than telling your partner that you would like to talk more, suggest that you go on a date every other Saturday. Leave the kids with the babysitter and find some time for just the two of you.
  • Think about the pros and cons of making healthy changes. If we stick with the example above, we could imagine that a pro would be the ability to feel closer to each other and relax (at a favorite dinner spot, on a jaunt through a beloved park, in a cozy cafe), and a con could be the price of the babysitter.
  • Break big goals into little ones! If you want to get in shape, don’t go crazy – this will only add to your stress. You know how much your butt is going to hurt after your first day running two hours on the treadmill. Go slow. Start with smaller increments. Apply the treadmill example to everything.
  • Ask for support! If you want to take care of yourself, remember the people closest to you – the ones you can count on. Call them if you want a boost of encouragement!
  • Anticipate obstacles and have a backup plan! If you take a moment to be honest with yourself and realize that your new self-care plane might be as fleeting as a New Year’s Resolution, don’t feel defeated! You are in control. Imagine the difficulties you may face in accomplishing your goal. For example, if going on a run every morning is going to be unrealistic once your kid starts school, try to come up with a solution that you feel confident will work. Could you work out a carpool with other parents so you have more time to yourself? Could you run in the evenings?
  • Make a daily plan and track your progress! Ask yourself the following questions frequently: What are my intentions today? (“I’ll go on a run tonight” or “I’ll stay away from the croissants at our staff meeting today” or “We’ll talk over dinner tonight, no more TV for a little while”)
  • Reward yourself for short-term and long-term successes! (“Yay! I ran!” or “Yay! I didn’t eat a croissant!” You get the idea…)

Play around with these ideas this weekend. Enjoy taking time for yourself. Remember, these are tools that are meant to be practiced far beyond the next couple of days. If you get into a healthy, stable regimen of self-care, you will be re-energized and strengthened – and your relationship will too!

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Weekend Homework Assignment: Goal Setting In Self-Care

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.