From money to family planning, these four conversation topics are the key to better understanding your partner and forming a fulfilling relationship.
As your relationship evolves from moving in together to tying the knot , it's only normal for certain conversations regarding the future to arise. Whether you're discussing sex, your relationship status, finances, or having children, it's important to have open and honest dialogues and check-ins. These different conversations happen at different stages of the relationship, but each conversation plays a role in helping two people realize their expectations of one another, says Jason Wheeler, PhD, a New York City-based clinical psychologist. “We sometimes pick people whom we hope are going to give us something we never had," Wheeler says.
That's why it's important to define what you want in these conversations and determine if the two of you are on the same page. Here, Wheeler and Margaret Rombone, PhD, a professor of psychology at New York University and clinical psychologist, explain the most important conversations that may come up during the span of your relationships and why they matter.
Open communication outside of the bedroom—talking about they type of intimacy you enjoy and don't enjoy—can help make what happens in the bedroom that much better. Besides discussing what turns you on, Wheeler also suggests discussing your sexual history, like if either of you have had or have any sexually transmitted diseases and the types of birth control you've used and want to use. “Bear in mind that sex lives change as couples enter different stages of life, like living together, becoming parents, and reaching menopause, and so this has to be a continual part of negotiating your relationship," explains Wheeler.
“Talking about and agreeing on the nuts and bolts of finances and how finances will ultimately be handled is also very important for many couples," Rombone says. A few things to consider discussing in this realm include who pays for what and why, what assets are listed under which partner's name, whether you'll have any joint account, and the overall transparency of your spending.
Married couples tend to open a joint account together because contributions and therefore investments will be bigger than one person putting money into an individual account. Still, there's nothing wrong with keeping your own account separate and discussing the reason why you wish to do this. Simply defining who will spend money and what it will be spent on on a daily basis can strengthen your bond as a couple.
How many do you want, if any at all? “Disagreement on this topic can be a deal-breaker for many people," Rombone says. “This topic and all the variability within it needs to be negotiated." It's important to discuss all of the logistics of family planning before you delve into marriage. According to Wheeler, discussing your plans to have or not have children should be talked about far before your honeymoon.
When thinking about children, consider not only how many you want to have (if any), but also if you or your partner want to adopt. It's also important to consider who will care for kids if you and your partner don't want to give up full time jobs. Will you have the means to hire a nanny? Is a family member willing and able to help out? Life with children can be complicated, so a deep discuss and planning are necessary for a successful relationship.
“How and when you spend time with both families is very often a source of contention and resentment in couples who haven't worked out how to negotiate about these things," says Wheeler. When it comes to dealing with in-laws, you and your partner should sit down and discuss which holidays or family gatherings mean the most to you. There will likely be some overlap, like around the winter holidays, so compromise is essential. While it can be difficult to imagine spending a major holiday away from your own family, making your partner constantly bow to your needs can result in resentment. “Negotiating about such surprisingly emotional decisions is key," Wheeler says.
All in all, it's important to broach each of these topics, no matter how uncomfortable the discussions that follow may make you feel. As your relationship continues to evolve, learning about how someone views money, children, family time, and more is just as important as having a memorable date. In the end, the toughest conversations are the ones that will test and build trust.
“These conversations can also spark stress and disagreement, of course," says Rombone. “[That's] perfectly natural. That said, while I can't recall hearing Talking about this was so stressful that I wish we never figured this out, I can't count the number of times in my career I have heard If only we had figured this out earlier."
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