When you've finally found that one person you can really see a future with, it'll be so tempting to jump in quickly without thinking things through. After all, if you love someone and your relationship is unlike anything you've ever had before, why wait?
There's nothing wrong with being excited. But if you're planning on
taking your relationship to the next level, experts say you'll want to slow down and get more info first. In fact, they say there are quite a few important questions you should ask your partner, before you can even truly say you "know" them.
"It's crucial to really get to
know your partner by asking deep questions and spending plenty of time with them in a variety of contexts," Julie Williamson, a licensed professional counselor, tells Bustle. It's totally a given, but you need to know a lot more about them than their likes, dislikes, and hobbies.
Getting to know someone on a deeper and more personal level can only happen
if you ask the right questions and have ongoing discussions. It might feel uncomfortable to have these types of deep heart-to-hearts. But, as Williamson says, that's the good thing about them. If your partner is able to speak about difficult topics while listening and empathizing with you, a deeper level of trust will start to grow. And that, she says, is when you'll officially be taking your relationship to the next level.
So, want to learn more about your significant other and feel more connected, so you can start building a future together? Then have a chat that includes these types of questions, listed below.
"Do you have my back no matter what?"
Life has a way of throwing things at you, which is why "it’s important to know that your partner has your back,"
Samantha Daniels, a dating expert, tells Bustle.
It may seem silly, but this is the kind of question that can catch someone off guard if they really don't automatically have a positive response. "
Having each other’s backs is a form of trust," Daniels says. "Without trust, moving to the next level may be difficult."
And that's why it's equally important to observe their behaviors. If they seem a bit unsure as they answer, or you don't trust their response, it may be best to wait.
"What do you consider cheating?"
Cheating means different things to different people, so if you want to avoid major misunderstandings and hurt feelings down the road, you'll want to make sure you're on the same page here.
"Some people believe that cheating only counts if there's physical intimacy — touching, kissing, or sex, for example,"
Erica Turner, MS, LPC, NCC, a licensed therapist, previously told Bustle. "Others believe that cheating is not only physical, but also emotional intimacy — telling another person things you don't tell your partner, or allowing feelings for someone else to grow and develop."
financial infidelity, which can be equally damaging. So if you're about ready to take your relationship to the next level, you'll want to know where your boundaries are, including what is and isn't OK.
"What are your views on spending and saving money?"
Going off the topic of
financial infidelity, you'll definitely want to learn more about your partner's approach to money. Are they a spender? Are they a saver? Not only will you want to make sure you share similar financial values, you'll also want to check and see if your partner has a solid grasp on their finances before doing something big — like moving in together.
"How can I help you feel secure?"
This is a great follow-up to the cheating Q, because it'll lead into a discussion about the best ways to help each other feel secure and stable within your relationship.
"Many individuals tend to answer this question in basic ways that surprise their partners, such as listening without trying to fix the problem, providing eye contact and being fully present, or being consistent,"
Sabrina Romanoff, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. "Knowing these things will help you show up for your partner in the way [they need it most]."
"How much honesty do you think is needed in a relationship?'
Honesty is obviously one of the most important things you can have in your relationship. But some people may feel like there are
things you shouldn't have to share with your partner. So as Karen Salmansohn, a relationship expert, tells Bustle, you'll want to "ask your partner if they feel partners should be honest about everything, and if not, what shouldn't they be honest about."
It's important to know early on if your partner is the
type to keep secrets, or if they have a tendency to tell white lies in order to get away with things. And if so, is that something you can actually be OK with? "It's relaxing to love someone you trust," Salmansohn says. "Someone you know will not hide parts of their life and will happily offer up the truth, without you feeling as if you are yanking it out of them."
"How have you changed in the past few years?"
Asking your partner about how they've grown or changed over the past few years can say a lot about the type of person they are. And, as Salmansohn says, if they have an appreciation for growth and self-improvement.
When it comes to relationships, you may want a partner who can adapt to the changes that will inevitably come your way. Have they overcome obstacles? Have they learned from mistakes? If so, these are all good signs that they'll continue doing so in the future.
"What do you want from this relationship?"
In other words, where is this going? If you're going to
take your relationship to the next level, you need to be on the same page. And that's where this question comes in handy.
"Both of you could have a different idea of what 'the next level' means," Daniels says. "Therefore, it’s important that you communicate and ask them what they want out of the relationship moving forward."
Once you have this conversation, you and your partner will know what to expect from each other and how to fulfill each other's needs. And that will make for a much stronger relationship.
"Where do you see yourself in five years?"
This classic question encompassed all things, from career goals, to travel plans, to whether or not they want kids, etc. Do they see themselves going back to school? Having a baby? Moving to the opposite coast? These are all things you'll need to know, and agree on, if you see yourselves together.
"If your partner won't answer these questions, it could be a sign that they just aren't ready to take the next step,"
Donna T. Novak, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist, tells Bustle. "Another option is, however, that these are hard questions to answer."
If they don't know right now, that's OK. It's just about putting "the future" out there, as a topic of conversation.
"How do you deal with difficult situations?"
If you haven't already dealt with a difficult situation as a couple — like a job loss, or an illness — talking about how your partner might handle themselves is key, Williamson says. Doing so will give you an idea of how they tend to cope when life throws problems their way.
For instance, does your
partner avoid conflict at all costs, to the point that issues never get resolved? Or does your partner lash out or shut down when the going gets tough, instead of remembering you're a team and asking for help?
"It's important to have open and honest communication about these issues and how you both want to handle them in a long-term, committed relationship," Williamson says, "in order to avoid disconnection and intense conflict down the road."
"How did your family cope with struggles growing up?"
childhood is known to affect your relationships as an adult, which is why Williamson says it's important to ask personal questions regarding their family and how they were raised.
