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In the early stages of a relationship, you may feel eager to see where things go. You may find yourself wanting to ensure you’re on the same page without appearing as if you’re in a rush for information.
Healthy communication that progresses over time (think layers!) allows you to determine if your growing relationship can go the distance. Awareness makes all the difference, especially if you’re contemplating serious milestones, such as cohabitation, engagement, marriage, and/or child-bearing.
If you’re considering getting more serious with your boyfriend or girlfriend and are wondering what to ask and how to ask, this guide is for you. The goal here is not to rush getting all of your questions answered in one sitting and bombard your partner with constant questions, but rather to build on the topics below through a series of dialogues that deepen with time and patience.
Understanding what sexual and emotional faithfulness and commitment mean to your partner and making sure your definitions are compatible is huge for the prognosis of your relationship. It’s important to be aware of what cheating means to your partner, so you can prevent unnecessary misunderstandings and heartbreak in the future.
If there are discrepancies in your definitions, or your partner wants an open relationship and you don’t, spend some time articulating your feelings and determining if you can reach an agreement. Also consider how you would handle scenarios that commonly provoke jealousy such as one of you having lunch with an ex, taking a work trip with an attractive colleague, etc.
Setting expectations around sex is a must. Couples often postpone addressing the sexual component of their relationship until a specific issue rears its head. This is a problematic approach because emotions tend to run high in times of conflict, and feelings of rejection or dissatisfaction can get in the way of healthy communication.
Take a proactive approach by gaining information about your partner’s sexual preferences, including frequency of sex and sexual needs. Consider how you will both continue to develop the sexual component of your relationship and keep the spark alive.
What does a healthy marriage mean? You may both be marriage-minded, but unfortunately this fact doesn’t necessarily mean you view marriage in the same light. Create understanding around the meaning of marriage by discussing definitions, expectations, needs, hopes and fears.
Also consider if religion is important to you and your partner and how religion may impact your partner’s view of marriage.
And how will you continue to nurture your relationship? All relationships have conflict and what matters most is how conflict is handled. In fact, research by John Gottman says 69% of problems in relationships are unsolvable, so it’s all about management and communication instead of avoidance.
Having a plan for how to manage conflict, including developing skills such as remaining calm, listening, taking a cooperative stance, and being willing to apologize, will be helpful down the line. Be sure to discuss whether your partner is willing to go to individual or couples therapy.
This question can lead to a variety of topics such as the division of chores and responsibilities, expectations around individuality (independence, separateness and space within the relationship) and being a couple, and what kind of emotional support your partner is looking for.
Other important related topics may include how boundaries will be set with family, friends and work, as well as how time will be balanced and how often dates will be scheduled. For instance, if your partner is set on spending every Thanksgiving with his family, and you’re committed to spending it with yours, addressing these differences and working to compromise early on is key to your relationship surviving.
Without putting pressure on your partner to disclose too much personal financial information, ask about financial history, goals, and spending habits. Consider how finances may be merged (or not) in the future and how shared expenses will be divided.
While the topic of finances may not be sexy, it tends to be one of the biggest sources of relationship conflict, so communicating proactively is best.
Are there any specific issues in your relationship that you would like to fix? These questions will help you get a sense of how your partner thinks your relationship is going and if any concerns are present. When you ask your partner this question, remind yourself not to get defensive or argumentative. The point is to gather information and get an honest assessment from your partner, so you can work toward solutions as a couple.
His or her answer may upset you or potentially hurt your feelings, so try to keep your eyes on the big picture while remembering honesty is imperative for the health of your relationship. It’s so much healthier to know where you stand than to resent your partner for being honest because you feel hurt.
In one year, five years, 10 years? Asking open-ended questions about the future is a valuable way to gauge where your partner wants your relationship to go.
The hope is that your partner has already put thought into this question, but if not, you can explore questions about the future together. If you’re marriage-minded and want to have kids, this is also an appropriate time to make these values and goals known (see next question).
It’s important not to assume how your partner feels about kids. Many people get themselves in trouble by making assumptions based on how a person answers online dating profile questions, for example, but verbal communication about this topic is essential.
If you’re not on the same page about having kids, this may or may not be a deal-breaker. This may be crushing in the moment, but it’s better to know sooner than later. If you both want kids, consider discussing how many kids you would like to have and what your ideal timing looks like.
This question is not about judging your partner. It’s about fostering understanding and being emotionally vulnerable with each other.
For instance, learning that your partner experiences relationship anxiety due to being cheated on in the past will help you be more supportive. Understanding if your partner grew up in an emotionally abusive or high-conflict household will shed light on how your partner views relationships and why your partner may be sensitive to shouting, for example. Listen attentively and hold back any judgment. Again, this is about building connection, empathy and understanding.
By exploring these questions over time and avoiding grilling your partner, you’ll have better information to drive your decision to get serious. Resist any tendencies to be avoidant or rely on reading your partner’s mind. Remember relationships thrive on openness and communication. The above questions are a great way to deepen your bond or determine if your relationship is right for you.