A new relationship is something to celebrate. You may feel happy every morning — in love, even — and the last thing you want to do is come down from cloud nine with an onerous conversation about potential problems and pitfalls in your brand-new relationship. Still, when a relationship is new, it’s exactly the right time to do this.
“Research shows that any relationship that lasts over three months is considered serious,” mental health counselor April Kirkwood tells SheKnows. “It is at this point, when love is young, that there is wiggle room to stay or go without having invested so much time and energy that it will result in full-out disaster and emotional loss.”
She recommends broaching sensitive topics when you are both calm and able to communicate with love and respect. “If reconciliation cannot happen at this early stage, it surely won’t happen later.”
So what should you be talking about and how should you be doing it? Ahead are nine conversations to have as you DTR into full-on coupledom — and certainly before moving in together or getting married.
How Will We Prioritize Having Fun Together?
Call it date night, down time or just plain hanging out, but having fun together — especially laughing together — is what creates and sustains a couple’s bond. “Our minds attach meaning and emotion to things that are exciting, which is why it’s important to have fun together and create memories,” clinical psychologist Dr. Dara Bushman tells Sheknows, stressing this time must be prioritized, planned or even scheduled. “If you can not pre-plan it, prioritize it and schedule it in before you get married, don’t think you will figure it out later.”
How Can We Ensure Our Sex Life Is Healthy and Satisfying?
This is one area where you should assume nothing and communicate everything. “I recommend couples discuss their sexual history early on in their relationship, including disclosure of any STDs/STIs,” marriage and family therapist Jillian Knight tells SheKnows. “Focus on the underlying goal of ensuring the health and safety of yourself, your partner and the relationship, emphasizing how it would make you feel if you both got tested (more secure, reassured, connected, etc.).” These aren’t just questions young couples should be asking each other. STD rates are rising among older generations, as well.
Once you know you’re having safe sex, you can better broach the topic of having satisfying sex. Knight recommends starting the conversation by asking your partner how satisfied they are with your current sexual life. Then you can delve into other questions like the following: “How comfortable are we communicating openly about sex? What are your expectations about frequency of sex once we are married? How will we make sex a priority once we are married and if we have kids?”
How Do We Each Like to Give and Receive Affection?
Affection outside of sex is every bit important as sex itself. You and your partner don’t necessarily need to like the same things, but it’s vital to communicate what you each want.
“Yes, you will continue to learn each other, but do not assume it will happen without communication,” says Bushman, who recommends hugging, kissing, and holding hands daily or even just allowing your feet to touch when falling asleep. “You can’t bond if you are not in physical contact. You have to touch like your lives together depend on it!”
What Was Your Parents’ Relationship Like Growing Up?
Talking to your partner about their parents’ relationship and how they feel about will not only help you get to know them better, but it’s also a way to glean insight into how they may behave in your relationship. It’s not about judging as much as it’s about understanding, reflecting and strategizing.
“We all come from somewhere, and we onboard the qualities of those who raised us, like it or not,” Marla Mattenson, a relationship expert for entrepreneur couples, tells SheKnows. “The level of awareness you and your partner have will help determine if you will repeat those patterns or help each other come out of them to discover a new way of moving through the world together.”
Do You Want Kids Eventually?
Whether you want kids, don’t want kids or aren’t yet sure, this is one thing you and your partner should agree on. Early in the relationship may seem like it’s too soon to initiate this conversation, but it can be done in a casual, hypothetical way. Plus, knowing early can prevent heartache later.
“Kids can be a deal-breaker in relationships. You must know in advance whether your partner wants or doesn’t want children,” Dr. Fran Walfish, a family and relationship psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, California, tells SheKnows. “I can’t tell you how many heartbroken couples have landed in my office way down the relationship road where they are emotionally attached and discover they can no longer continue the relationship, because one definitively refuses to have children.”
How Do You Deal With Conflict?
Conflict is never easy, but it’s easier if you and your partner know how the other handles it. A good way to initiate this conversation is to ask your partner how they would respond if you upset them. Would they handle it directly and immediately, work it out on their own and come back later or avoid it all together.
“This question will reveal if you need to help your partner speak their truth to you or if you can rely on them to come to you when they are upset,” says Mattenson. “Make an agreement that if either of you are deeply hurt, you will turn toward each other, even if it is painful and scary.’”
What’s Your Relationship With Money?
You’ll probably notice a few things about your partner and money just by spending time together, but some of the biggest red flags can be hidden, so it’s important to ask questions. Knight suggests asking about the following: “What money habits did you get from your parents? Are you more of a spender or a saver? If we differ, how are we going to manage this difference. What types of debt do you have, and how much? How are we going to pay off our debt? Will we rent a house/condo or buy? Why? What are your financial goals for the future?” These are all important questions to ask and to ask early.
What Part Will Religion Play in Our Relationship?
Religion can be a non-issue if both partners are non-practicing or practice the same religion in a similar way; however, it’s rare that both align. But even if it seems like a non-issue early in a relationship, it can become one later.
“If the partners are at opposite ends of the spectrum, when children enter the picture serious problems can emerge if each partner wants to inject their personal beliefs and practices onto the kids,” says Dr. Walfish. To avoid this, you and your partner need to be honest about what you want from religion now and in the future.
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