When it comes to dating, I'm a firm believer that it's beneficial to be an open book. Why waste time with niceties and small talk? Get down to the brass tacks, and you'll figure out quickly if you're really compatible. However, while there may be a time and a place for all the burning questions you've got, it can be smart to hold a few things back, at least at first. While I don't encourage you to shy away from all the uncomfortable topics, there are some questions you shouldn't ask in the first year of a relationship, if you're erring on the side of caution.
Of course, all relationships are completely unique and I reject placing any hard and fast rules across the board. People have their own boundaries, limitations, and timelines, couples face different circumstances, and what is fair game for one couple might not be fair game for another. These are simply questions that, in general, can either be saved for down the road, phrased more delicately, or, quite frankly, avoided altogether. The first year of a new relationship is a wonderful and exciting time, and there is no shortage of necessary, productive ways to get to know one another. Protect that honeymoon period by skipping questions that can feel invasive, presumptuous, or potentially disrespectful.
1. How Many People Have You Slept With?
Before I elaborate, I must say this: If you cannot talk openly and honestly about your sexual health, boundaries, and expectations with your significant other, there is no reason to be having sex with them. When it comes to things like contraception and STDs, ignorance is not bliss.
That being said, there are certain specifics that you shouldn't demand your partner divulge until they're ready (if they ever are ready). If they're open and honest about their current sexual health and behavior, their past experiences shouldn't have bearing. Jennifer Wiessner, a couples and sex therapist based in Maine, spoke to Health about this tricky subject. "In the end, a sexual tally sheet will most certainly not enhance the relationship,” explained Wiessner. “Honesty and safe sex practices in your current relationship will.”
2. What's The Most Common Reason Your Relationships Fail?
One of my best friends recently went on a blind date, and this was one of the first questions out of her date's mouth. "I felt like I was on The Bachelor," she later told me. While it's a question that I believe has merit, but it's also something that can be phrased more delicately and taken with a grain of salt.
I can certainly tell you why my husband's past relationships didn't work out, but I didn't discover these answers by putting him on the spot. Rather, I got details about his past relationships as we began to trust each other and see a real future. If he had told me early on that his previous relationships ended because he "couldn't commit," I may have treated him or the relationship differently, and what for? Clearly, he would (and did) commit when he wanted to.
When you inevitably do discuss past relationships, Meredith Goldstein, a columnist at the Boston Globe dishing out relationship advice, has a few words of wisdom about navigating the subject. "Make sure you let him know that you don't care how he got to you," Goldstein wrote. "The important part is that he did."
3. Do You Plan To Work Once You Have Kids?
This is just one example of a whole category of questions... How many kids do you want? Will you raise them in your religion? How do you think you'll discipline them? These are seriously important questions to ask the person you're planning on starting a family with, but for many couples, these questions don't need to come up within the first year.
Certain things, like deciding to work or stay home with children, evolve as a relationship (and life circumstances) evolve. Kelly Campbell, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino studying interpersonal relationships, told Shape that the topic of children and childrearing should come up when the topic of engagement does, to determine if you two truly are a "match." In other words, leave it off the table at first — date, get to know each other, and those questions will eventually be answered.
4. What's Your Income? Do You Have Debt?
Until you're getting married, buying a home, having a baby, or combining bank accounts, these questions are really none of your business. Unless their financial situation is directly impacting the relationship, why talk numbers? Once you're more committed to each other and starting to plan your life, these questions will come up. They'll need to come up.
Liz Deziel, senior vice president with the Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank, spoke to Mental Floss about discussing finances in a relationship. She encourages couples to speak casually about things like spending habits and financial goals early in the relationship, so the topic never seems taboo, but to save heavier conversations for a bit down the road. "If you're just having fun together and are not too serious yet, don't worry about having a big conversation,” Deziel told Mental Floss. “But pay attention to how your partner spends money. Then, when you have your first few conversations about finances, that's really time to pay attention.”
5. Do You Like My Friends/Family?
Let's be real: you'll only accept one answer to this question. Unless your new partner is being blatantly rude to your loved ones or giving you reason to question their feelings, this is one question to avoid during the first year. If your relationship continues, their relationship with your friends and family will grow, change, strengthen, and develop over time. Keep the pressure off both of you by skipping this question.
6. What Was Your Last Partner Like In Bed? (And Other Invasive Sexual Questions)
I'll admit it: I'm the nosiest person you'll ever meet. I ask questions and discuss topics that would make most people cringe. I have no filter, and I'm guilty of expecting others to have no filter, either. In other words, no question is really off-limits. However, during the beginning of a relationship, asking all the questions that pop into your mind can be detrimental and off-putting. Even later down the road, asking these questions might serve no real purpose. Wiessner sees these issues firsthand, particularly with couples dealing with cheating. “Often the aggrieved partner will want to know every detail about every interaction, and it’s rarely helpful to the relationship or to either person’s emotional state," Wiessner explained to Health. Could your partner's potential answers make you feel angry, sad, or insecure? If so: thank u, next.
7. Who Are You Texting?
There are a few reasons why I included this question, so hear me out.
First, if your relationship is in the very beginning states and you are not exclusive, then this is not your business. If you're concerned that your partner is talking to other women or men, then you need to have a mature conversation about exclusivity, without prying or accusatory questions.
Second, if your relationship is officially exclusive and you're concerned that they're potentially talking to other people, it's time for another calm and mature relationship discussion about boundaries and trust. Starting the conversation with "Who are you texting?" is not productive, and it could start an unhealthy habit of babysitting their phone usage. If you continue to question or doubt your partner's commitment and monogamy, it's time to address your own trust issues or trust your gut and end the relationship.
In a healthy, successful relationship, open lines of communication are key. You should feel safe and heard, and there should be virtually no topic that isn't open for discussion. That said, the first year of a relationship is not necessarily at that level yet. Avoid these questions, and you'll potentially avoid sabotaging a new relationship and offending someone you care about.
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