Relationships are hard, and anyone who tells you differently is selling something. Hard as they are, though, they’re probably the most rewarding thing in life, and so it’s worthwhile to put in some work to really connect. As we invest in our relationships, many challenges can crop up. The vast majority of the time these issues are rooted in miscommunication.
Often, you can prevent the worst problems with some proactive communication ahead of time. That’s why, even though it can be uncomfortable, there are some conversations that every couple should have–sooner rather than later. Here are four conversations that can increase effective communication, curtail conflict, and enable us to better care for each other.
Money-talk can be so uncomfortable. I’m not sure exactly why, but it’s definitely something that we avoid for as long as possible, most of the time. However, as a relationship progresses, one person’s money issues soon become two people’s money issues. There are, of course, several stages to a money talk. Once a couple is married, there will be some discussion over household budget and income. But even in the earlier phases of a relationship, it’s important to talk about things like:
- Debt, and how each person is managing any debt that they’ve accrued from car payments, credit cards, student loans, or medical bills.
- Future goals for finances and the things that they’re saving up for (i.e., would you prefer to buy a house, or spend your money traveling? Are you planning to go back to school at some point? Etc.)
- Current budgeting concerns, and how that impacts the things that you’ll do together as you date.
Having open communication about finances soon takes away the fear and shame that we have associated with it. I’ve heard before that some of the most loving words someone can say in a relationship are “honey, we can’t afford it.” Helping each other realize financial goals, lighten financial strain, and weather economic storms are all vital signs of a good relationship.
WHEN I’M UPSET…
In the early bloom of a relationship, it’s hard to imagine that the other person will ever have to deal with your sour moods. But a real relationship has to confront the bad moments too. Everyone reacts differently to stress, anger, and depression. Some of our coping techniques are healthy, and some are not. It’s important for people to understand their partner and what their approach is. What are the things that we need to watch for in our significant others? How can we cheer the other person up, send up a warning about unhealthy behavior, or shake them out of a funk?
It’s especially important to talk about our weaknesses and the bad things that can happen when life gets too heavy. We need to be able to love each other even at our worst, and so it’s important to understand just what that could look like. Remember, things like depression affect both members of a relationship.
I FEEL APPRECIATED WHEN…
On the flip side, it’s also important to nurture the good things in the relationship. Even when life isn’t weighing us down, we can often become neglectful of the important bonds that we rely on. Even more difficult to understand is that there are some things we do as gestures of love and appreciation (like, say, giving flowers or writing a sweet note) that don’t actually speak to the other person’s needs as well as something else could. An excellent framework for this conversation is the “5 Love Languages” book or website. However, it’s helpful if you get even more specific. Name specific instances when the other person did something that you really liked, or let them know what would really make you feel great when your anniversary comes around.
Much like finances, this can be an incredibly difficult and awkward conversation to have. Most of us would instead just bypass it and let our bodies do the talking. However, ensuring that you’re on the same page is essential for the health of your relationship. Remember, there are always ways that we can improve how we connect, even physically.
That’s why it’s essential to have an open dialogue about intimacy (including physical intimacy.) What are the ok and not-ok things in your relationship? Talk about things like pornography so that you understand how certain things impact your partner and your partnership. This can also be an excellent time to discuss what is considered “crossing the line” with people outside of the relationship… i.e., at what point do you become uncomfortable with your partner’s interactions with the opposite sex? If you’re feeling jealous, or worried about outsiders threatening your relationship, what can you do to express your concerns with your partner?
As uncomfortable as broaching these topics may be, setting up the groundwork for it now can make it easier to talk about difficult things down the road.