When author Jennifer Allen realized her marriage was heading in the wrong direction, she created an interactive journal to help reignite her relationship.
When I think about relationship goals, I envision an overabundance of social media posts. Posts that are jam-packed with couples smiling, kissing, gallivanting through exotic islands, and melodramatic memes drenched in unrealistic expectations.
Images that capture the utopia of relationship highs but often fail to show the work behind what it genuinely takes to maintain a happy and healthy relationship.
Social media has tainted our perception of what it is to be in a healthy relationship.
Personally speaking, social media has tainted our perception of what it is to be in a healthy relationship. We use hashtags like #MeAndSomebodysSon or #MeAndSomebodysDaughter and label what we see as #RelationshipGoals. It seems as though our culture defines relationship goals as having more to do with an attractive photo than it does putting in the work to build and maintain a healthy connection.
After all, healthy relationships take communication and a whole lot of hard work! That’s what attracted me to try author Jennifer Allen’s 12-month interactive journal for couples entitled, #RelationshipGoals. Allen’s book stresses the importance of putting in the work to achieve a love that exists outside of social media.
Jennifer and her husband Tavarous are the creators of Just Elope LLC, a company that plans, facilitates, and executes intimate and creative popup weddings and elopements. “I wanted my next venture to be about life after the wedding,” explained Jennifer. “It was only natural for me to create the #RelationshipGoals journal as an outlet for couples to dig deep into their own love story by being intentional with their thoughts and emotions [and] putting those feelings on paper.”
The journal features monthly relationship activities, a daily intimacy tracker, weekly relationship meetings, and over 50 date night ideas. It also supplies questions to interview other couples, further instilling the value of community in relationships— which I find especially significant in maintaining a healthy marriage.
“Not letting things build-up has been valuable to our marriage,” stated Tavarous, “I learned [from my wife] that taking time to process your feelings before you talk about the issue can help you [speak] with a clearer head. Having our weekly relationship meetings helped with that, also knowing that we have a dedicated time to discuss whatever is going on. Not just when I say so, or she says so.”
After hearing from this dynamic duo first-hand, I was intrigued and excited to try Jennifer’s workbook for five weeks. Frankly, the hardest part of the #RelationshipGoals workbook was persuading my husband to join me. But once he agreed and we got into the momentum of our weekly meetings, we found it to be constructive and rewarding.
Each Sunday before bed, my husband and I wrote down the critical points of our discussions in our #RelationshipGoals workbook. We followed along with the prompts and shared our insights, issues, and praises openly and honestly with one another. By week four, our meetings transformed into what we affectionately called our “counseling on a budget.” And for what it’s worth, the experience that we gained from the #RelationshipGoals workbook has proven itself to be an invaluable commodity.
Here’s an overview of what our five-week #RelationshipGoals sessions looked like:
Week One:We outlined a year of dates in 30 minutes. At first, this was challenging to think and plan so far in advance, but the workbook provided numerous options for us to get some ideas. Some date ideas weren’t quite our style, but there were enough options to open our minds to try new things that we did not consider doing before. We eagerly and intentionally jotted down our monthly date nights — planned out 12 months in advance as recommended in the journal. It allowed us to reminisce about the well- prepared and insightful dates that my husband and I use to have together when we first started dating. After creating our year-long calendar, we placed the list on our refrigerator as an on-going reminder to make time for our scheduled date night throughout the upcoming months. I’m hoping we are both accountable enough to stick to them. Currently, our upcoming dates range from attending a professional basketball game to wine tasting, and even playing Uno together at home.
Week Two:Our relationship meeting consisted of seven questions that repeat throughout the book. I was curious to see how our responses would change from week to week. The questioning felt much like a weekly progress report that allowed us to discuss our high and low points for the week. Our week two check-in began with pretty basic responses. Still, as we got more in-depth and thoughtful about our answers, I ended up getting some excellent feedback from my husband about something that he felt I could work on doing better in our marriage. I wasn’t aware that I was doing something that he found frustrating. Although I wasn’t fond of the negative feedback, I appreciated it because it allowed us the opportunity to discuss and fix something early on before it became a more significant issue.
The tension started high, and the session lasted longer than any of the previous ones since my husband and I were equally upset with one another.
Week Three:After a disagreement, I decided to pull out our #RelationshipGoals workbook a few days early. The tension started high, and the session lasted longer than any of the previous ones since my husband and I were equally upset with one another. Neither of us truly wanted to talk, especially because some of the questions required us to respond about positive things that we liked about one another during a moment when we didn’t like each other very much. It was quite challenging. However, at the end of the session, we both felt equally heard, less annoyed, and left with ideas and tasks that we could both work on improving over the upcoming week.
Week Four:By week four, we were finally getting the hang of the weekly meetings. We also took the time to review our intimacy tracker to see how we were doing throughout the previous week. Since physical touch is my love language, my husband mentioned that looking at the intimacy tracker gave him a visual perspective of how he was able to show his love to me throughout the week. I enjoyed that we both made a conscious decision to monitor our overall intimacy; we noticed that our most pleasant weeks were the ones where we became more mindful and purposeful about our shared affection.
Week Five:We spiced our weekly session up by incorporating a couples interview that had questions listed in the book. We chose to have brunch and interview a married couple that had been married for over 30 years; we often admired them but never really spoke to them in depth. It was informative and gave us insightful tips that we look forward to implementing in our marriage. I think this was one of our most enjoyable elements of the workbook since my husband and I are both social butterflies who love to connect and have meaningful conversations with other couples.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed this workbook and hope to continue to incorporate some, if not all, aspects of the #RelationshipGoals workbook into our marriage every week.
I created the #RelationshipGoals workbook because I honestly needed something to save my own marriage.
Toni-Ann Craft: What inspired you to create the #RelationshipGoals workbook?
Jennifer Allen: I created the #RelationshipGoals workbook because I honestly needed something to save my own marriage. It was a point in the last two years, where for better or for worse, [unfortunately] was tipping towards the worse side. Everything about our lives together was all over the place. With career changes, kids involved in activities, starting a business, and deciding to go back to school, it was a lot. We knew giving up wasn’t an option, so we had to figure it out. After praying heavily and really sitting back and being honest with each other about the areas that needed the most improvement, I created a “rough copy” of what would later turn into #RelationshipGoals. At the time, I had no idea the tools we would use to repair our marriage would lead to creating this workbook.
TC: The Black Love Series is about capturing the first-hand perspective of relationships and learning about the struggles other couples have overcome, as well as strategies used to help them through difficult times. Did you experience something, perhaps in your marriage, which made you feel like weekly meetings were something other couples needed to tap into?
JA: My marriage has inspired EVERY section of this workbook. One day, I asked my husband to ‘please stop leaving empty snack boxes in the cabinet.’ He immediately responded with a mile-long list of things he felt I was doing wrong. I just stood there dumbfounded. It was [at] that moment I knew we needed to start having weekly meetings so we could address things as they happen. During our weekly meetings, in the beginning, we both admitted we were listening to respond and not to understand. Once that come-to-Jesus moment occurred, the weekly relationship meetings became a lot more productive.
The social media society that we live in today gives a twisted perception of what love should look like.
TC: It’s amazing how our personal struggles can create opportunities to help others. What do you want your readers to gain from using this interactive journal?
JA:What I hope readers will gain from #RelationshipGoals is a better appreciation for their own love. The social media society that we live in today gives a twisted perception of what love should look like. I also hope that they communicate better and that it encourages them to be intentional in all areas of their relationship from intimacy, planning more creative date nights, and even creating more transparency with finances.
To purchase a copy of #RelationshipGoals by Jennifer Allen, click here.