Over the course of your relationship, you'll run into plenty of topics that'll make either you or your SO 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 you partner should ignore your questions, if you ask. If they act strange when you want to know about finances, or act strange when you ask about their past, it may even be a red flag.
As NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW says, "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 topics, it shut down the relationship. And that's definitely not OK.
That's not to say, however, that you two have to be complete open books. Hershenson tells me there are plenty of things you don't have to tell each other, like how many people you've dated in the past. (Because the past in the past, right?) And yet, that doesn't mean they shouldn't be able to talk to you openly and comfortably. And it certainly doesn't mean they should hide things that can affect your future as a couple. Read on for some questions your SO should almost always be able to answer, all in the name of a healthy relationship.
1. "How did your last relationship end?"
If this 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. 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." If things blew up due to cheating, for example, it'll be good to know so you can watch out for yourself.
2. "Have you ever had mental health issues?"
Everyone's entitled to keep their health issues private. But if it's something that could affect your relationship, you do have a right to know — especially when it comes to helping them out down the road. "Knowing if [they've] struggled with 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. "How do you feel about moving in together?"
If your partner clams up whenever talk of the future comes up, take note. "Remember, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions," says dating expert Suzanne Casamento. "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.
4. "Do you want to get married?"
Remember, it's not how your partner answers these questions, but simply that they can provide you with the information. 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 want to deal with.
5. “Are you willing to 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 Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish tells me, it means 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 can't create a committed or healthy situation.
6. “Can you articulate what's going wrong?”
If you two are having issues, it's not a great sign if your SO can't seem to articulate just how their behavior is impacting you. As Walfish says, "If he just says 'bad,' that’s not good enough. He’s got to describe the depth, the fabric [of the issue]. If he can't, either it means he doesn’t feel it or he lacks the communication skills to express it, and either way needs therapy."
7. "How do you define trust?"
Apart from healthy communication, relationships are built on trust. So your partner should be ready and able to talk about it at length. "Questions about trust and safety are important," says licensed professional counselor Brandon S. Ballantyne. "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?"
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," says licensed clinical psychologist and radio host Dr. Joshua Klapow. "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."
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," says relationship expert Stef Safran, in an email to 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."
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, 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."
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," says marriage and family therapist Weena Cullins, LCMFT. "In either case, this is a red flag."
12. "Do you have any STDs?"
The sooner you can ask this in a relationship, the better. "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. As therapist Shadeen Francis, MFT says, "Maybe they have never been asked, maybe they are inexperienced in relationships, or maybe their feelings are really nuanced and complex. 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.'"
If your partner can't answer these questions, don't let it go! You deserve answers to the things that matter most to you, as well as a partner who is willing to talk openly about the things that will keep your relationship going.
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