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7 Conversations Every Couple Needs To Have Before Taking The Next Steps

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of dating somebody new. There’s the cute first dates, the flirty text messages, and the amazing task that is getting to know someone you click with on another level. So you hate to kill the mood by asking deep questions about your partner’s visions for the future. And that’s totally fine. But when things start to get serious, there are a few conversations every couple needs to have in order to make sure you’re actually a match made in heaven.

What you need to talk about depends on what you and your new partner hold in high importance. For some, the future is a nebulous rollercoaster, and they’re just in for the ride. For others, a significant other needs to be able to fit in an obsessively detailed five year plan that you better believe is color-coded and features a flowchart...or seven. Chances are, you’re probably somewhere in between these two extremes, just wondering when you should move in with your boyfriend or if it’s too soon to ask your girlfriend if she wants to adopt a dog with you. I can’t promise you any hard and fast rules, because all relationships are different, but here are few a suggestions of where to start.

1. Marriage

We’ve all heard the lame argument that you should never discuss marriage with a new partner because you don’t want to seem crazy attached. But for serious couples, the marriage talk is an important one. Knowing your partner’s stance on wedding bells and if they hear them in your future together is a crucial part of feeling secure in a relationship.

Chances are, you might run into some hesitation, which is completely normal. Ben Michaelis, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, told Women’s Health that people – men in particular – may shut down when it comes to wedding talk because of brain development. "The idea of marriage is both incredibly simple and highly sophisticated," he says. "When you think of marrying someone, you're envisioning growing old together and what your intertwined lives will be like forever after. I think that this is an easier thing for women to do than men because their brains mature more rapidly."

But if you don’t get the answer you’re looking for right away, try not to worry too much. You’ve started the conversation and if your partner hasn’t thought about it before, they sure are now. But if you’ve been together for a year or so and your partner still seems scared or totally blindsided by the idea, you may want to reevaluate whether they’re the right person to plan the long term with.  

2. Sex

Whether you’ve spent some time between the sheets already or are waiting for the perfect moment, sex (or lack thereof) is an important part of any relationship. It’s vital that you and your squeeze are aware of each other’s boundaries and needs, and that you’re both enthusiastically consenting of each activity. And if you or your partner wants to wait until marriage, you need to respect that too.

Sex therapist Isadora Allman writes on Psychology Today that the importance of sex in a relationship depends on its importance to each person in it, which is all the more reason to have this conversation early on and often. People’s sexual needs change and evolve over time. The more cognizant you are of you and your partner’s desires and how they work or don’t work together, the better (and hotter) things will be.

3. Space

Nothing puts the brakes on an ah-mazing relationship like getting sick of each other after the happy honeymoon hormones wane. Face it, after six months of being together, the desire to spend every-moment-of-every-day-even-when-we-pee with your partner is going to go away, and in its place is going to be a need to go on with your individual life.

Relationship expert John Aiken told the Sydney Morning Herald that, “couples need space in a relationship so they don't suffocate each other. Having time apart is extremely healthy and keeps a freshness in their relationship. It encourages each person to maintain their own sense of identity while still being a couple, and it fosters independence and strength rather than neediness and clinginess."

There’s nothing wrong with needing time with your friends or time to just watch Netflix by yourself in your underwear. A good partner will be OK with that.

4. Living Together

On a statistical level, according to a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), 48 percent of women move in with their partners before getting married. So chances are, this will be a conversation you’ll be having in the future.

I’m a firm believer that there’s no right time to move in together. It’s really whenever you’re ready — and no sooner. That being said, when things start getting serious, you and your sweetie need to discuss whether packing up and shacking up is what you both wanna do. (Why yes, that is a Fleetwood Mac reference.)

Moving in together has its perks and drawbacks. On the one hand, you’ll always come home to each other and won’t have to deal with roommates — which means you can marathon Game of Thrones at a loud volume for as long as you damn well please. On the other hand, sharing an apartment means sharing a bedroom. And a living room. And a bathroom — specifically the toilet. You’re going to learn to love everything about your partner, including that cute thing they do where they forget to flush.

5. Kids

Knowing how your partner feels about children is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, if you have children, you need to make sure whoever you’re dating is going to be ride or die, even when the little humans are around.

Secondly, if you don’t have kids but want them, you need to make sure your partner shares your vision, so you can understand how much of a future you can potentially have together. People do change with age, but you don’t want to find out after you’re married that your partner would rather keep ferrets than have babies.

Lastly, if you don’t want kids, you need to confirm that your partner won’t be disappointed later on in your life together. You should never feel pressured by anyone to have children if you don’t want to, and your partner is no exception. There might be room for compromise, but starting off on the same page is vital to long term happiness.

6. Pets

Must love dogs? You better put that in your OKCupid profile. Nobody wants to end up having to choose between their poodle and their partner, or their partner and anaphylaxis. People love their pets almost as much as they would children, and having to part with them is often an ugly and difficult process. If you have major allergies, make sure you divulge ASAP. If you’ve got a fur baby at home or know you want to get one in the future, make sure to casually mention it on your first couple of dates.

7. Careers

For millennial women, careers are becoming more important than ever. According to a study conducted by Bentley University, 65 percent of millennials consider being successful in the workplace to be among their top priorities, if not the top priority. So when making important life choices, like whether to take a relationship to the next level, you may want to evaluate the compatibility of your career goals.

Does your partner have a job that demands a lot of work outside office hours? Will you be irritated if they need to stay in on the weekends from time to time to meet a deadline? Also, how do you feel about being with someone who makes a lot more or a lot less money than you? Food for thought.

That being said, careers aren’t and shouldn’t be everything. Relationship expert Kim Leatherdale told CNN people should ask themselves, "On a scale of one to 10, how much will this particular job matter in 10 years?" and "On a scale of one to 10, how much will this relationship matter to me in 10 years?"

"Be real in your answers; you may surprise yourself," she said.

These are only a few of the conversations you can and should have with your partner. When it comes to deciding what needs to be discussed and what doesn’t, ask yourself this simple question: Is this issue truly important to me? If the answer is yes, then it deserves you (and your partner’s) time.

Images: ; Giphy (7)