A healthy, happy romantic relationship is a goal for many people. You've likely heard that communication is one of the most important aspects of a stable, healthy relationship. But, what does good communication in a relationship entail? In this article, we discuss specific conversations to have with your romantic partner to improve your long-term relationship.
Conversations To Have In A Serious Romantic Relationship
If your relationship is moving toward a long-term commitment, or if you've already made a commitment, there are important topics to discuss to make sure both you and your partner are on the same page. Maintaining good communication about serious topics may help reduce future arguments, which is important because couples that spend more time arguing are less satisfied with their relationship.
Consider what each of you wants from a long-term relationship. For example, do you expect a long-term relationship to lead to marriage? Kids? Living together? If marriage is your goal and your partner never wants to get married, you will have to discuss your options and decide how to move forward.
Talking about your expectations, including how you expect to be treated, may also be essential for your relationship. Consider how much time you want to spend with your partner, and how you expect your lives will change as you become more serious.
Consider whether you agree on financial philosophies, and if not, whether this will be a problem. Perhaps they’re a saver, but you're a spender. Maybe you’re both focused on planning and saving for retirement, but have different ideas about where you want to retire, at what age, and with how much money.
If you are in a serious relationship, a conversation about finances can be critical, since financial problems and disagreements are among the most common reasons for break-ups and divorces. Discuss debts either of you have, what percentage of your incomes you believe should be put into savings, and how much each person will play a role in financial management. Consider if you'll maintain separate or joint accounts, and what the process will be for making big ticket purchases.
Do either of you already have children, and if so, what will your partner's role be in their lives? When should they meet the children? If you are a parent, your priority is likely figuring out what is best for your kids. Before making introductions, you probably want to know that the relationship is stable, or that your partner is willing to help raise your kids in the future.
It's also important to discuss if either person wants kids. If you are on the same page about having children, do you agree on how soon and how many? Also, when kids are in the near future, it would make sense to discuss details of how you plan on raising them. Will both parents play an equal role in parenting, or will one do more than the other? How often will the kids see their grandparents? Discussing these details upfront can reduce conflict later.
How To Handle Conflict
You may want to discuss how each of you handles conflict. For example, if you are one who needs time to walk away and think before you respond in a heated moment, it is essential to tell your partner about your need for space, so they don't assume that you are ignoring them or giving up on the relationship.
A conversation about conflict can also help you become aware of areas you can focus on to improve yourself and your relationship. For example, if you tend to raise your voice in an argument, it might be something to address now, before more disagreements arise.
Perhaps you or your partner have long-term education, career, or travel plans. It's important to bring these topics up early on, so no one makes assumptions otherwise. For example, if one person assumes you'll be having kids together shortly after marrying, while the other doesn't want kids until after meeting certain career or financial goals, that is important to discuss upfront.
Understanding your partner's future dreams can also allow you to learn how to support them. By recognizing what each other is working toward, you can both make the relationship a source of encouragement and personal growth.
Consider what defines the boundaries of your relationship. For example, think about how much time should be allotted to your partner versus your friends or family. You might also want to discuss whether this is a completely monogamous relationship or if each of you is more flexible about sexual or emotional relationships outside of this one.
In an established relationship, it may be beneficial to talk to each other about your childhoods. How you grew up may not necessarily define your future, but it can help you and your partner understand each other and why you may feel the way you do on specific issues. Learning how each other was raised may also shed light on how you want to raise children, if you choose to have them.
Similarly, discussing adolescence, young adulthood, and any major life events can help your partner better understand your habits, hopes, and fears.
How To Start A Serious Conversation
Bringing up serious topics may feel uncomfortable if you aren't used to doing it. Asking questions is an excellent way to start a conversation, especially if you don't have a specific topic in mind and just want to connect. Open-ended questions allow someone to say more than "yes" or "no." An example of an open-ended question that might lead to a deeper discussion is, "What was one of the most transformative times of your life?"
You might want to take a different approach if you want to have a serious conversation about your relationship specifically.
Here are tips for talking to your partner about your relationship:
- Frame the conversation positively. For example, say, "I'd like to discuss how we handle conflict, so we can get along better more of the time."
- Try to see their point of view. Repeat back what your partner says in your own words to show that you truly understand what they're trying to tell you. The goal is for you and your partner to feel genuinely heard and grow to understand one another's thoughts and feelings better.
- Be mindful of your body language and tone of voice. Rather than appearing combative, try to remain open and calm. This can be important not just when you speak, but also when you listen.
- Stay present. You may also want to make eye contact and nod while they talk to show that you are listening.
- Be mindful of phrasing. Avoid accusatory statements. Try "I" messages instead. For example, say, "I feel hurt right now," instead of "You're being mean and you hurt me."
