When it comes to being in a healthy relationship, there's a certain foundation of knowledge that is necessary to build a strong partnership. You should have a sense of yourself, a sense of your partner, and a sense of how you work together. And a lot of this comes down to communication.
“Healthy communication in a relationship is important because it is the foundation of any partnership. Having the confidence to talk openly with your partner, regardless of whether the subject matter is positive or negative, is one of the true signs that you and your partner are practicing healthy communication,” dating expert and matchmaker Sarah Patt tells Bustle. “Listening, actually hearing what your partner is saying, and processing and responding without reacting overly emotionally is a sign that you are truly understanding what your partner has to say to you."
Once you master communication, you can use it to learn about about your partner and about yourselves as a couple. It's such an important tool for staying grounded in your relationship— it makes the hard times easier and the good times even better. So get the communication going and use it to improve the relationship as a whole.
Here are the questions you should be able to answer if you're in a relationship, because understanding the rough patches is just as important as understanding the good ones:
1. "What Are Your Partner's Goals?"
You need to know what your partner wants out of life in order to be a supportive member of the relationship. Understanding their goals and what makes them happy is, even if a lot of it has nothing to do with you. "The number-one relationship goal should be for happiness with your partner," online dating expert Anita Covic tells Bustle. "A recent international online dating survey notes that companionship (67 percent), true love (60 percent), and a life partner (59 percent) are the top things sought by online daters. Each partner should recognize what makes him or her happy and strive to find that element with the other as well as alone." Make sure you know what they need in order to achieve and stay happy, inside and outside of the relationship.
2. "What's Your Partner's Communication Style?"
I swear, communication is the bedrock of everything, so it's important to be an active listener. "[They] listen to what their partner says, rather than get defensive without understanding the partner’s point of view or where they’re coming from," Janet Zinn, a New York City–based couples therapist, tells Bustle. But you also need a more nuanced understanding of your partner's communication style. Do they panic in difficult conversations? Need a minute to gather their thoughts? Do they do better writing down how they feel? When you learn how your partner communicates— and how that fits with your communication style— your relationship will be stronger.
3. "What's Your Partner's Love Language?"
The idea of a 'love language' may sound a little corny, but it's actually really helpful. There's a test you can take that looks into how you feel and give love— and it will tell you a lot about your compatibility with your partner. “I believe the relationship theory of love languages are very relevant to finding your perfect match, but not in the way that most people assume,” senior matchmaker and dating coach Lori Salkin tells Bustle. “People do not need to speak the same love language to succeed as a couple, rather they need to understand the love language their significant other speaks. That is not easy; it not only requires understanding the person and how they are different you, but that what is important to them is different from what is important to you and being able to separate your wants and needs from theirs to give them what they want and trust in return that they will give you what you want while neither of you is acting for yourself, but only for the other. If it happens to be you speak the same love language, that is significantly easier!” But again, you don't have to speak the same one. By learning how you both communicate love and feel loved, you'll be able to understand each other more.
4. "How Does Your Partner Deal With Difficult Times?"
Relationships aren't always happy, because people aren't always happy. But different people need different kinds of support to get through dark times. "The one conversation a couple can have in order to build intimacy is to ask: How can I help you when you're suffering?"clinical hypnotherapist, author and educator Rachel Astarte, who offers transformational coaching for individuals and couples at Healing Arts New York, tells Bustle. "How would you like me to react … when you are in pain?" Some people need alone time, some need constant attention, some seek advice while other's hate it— you need to know how each other reacts to being upset.
5. "Does Your Partner Want Children?"
There are some big questions, I think of them as deal breakers, that you should know about your partner. How do they feel about children, what kind of lifestyle do they want, where do they want to live... the big stuff. It's OK if they don't have absolute answers to these questions, but it's important to know where you both stand.
6. "What's Your Partner's Sexual Fantasy Or Desire?"
No matter how long you've been in a relationship, sex is important. "Sex is often seen as something we outgrow or can easily go without, but sexuality and intimacy are an expression of our life force, creativity and love, and must be expressed to be fully realized as a people," Lauren Brim, a sexual wellness coach and author of The New Rules of Sex, tells Bustle. "If our sexuality isn't being expressed, it will show up as problems in other areas of our body and life. Plus, sex is just too damn good for you to live your life without it!" So make sure you and your partner understand what the other wants and needs— and that you keep the communication lines open, because things can change.
7. "How Do You Both Maintain Independence?"
Understanding each other isn't all about understanding each other as a couple. Who you are as separate entities matters just as much. And remembering what makes you who you are and what matters to you will help you maintain that independence. “Taking time for ourselves may seem selfish, as though we're avoiding our partner,” clinical hypnotherapist, author and educator Rachel Astarte, who offers transformational coaching for individuals and couples at Healing Arts New York, tells Bustle. “In reality, brief periods of solitude recharge our soul batteries and allow us to give even more to our partners and to the relationship itself.” Don't lose sight of what you and your partner like to do and who you like to be separately.
No matter how long you date someone, you'll constantly learn new things about each other. Because people change. But there are some basic, fundamental things, that you need to know about each other. So just make sure to keep communicating.