At one point or another, most of us have Googled "how to have a relationship talk" — that's one part of dating that never seems to get any easier, whether you're 15 or 43. When it comes to our feelings, it can be hard to open up and be vulnerable, because we're afraid of getting hurt or rejected, but communication is imperative in maintaining a healthy, happy relationship, so you should feel comfortable talking to your partner about your wants, needs, and feelings.
The first major hurdle in any budding relationship is having the "what are we?" discussion; defining the relationship can be a scary thing, but sometimes there are signs that it needs to happen. Whether you want something casual or are interested in long-term love, it's important that you honestly communicate your intentions from the beginning so no one gets hurt or confused. According to Monica Parikh, owner of School of Love NYC, and Aimee Hartstein, a licensed clinical social worker, there are three main rules for effectively having "the talk": Be straightforward, be upfront about your goals, and be calm and fair.
"A lot of people are afraid to say “I’m looking for a relationship. Are you?” Parikh and Hartstein say. "Instead, they may machinate or manipulate (i.e., pretending that they are into a casual relationship, while hoping it turns into something more serious). But, if a potential partner isn’t even open to the conversation of a serious relationship, s/he will never be a long-term prospect."
Once you've DTR'd, these same three rules will help you continue communicating regularly and effectively about the "status" of your relationship, because both people should be making an active effort to be the best partner they can be. Here are five questions to ask to make sure you and your partner are both happy and on the same page.
1. "What Do You Need More Of From Me?"
Whether it's sex, compliments, gratitude, or just cuddles, it's important to check in to see if there's anything your partner would like more of from you in the relationship. It's easy to forget that relationships should be about giving (mutually, of course), and that day-to-day stress shouldn't stop you from satisfying each other's needs, both physically and emotionally.
2. "How Often Do You Feel Happy?"
There's a scene in Sex and the City 2 when Samantha, fretting over the state of her relationship with long-term BF Smith Jared, asks Charlotte how often she feels happy in her marriage. "Every day," she replies. "Well, not all day every day, but yes, every day." Though it's unrealistic to expect to be blissfully happy with your partner 24/7, it's still possible to feel happiness in some form — no matter how small or seemingly insignificant — every day. It may seem odd to ask your partner how often they feel happy, but it's a simple way to make sure that negative feelings like doubt, resentment, and stress aren't overtaking your relationship.
3. "What Do You Want To Accomplish Together In The Near Future?"
Being in a relationship means being part of a team, and as such, you should be on the same page when it comes to future plans. In addition to having personal goals and ambitions (and supporting each other in achieving those), the two of you should have plans for things you want to accomplish together, be it moving to a new place, going on a trip, or adopting a pet. This question is easier to answer than "Where do you see us in six months?" but gets at the same general idea: Where is the relationship headed, and how can we get there together as smoothly as possible?
4. "Are You Satisfied With Our Sex Life?"
This can be a difficult subject to broach, because it's intensely personal and opens up the door to criticism. However, loving, respectful partners can have this conversation without hurting one another. There are ways to effectively communicate your desires in bed, and none of them involve demeaning or putting your partner down. It's important to have a healthy, mutually satisfying sex life, and the only way to accomplish this is by having a mature, out-of-bedroom discussion about things the two of you would like to try out or change up. Maybe it's the frequency with which you have sex, maybe it's a new position you want to try, or maybe you just want to cuddle more. If you make the effort to ensure that both you and your partner are satisfied with your sex life, there will be no risk of hidden resentment or frustration.
5. "What Do You Love Most About Our Relationship?"
When you ask this question, it opens up the door for you both to provide positive feedback as well as gives you an opportunity to ask an equally important followup question: "What area of our relationship do you feel needs growth?" Relationships aren't stagnant; they're constantly changing and growing with the people involved in them. It's important for the two of you to mutually reflect on what it is you love about the relationship — maybe you're both really into the same hobby, maybe you have a great mutual support system, or maybe you just love how comfortable you are around each other.
Focus on the strengths the two of you have as a couple, while also acknowledging that there's always room for improvement. It doesn't have to be tackling a big problem, but you can always do more to make sure both people feel as loved and happy as possible. Communicating about ways you can both strive for an even more amazing relationship is key — you should never place the burden of growth on just one person. You're a team!
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