- Make sure that it's a good time. Before you start a serious conversation, check in with your partner to make sure it's a good time to talk. A good time is one that will be free from distractions and interruptions, when both people feel calm and focused.
- Establish a common goal before you speak. For example, the plan could be to make a specific choice that impacts your relationship or to understand each other's feelings on a topic. Remember that you are a team, not opponents.
A Healthier Relationship Through Therapy
Talking to a couple's therapist with your partner can help strengthen the relationship. If you don't think your relationship is serious enough for couples counseling, you could participate in individual counseling with a therapist. Therapy can help you identify where you want the relationship to go and what you want from it. Sometimes getting clear on things in your head is the first step you must take before starting a conversation with your partner.
Talking about the intimate details of your relationship with a stranger can be an intimidating prospect, especially in-person. Online therapy through platforms like BetterHelp may provide a more comfortable setting for opening up about issues you might have with your partner. Internet-based counseling also tends to be more convenient since it can be introduced from home or anywhere you have an internet connection.
Studies have shown that online therapy is an effective counseling method for couples. Online platforms can eliminate specific time, financial, and geographic barriers that can keep couples from seeking treatment. Individual counseling is also beneficial for couples, as the communication skills members of a relationship learn separately can help them in interactions with each other.
Here are BetterHelp counselor reviews from people experiencing various relationship issues:
"Blaire has been amazing. She's super supportive, empathetic, and kind. She has helped me gain self-confidence and learn that it is okay to enforce healthy boundaries in my relationships."
"Mark is an amazing therapist. He listens well and has valuable insight into male and female perspectives and issues while not passing judgment. I have only just begun, but he has given me many great takeaways to improve my relationships and situations. I am grateful, and I highly recommend him to anyone!!"
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you start a serious relationship conversation?
Tough conversations are a part of any successful relationship. It's possible to start a tough conversation politely. When you have difficult conversations, it can often help to use "I" statements, use reflective listening skills, and to keep a calm vocal tone. "I" statements can help you have a productive conversation because it shows that you are speaking on your own behalf and experiences rather than unintentionally targeting the other person. You can let them know that your intent is positive. For example, you might say, "I want to talk about a need that I have so that you know about it." Avoid statements that place blame, even if unintentionally, as this can make the other person feel defensive. When conflict is present, or when there has been a misunderstanding, it's important to work to see each other's point of view and confer the common goal of working together rather than "winning" an argument or debate.
When should you have a serious relationship talk?
There are many times when a serious talk could be important for a relationship. For example, when you need to make a joint decision, when there's something about yourself or your life you want to discuss with your partner, or when you have an unmet need. Serious conversations aren't "bad." They can bring you closer, even if the topic might not always be easy to bring to light. To show that you're listening and want to stay present during a serious conversation, there are a number of different things you can do. You can ask open ended questions and use your body language to show that you're listening - for example, you may nod your head or make eye contact - to make your partner feel heard.
How do I ask my partner to have a serious conversation?
First, timing matters. You likely want to make sure that you have adequate time to talk, and it's often preferable to have serious conversations at a time when neither of you is in a time crunch or has something important to do right after. To start the conversation, you may ask if it's a good time to talk about the specific topic at hand. For example, "I am thinking about the future and would really like to buy a home in the next few years. Is this a good time to talk about that?" That way, they know what to expect, and you are allowing them to say, "Would it be okay to discuss that tonight/tomorrow?" if they need to. Even if it's not the right time at the exact moment you ask, or if they need to take a time out and come back during a particularly challenging conversation, it is important that your partner is willing to make time to talk about things that matter to you. If you need help starting or continuing a conversation that matters to you, you may consult with a professional such as a marriage and family therapist who works with couples. A professional can help you and your partner facilitate serious or difficult conversations and improve communication skills. Therapy is an excellent place for couples communication and a wide variety of other topics people may need help with.
How do I have deep conversations with my partner?
Open ended questions are an excellent way to start a deep conversation with a partner, or any loved one, for that matter. Deep conversations are a fantastic way to learn more about someone and strengthen your bond - some would even say that they're the best way. One thing to consider is that this isn't just for new relationships; it's also a way to maintain your bond in a long-term relationship. No matter how long you've been together, continuing to ask each other questions - and listening to your partner's words when you do - is a great way to stay close and continue getting to learn more about one another.
What are 3 topics you should discuss in a relationship?
Three topics that are often very important to discuss in a relationship can include but aren't limited to:
- Whether or not you want kids.
- If you want to get married or not.
- If you want joint finances or not.
Some things can be dealbreakers, so it may matter to you to get these conversations out of the way sooner rather than later.
What does DTR mean?
DTR is an acronym for "define the relationship." This is when you ask someone to be your significant other. For example, you may ask to define the relationship after seeing someone you're interested in for a few months and determining that you'd be a good match.
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