With Valentine's Day approaching, it is a good time to evaluate our romantic relationships. 

One way to do this is by thinking about your goals as a couple.

Just as vision statements give structure and make businesses more productive, so marriage goals can help couples have the relationship they really want. Not having goals is like walking around in the dark. Without goals, people are busy responding to what happens to them instead of setting their own direction. Goals accomplish so many great things.

Couples goals:

• Bring you closer together.

• Get you sharing about what is really important.

• Help you work together as a team.

• Give you a sense of purpose.

• Helps you understand the values underneath your differences.

• Make differences easier to negotiate.

• Focus you away from negative to positive.

There are so many areas in which one can make goals. There are the obvious, such as family, education, career and finances.

There are also goals regarding physical health, pleasure, public service, attitude and artistic expression or hobbies.

What do you as individuals want to accomplish in your lifetime and what would you like to achieve in your relationship?

Couples therapists Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson divide couple goals into three categories, which I think are very helpful:

• Doing: Behaviors such as participating in a sport or activity or taking a vacation.

• Having/Getting: Description of what you would like to have or get such as a house or a successful career. These, Bader and Pearson say, appeal primarily to ego-gratification.

• Being: Description of your ideals - what kind of relationship you would like. Examples are: "I want to be a better listener" or "I want our relationship to be a very respectful marriage" or "I want our relationship to be full of laughter and humor."

These are not the goals we typically think of. They are more than just ego-gratifying and often require insight and growth, well worth the effort.

Bader and Pearson often use these three types of goals to help couples in conflict. They ask a couple to describe what they would like to have or get. They then ask them what they would have to be in order to reach those goals (e.g. more organized or more affectionate). This gives couples a place to start.

Finally, Bader and Pearson ask the couple to define what they would do (specific behaviors).

This does a number of things. It gets partners away from blame and thinking about what they each could do. It also is a great way to get to underlying issues in a conflict, and it turns the focus from the negative to the positive.

Bader and Pearson are doing some fine work and have lots of resources to offer. I have been to their workshop and have found their ideas have structured much of my work with couples. I encourage you to visit their website: couplesinstitute.com.

Debbie Loyd is a licensed professional counselor in Astoria who works with adults and couples on a variety of issues. You can visit her website at debbieloyd.com and her blog for couples at debbieloyd.wordpress.com.