Over the course of your relationship, there will be plenty of topics that'll make you and your partner uncomfortable. Things like money, or whether or not to move into together, can be tough to chat about — and even a little bit awkward. But that doesn't mean your partner should ignore your questions, if you ask. And if they act strange when you want to know about finances, or get all weird when you ask about their past, it could certainly be considered a red flag.
As Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, a NYC-based therapist, tells Bustle, "Communication and trust are two of the most important areas of a relationship. Getting answers to important questions helps build the foundation for a healthy relationship." That's why, if your partner shuts down during certain conversations, it'll begin to shut down the relationship over time. And that's definitely not OK.
That's not to say that you two need to be complete open books. In fact, there are plenty of things you don't have to tell each other, Hershenson says, like how many people you've dated in the past, or even problems you've overcome that no longer impact you. (Because the past in the past, right?) For the most part, though, you should feel comfortable talking openly and honestly about most things, or at least having a goal for yourselves of heading in that direction. With that in mind, read on for some questions your partner should almost always be able to answer. Because if they can't, experts say it may not bode well for your relationship.
1. "How Did Your Last Relationship End?"
If this topic comes up over the course of a conversation, it might be a red flag if your partner shies away from saying exactly how their last relationship ended. And that's because, as Hershenson says, "it's important to know about what went wrong for your partner in the past and if [they are] still continuing the same behaviors."
So it isn't so much about digging up the past, or getting juicy details about what went wrong, but instead about making an effort to not repeat old patterns. If things blew up due to cheating, for example, it'll be good to know so you can watch out for yourself.
"Perhaps they are the reason things ended and they don’t want you to judge them, or the wound is still fresh and they aren’t fully over it," Kate MacLean, resident dating expert at Plenty of Fish, tells Bustle. "Either way, you have a right to know the basic details.
2. "Can We Talk About Our Health Histories?"
Everyone's entitled to keep their health history private. But if it's something that could affect your relationship, you have a right to know. Not only can their health impact your health, but knowing what they've been through in the past can shed light on what they might struggle with in the future.
For example, knowing if you know they've experienced "depression, anxiety, or substance use is important because it will give you an indication as to what potential triggers might be for [them]," Hershenson says. If they don't want to share, you can't help. And that's not going to make for a healthy relationship.
3. "Can You See Us Ever Moving In Together?"
While it can be tough to talk about big, relationship-y things that might happen in the future, it's important to do it anyway so you can make sure you want the same things. So go ahead and ask your partner about things that matter to you, such as moving in together, and see how they react.
"Remember, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions," Suzanne Casamento, a dating expert, tells Bustle. "The problem is when someone cannot answer them at all. When you're in a serious relationship, 'I don't know' can be a red flag or it could be an opportunity to find out more."
You kinda want to be with someone who knows, even if it is that they don't know right now. It shows they're being honest, and this can open the door to having more conversations down the road, once they've figured it out.
4. "Do You Want To Get Married?"
You might also want to check in with other big things, like whether they see marriage in their future, if that's something you want. Remember, though, that it's not necessarily about your partner's answer, as much as it's about their willingness to talk about things that are important to you.
As Hershenson says, answering Qs about marriage "gives you an indication as to whether there is even a future with your partner." If they can't tell you one way or the other, it means they're either hiding something or they don't know what they want. And neither situation is one you'll want to deal with.
5. “Would You Ever Go To Therapy With Me?"
If your partner seems to react poorly to the idea of seeking couples therapy, it could indicate some underlying problems, as well as a certain level of immaturity that might not do your relationship any favors down the road.
As Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills-based family and relationship psychotherapist, tells Bustle, it can also mean they aren't willing to work on themselves. And when they aren't willing to work on themselves, it'll be impossible to work on your relationship.
"You have to be willing to work on yourself first," she says. Without that effort from your partner, you two won't be able to create a committed or healthy situation.
6. “Can You Tell Me What's Going Wrong?”
If you two are having issues, it's not a great sign if your partner can't seem to articulate just how their behavior is impacting you, which is why you might want to go ahead and see how they answer this question, the next time you're having a a disagreement.
As Walfish says, if you ask your partner what's wrong and they just say "everything" or say things are "bad," that's not enough. They should be able to describe the depth of the issue, she says, or at least attempt to do so. If they can't, it either means they don't feel anything about the relationship, that they don't care about the situation, or that they lack communications skills, and that can all be a problem down the road.
7. "How Do You Define Trust?"
Apart from healthy communication, relationships are built on trust, which is why your partner should be ready and able to talk about it at length. "Questions about trust and safety are important," Brandon S. Ballantyne, LPC, NCC, CCMHC, licensed professional counselor, tells Bustle. "How does your partner define trust? Does it match your values and expectations of trust? How does your partner define safe boundaries? And does this conceptualization of safe boundaries provide the safety you are looking for?"
While you don't need to question them rapid fire and get all your answers at once, take note of their willingness to chat about these things, as well as whether or not you can live with what they say.
8. "What Really Scares You?"
In the name of being vulnerable in front of each other (which is, of course yet another important aspect of a relationship) your partner should be able to spill the beans when it comes to what scares them.
"A partner who refuses to tell you their fears should also raise a red flag," Dr. Joshua Klapow, licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. "The idea that they are afraid of nothing or will not share that information is another emotional barricade. It keeps you from understanding them at a much deeper level."
If they can't talk about tough topics these things right away, try to be understanding. Not everyone has an easy time opening up or admitting their "flaws." But it is something you should work towards together, if you want a solid relationship.
9. "How Do You Want To Handle Money?"
While it's not exactly fun to talk about, you should never get the cold shoulder when asking about money. "Finances are a very important factor in relationships," Stef Safran, a matchmaking and dating expert, tells Bustle. "Whether finances are plentiful or not, you might find that if your partner won't discuss them, that you might not be on the same page. Too many marriages fail because one person is in the dark about how the other person manages money."
Not to mention, "if they get defensive or closed off, there may be a bigger issue like credit card debt or credit score issues," MacLean says. "If they are committed to improving their financial situation, then you can openly discuss a finance plan for paying down debt and improving their credit score. If they aren’t open to improving their financial situation, you’ll need to decide if this is a dealbreaker."
10. "How Are You Feeling Right Now?"
If it's obvious your partner is struggling with an issue, it's perfectly OK to give them space. But if you ask what's wrong and they push you away on a regular basis, take note. "A partner who refuses to talk to you about what they are feeling is a partner who you will never be able to grow with," Klapow says. "Emotional expression is absolutely critical to a relationship."
There are, of course, plenty of things people don't have any easy time sharing. But again, this isn't about what your partner says, as much as it's about their willingness to talk. If they are going through a tough time, offer support. And maybe even see if they'd find it helpful to go to therapy, so they can begin to manage whatever's holding them back.
11. "Do You Still Talk To Your Ex?"
Everyone has a different arrangement when it comes to how they handle their ex. If your partner talks to theirs, it's likely nothing to worry about. But if it bothers you in any way, they should be able to cough up some info.
"If your partner refuses to give you a straight answer about whether or not they are still in contact with any of their ex-lovers then this may be an indicator that they don’t trust that you can handle them staying in contact with an ex, or that they are interested in keeping certain aspects of their past life from you," Weena Cullins, LCMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle.
It could also mean they aren't fully over their ex, or willing to break off communication with them, should you ask. Either way, Cullins says it's all a red flag, and is something you'll need to learn more about before moving forward with the relationship.
12. "Do You Have Any STIs?"
The sooner you can talk to your partner about their sexual health history, the better, including whether they have any STIs. There is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to STIs, and talking about it openly can help remove the stigma.
"It can be an uncomfortable topic for some partners, but it’s important to ask this question before you get into the heat of the moment," Cullins says. "If your partner refuses to give you a straight answer about their comfort level with using protection, then this is a red flag. Knowing in advance who will take responsibility for safety during sex could prevent a sticky situation down the road."
13. "What Are Your Boundaries?"
It's important to set up healthy boundaries in your relationship. So take note if your partner isn't down to talk about what they want, or if they aren't willing to listen to what's important to you.
"Maybe they have never been asked, maybe they are inexperienced in relationships, or maybe their feelings are really nuanced and complex," therapist Shadeen Francis, MFT, tells Bustle. "These circumstances are benign and can be workable. It is a red flag, though, when folks are clear with themselves about their boundaries but are unwilling to share them with you until you have made a 'mistake.'"
It's much better to be honest from the get-go about dealbreakers so that you can have a healthy level of respect for each other, and create a solid connection.
That's why, if your partner can't answer these questions, you need to know why. You deserve answers to the things that matter most to you, as well as a partner who is willing to talk openly — all in the name of creating a secure relationship.
Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, NYC-based therapist
Suzanne Casamento, dating expert
Kate MacLean, resident dating expert at Plenty of Fish
Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills-based family and relationship psychotherapist
Brandon S. Ballantyne, LPC, NCC, CCMHC, licensed professional counselor
Dr. Joshua Klapow, licensed clinical psychologist
Stef Safran, matchmaking and dating expert
Shadeen Francis, MFT, therapist
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