I’m 28 years old and my new girlfriend asked me what my relationship goals were for 2017, but my only goal was to get a girlfriend! I have work goals; should I have relationship goals too? And if so, what do relationship goals even look like?

When I asked my friend Ken what his relationship goals for 2017, he answered, “I don’t even know what relationship goals are.” Um, exactly. Just the phrase relationship goals conjures up images of vision boards and hashtags on Pinterest under pictures of Barack giving Michelle his jacket in the rain.

I’m a goal-oriented woman. In fact, I’m kind of psycho about it. I won’t bore you with my yearly routine, but I have laid out my overall aspirations and broken them down into quarterly action plans for more than 15 years. There are creative goals, body goals, mind goals and spirit goals (I’m a hippy chick at heart, what can I say?). But when I recently went back and looked at all my notebooks, there wasn’t a single strategy for relationships.

That explains a lot about my love life—or lack thereof.

Most people, myself included, live in a near constant state of reaction. If we are lucky enough to have been born into the percentage of humanity who aren’t living on less than $2 a day, the great majority of us are living paycheck to paycheck, never able to catch up on life. We then beat ourselves up for not sticking to a workout routine, a financial plan or a diet. And that’s not even taking into account illness, injury, accidents, loss and other curveballs waiting around every corner. To give you an idea of how difficult I find it to be proactive at “adulting,” I felt like I deserved a fucking medal this morning because I remembered to pick up the dog crap in my backyard before it rains tonight.

So in the shit storm of life happening, relationships often become something that we cling to like a rock in a tempest. They aren’t always something we go into intentionally; we usually just kind of stuble into them blindly while we try to survive. I’ve always said the buddy system makes life much easier. This isn’t some brilliant revelation, it’s science. I eloped at 23-years-old when I was lost and had given up on myself. It’s when I’m sick, or unloading groceries, or need help moving a dresser that I really miss being in a relationship. It’s primal. We are a tribal species and it’s in our nature to shack up, if not for love, but for protection.

When I asked my readers “What are your relationship goals?”, they responded with some of the following:

 To get a girlfriend.
 To avoid hanging out with chicks who have daddy issues.
To avoid hanging out with chicks who have tattoos.
 To not cheat on my wife.

Like I said, I’m a hippy chick. If I’ve learned anything in my time on earth, it’s that the universe responds well to clarity and affirmative statements. If you just want a girlfriend and you’re not specific about the kind of girlfriend you want, you could end up with a trainwreck. Instead of focusing on what you don’t want, focus on what you do want. Before you write goals about what you want in a partnership, you have to know what you want personally (although, if you’re an experiential learner, aka a moron like me, sometimes learning the hard way is the only way). Here are some good questions to ask yourself about a potential mate to get you started:

 Do you share the same values?
 Do you want to spend your free time with this person?
 Do you have similar interests?
Is the chemsitry there? A lot of people settle for a partner that looks great on paper, but if there’s no chemistry, you’re setting yourself up for infidelity down the road.
Can you tell them your deepest, darkest secrets without fear of judgment?

Your priorities will differ depending on your age. A 25-year-old guy living in a city probably isn’t as focused on settling down and starting a family as a 35-year-old man in rural Illinois. That being said, most of my friends from high school were married and on baby number one in their 20s. No matter where you are in your life, here are some great examples of tangible relationship goals a few woke men sent me:

Spend more quality time with my partner.
Have more sex and change up my sex life.
Be more up front about asking for what I want.
Be more up front about asking for what I need.
Be more open and accepting of what people need from me.
Take criticisms or requests for changes to my behavior less personally.
Be more reflective on my actions.
Avoid falling back into old patterns—and old beds—that provide me nothing.

In other words, the reason it behooves you to go into a partnership consciously is so you can avoid having to do something as lame as “conscious uncoupling.” Because when a relationship goes sour, it can fuck up your whole life—at any age—but the longer you’re in it, the harder it gets to leave and the higher the stakes become. Once kids, property and families are involved, you’re in another league; now you have the added pressure of not only keeping yourself alive, but two or three or four other people. At that point, when you do a cost-benefit analysis of your life, it might not be worth it to leave, even if you’re fucking miserable.

The love of my life decided to stay with his wife, who’s he’s not in love with anymore so he could be a present father figure for his kids. I know a lot of men who find themselves in the same situation—men have to make tough choices and end up sacrificing themselves along the way. It’s the burden of the provider. That’s why having relationship goals when you’re age 20, 31 or 40 is imperative, as silly as it may sound.

Maybe you have no idea what you want. You know what? That’s okay too. The truth is, I still don’t know exactly what I want—which is exactly why I’m still single.