For instance, what role did their parents have? What were the expectations of the children? How was conflict handled, or was it even handled? How were emotions viewed? How did family members communicate?
"These questions are important because our families of origin are our first experience with socialization and where our beliefs, values, and the way we view the world and family are formed," Williamson says. Even if your partner believes and thinks way differently now, it's still important to know where they came from.
According to Williamson, their answer will give you a better understanding of the past, plus how the two of you can
form your own value system in your future together.
"Why didn't your last relationship work out?"
Talking about exes can be uncomfortable and some people will choose to avoid the subject altogether. But according to Salmansohn, discussing
why your partner's last relationship ended can give you a ton of insight into possible baggage they haven't brought up.
"Ask your partner directly to explain why and how they broke up with their last relationship," she says. "Listen for long-term mood and anger issues." From there, you may even want to talk about their mental health needs. It's often a tough conversation to have, but this question can lead into it — and ultimately bring you closer.
"What did you learn from that relationship?"
What role does did your partner play in the breakup? What have they learned since? What will they do differently with you? "It's important to ask these questions because you can learn about your partner's ability to accept responsibility for their own mistakes, as well as how your partner has handled conflict in the past," Williamson says. If you notice similarities in their descriptions of past relationships and your own relationship, it could indicate a pattern that may need to be addressed.
"What do you think of your friend's relationships?"
Talking about the relationships of people you both know can be an interesting way to get a glimpse inside each other's brains, as well as what your partner hopes for the future.
And, as Salmansohn says, asking your partner if they feel like their friend's relationships are happy could even lead to a discussion about
their views on marriage, if that's something you'd like to begin talking about.
"This conversation will get them to reveal their views, pros, cons, and readiness," she says. From there, you can expand into a deeper conversation about what
you hope for the future, and see if it matches up with what your partner wants.
"What do you need to feel loved and supported?"
According to Novak, this question will help you learn more about what your partner needs, in order to feel good in a relationship.
You might even want to bring up the
topic of love languages, which basically breaks down how you show and give love into five categories: words of affirmation, acts of service, gift giving, physical touch, and quality time.
If you're a gift giver, but your partner prefers quality time, knowing that will mean better partners to each other now, and in the future.
"What do we want our sex life to look like?"
While you may be having great sex now, you can take things to the next level by having more convos about sex — including what you like, what you want to try, and what will happen if things get "stale" in the future.
Because the truth is, many couples "don't talk about
their sexual agreement until they hit troubled waters," Kristin Marie Bennion, a licensed mental health therapist and certified sex therapist, previously told Bustle.
Talking about sex might seem weird at first, but it's something couples who are at that "next level" tend to do.
"Where do you see us living?"
Big "future" questions — including where you'd both like to live, if you plan to get married, etc. — are important to get out of the way early on, even if it feels like it's asking a lot to, well, ask.
It's much better to make sure you're heading in the same direction than to get two years in and realize you want totally different things.
Not to mention, when you're looking for something long-term, questions like these make it clear what you want out of this relationship.
"Did your last relationship make you feel pressured or closed in?"
While this type of question might seem strange, Novak says it's an important one to ask all the same. It can lead to a conversation about individuality and freedom within a relationship, which is important if you want to make things work long-term.
Your partner might reveal what left them feeling stifled in past relationships, which can in turn lead to a discussion about ways to prevent that from happening again.
"What are you not willing to compromise on?"
While it's important to be flexible in a relationship, you can learn a lot about each other by being honest about areas you're not willing to compromise on,
Kendra A. O'Hora, Ph.D., LCMFT, a licensed clinical marriage and family therapist, previously told Bustle.
"Differences in personality, communication styles, and preferences are actually
not dealbreakers," she says. "True dealbreakers are the pieces of one's belief system that are unable to be negotiated."
If you don't agree on the big stuff, a long-term relationship might not be possible.
"What do you value most about our relationship?"
This is another great question, as it "allows your partner the space to acknowledge the strengths they see in the relationship, while also understanding what you might be able to tend to a little bit more,"
Lisa Olivera, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle.
She says people often get stuck in the same routines and patterns. When you're
too comfortable in your relationship, it's also easy to take your partner or your relationship for granted. "Asking this question facilitates a conversation about what's going well and what you're doing right, which can help bring [you] closer together in the hustle and bustle of transitions and changes," Olivera says. It can also lead to a conversation about what needs improvement.
"Do you feel like we make each other better people?"
Before taking your relationship to the next level, it’s important to make sure you both feel like you are actively working to
make each other better people by supporting each other's goals, and bringing positivity into the relationship.
"Asking this question opens the door to evaluate how far you have come as a couple and how far you want to go when approaching the next level in your relationship," Daniels says.
After all, your relationship shouldn't stress you out. It should be one of the most safe and comforting things about your life. If it isn't, you may need to reevaluate things before moving forward.
It goes without saying, but don't feel as if you need to ask your partner every single one of these questions — or that you have to ask them rapid-fire all at once. Simply weave them into your daily lives, or let them come up naturally, and listen to how your partner responds. Over time, you'll start to learn the most important things about each other, and that's when you'll officially have
taken that next step in your relationship. Experts: Julie Williamson, licensed professional counselor Erica Turner, MS, LPC, NCC, licensed therapist Sabrina Romanoff, Psy.D., clinical psychologist Donna T. Novak, Psy.D., licensed psychologist Kristin Marie Bennion, licensed mental health therapist and certified sex therapist Samantha Daniels, dating expert Karen Salmansohn, relationship expert Kendra A. O'Hora, Ph.D., LCMFT, licensed clinical marriage and family therapist Lisa Olivera, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist