Granted, you should have healthy standards when it comes to your relationships. But setting unrealistic and aesthetic standards that are impossible to uphold is doing your love life more harm than good. This challenge comes at a time when the boundaries between social media and real-life are growing thinner every day.

It’s probably not the first time you hear about #couplegoals. The hashtag has been around for a while now and it should come as no surprise given that social media platforms are known to be the place where most people go to escape reality or indulge in happy thoughts and pretty pictures. But what does ✨couple goals✨ actually mean?

The term often goes along with posts, stories, and clips showing cookie-cutter happy couples in beautiful scenarios and occasionally refers to grand gestures, random acts of kindness, and expensive presents. Aesthetic plays a big part in understanding why people hit that like button as if their love life depends on it. But why?

Except for all things Pandemic-related, dating has never been easier. But, strangely, maintaining a relationship definitely looks harder than ever. There are so many people out there in need of constant validation and instant gratification that #couplegoals went from a light chuckle on Twitter to a toxic behavior many of us are actually fueling when we choose how we present our relationships on social media. I know I’m somewhat guilty.

It’s time to put our lab jackets on. In a not-scientific-at-all study conducted by me, I asked Twitter if I was the only one who saw things this way. And several people explained that they also see “couple goals” as an unhealthy pattern. It’s the flawed social constructs that people propel into their own lives. And the aesthetically pleasing content could lead people to grow frustrated. However, someone pointed out, it could just be a relationship with strong mutual respect and communication, without any toxic behavior.

It turns out we can’t even agree on what #couplegoals means.

Illustration by Anđela Janković

The matter of fact is: these perfect-looking posts and romantic fairytales flooding your feeds are probably unrealistic. Call me a pessimist, but there is no such thing as a perfect couple. And if it looks perfect, I'm a skeptic. From my experience, if it seems too good to be true… It probably is.

If you are (or have been) in a long-term relationship like me, you’ve probably looked at these #couplegoals posts wondering why you and your partner are not constantly basking in the same constant joy as all those couples. Forget that. Your relationship only has to please you and your partner, it’s absolutely no one else’s business. Whatever floats your boat and makes you happy should be your goal. When you compare your reality with someone else’s fantasy, you’re not being fair to your partner or yourself for that matter.

Keep in mind I’m not saying we’re all unhappy in comparison. We form and maintain relationships because our partners make us happy, we want to make them happy and we enjoy sharing our daily dose of life with them. But life - surprise! - is not always sunshine and rainbows.

Repeat after me: all these adorable pictures have nothing to do with us. It goes without saying but again: standards set by social media do not represent real life. Nor should they.

Still, if you’re single and dating right now, this toxic concept could harm you as well. By setting unrealistic expectations and standards you’re dooming any shot at something actually good coming your way!

Even the whole process of online dating today strips people from their realness and reduces them to good-looking pictures, great chiseled lean bodies, and straight white teeth. I get it: we thrive for symmetry and perfection in every aspect of our lives, why should we expect less in our love lives? But soon we realize that symmetry lacks shape, diversity, and flow… Besides being boring as hell!

A time comes when you stop expecting everything to be perfect because you realize perfection is unattainable. But rejecting perfection is not the same as conforming to what’s at hand. You should work towards your happiness, pleasure, and fulfillment. You should most definitely set healthy realistic goals regarding your relationships, constantly keeping your well-being and mental health as a top priority. Take a page from Marie Kondo’s book and ask: “does this spark joy”? If the answer is yes, you’re doing just fine.

Bottom line, whatever works for your relationship and yourself should be your goal. Don't beat yourself up if you and your partner aren't always smiling and floating on air. I think it's safe to establish that every human being out there is unique, complex, and absolutely not perfect – the same goes for relationships. At the end of the day, relationships and the couples that make them are like tacos – incredibly messy, but totally worth it.

João Santos Costa