This Is What ‘Relationship Goals’ Are, Because It’s Not Cute Instagram Posts

When you hear the phrase “relationship goals,” you probably think about those Instagram posts couples share of their big, photo-worthy moments. For example, the romantic proposal at the spot where they had their first date. Or maybe you imagine their subsequent (and equally stunning) beachside wedding. Or perhaps you reference their first home purchase of a house that appears as though it was built just for them, no renovations necessary.

While these things are absolutely milestones that should be celebrated, these only show a snippet of the full picture. The highlight reel. The punctuation marks. The outline. The edges. What these posts we comment “relationship goals!” on don’t show are the in-between instances that make a love story what it truly is. And I’d argue the spaces that break up those Instagrammable moments are the most important and romantic of all.

Well, at least they can be. Because when the honeymoon ends and you’re thrust back into real life with an email inbox that never seems to empty and dirty dishes constantly piling up in the sink and daily 6 AM alarms and the dreaded rush hour commute that follows, do you have someone who supports you through those things?

Do you have a partner who asks about your day even though it’s the same shit as yesterday and the day before that, but they still find it interesting because it was your day? Are you with someone who offers to help you clear away the mess from dinner and throws on Frank Sinatra while you both dance around each other in your tiny kitchen to get everything back in order?

Are you sleeping next to someone you wake up next to with bedhead and horrific morning breath and they still lean over, kiss you, and say how attractive you are to them? Can you share comfortable silences together? Do find ways to make each other’s humanity easier to carry?

Do you speak tenderly to one another? Do you behave in caring and respectful ways? Do you love them through the fights, even when they’re being difficult as hell? Do they do the same for you? Will you reach out to hold their hand at their mom’s funeral and make arrangements they can’t bear to make themselves through their grief? Will you forgive them? Will they forgive you? Are you both committed?

If you said yes to any of these, those are relationship goals. It’s not about how good your relationship looks to others. It’s about how it feels standing within it. It’s about what your heart is telling you when it’s 2 AM and they’re snoring and taking up far too much room but you’re still so glad they’re your person. That you chose them and they chose you back.

True relationship goals are better than picture-perfect because they’re real. It’s not just about cute Instagram posts. It’s more about what you don’t post online and share only with one another. Those are relationship goals worth chasing. Those are the things I want. And I hope that’s what you want, too.