Making sure you’re on the same page now rather than later will save you a lot of headache and heartache down the road.
Most of us have found ourselves, in the earlier days of a relationship, bending over backward to please our new guy. We like him enough that we yearn to be what he wants and worry that we’re not.
So we shy away from more serious topics and just focus on the here and now. We worry that if we initiate any conversations about the future or our values, we’ll scare him off, or even worse, discover that we’re not meant to be.
But the thing is, these conversations are inevitable in any long-term relationship. That’s why it’s crucial we ensure beforehand that we’re not tying ourselves to someone whose values, ideals, and vision for life don’t line up with our own – otherwise, we’ll likely find ourselves with more headache and heartache down the road than we would otherwise have.
So what are the make-or-break conversations we need to have before we get serious, get engaged, or get married?
1. “What does commitment mean to you?”
Many of us have a different idea of what a committed relationship looks like and what trusting our significant other means to us. A quick scroll through TikTok will show a young couple discussing whether or not they consider it cheating to DM someone else they find attractive or to look at porn.
What does each of us consider crossing a line of trust?
Not every couple will have the same answer to these scenarios. Ultimately, it’s important that we come to an understanding of what our relationship’s commitment looks like. What does each of us consider crossing a line of trust? What kind of commitment do we expect from our partner?
2. “What are your political opinions and religious beliefs?”
It’s easy to ignore these opinions at first – there’s a lot we can enjoy about a person without getting into their beliefs about the afterlife, or who they voted for, or their opinions on any other divisive issue.
However, these will eventually become harder to ignore (especially if there are children being raised). Even if we don’t entirely agree on every single subject with someone, it’s important that we share similar visions and values – otherwise, every Sunday will turn into a fight about going to church, every election season will heighten disagreements, and we’ll feel our most personal values constantly being disrespected by our spouse.
Not every couple will care equally about religion, politics, or values. Consider what is truly non-negotiable to you before breaking up over having different opinions.
3. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
We all hate this overused interview question, don’t we? Life is difficult to predict, and sometimes, it’s just more comfortable to neglect to answer this question, so as not to be eventually proven wrong or face our lack of vision and preparation.
Do our desires for life match up?
But even so, asking a version of this question will offer us an answer to this important question: Do our desires for life match up? If we have a dream of traveling the world and learning every language, but our boyfriend is the type of guy who needs total predictability, this means our ideas of a life well-lived are too different for the relationship to thrive.
4. “How do you handle conflict?”
There’s no one correct way to handle conflict. For some, talking things out immediately works well, and for others, a cooling-off period is necessary for them to get their thoughts together and keep from saying something they’ll regret. But some weren’t taught how to handle conflict, leading them to either become aggressive or retreat completely.
No one’s method of handling conflict is perfect, but what’s most important in a significant other is that they’re willing to grow and learn to fight well. Conflict is unavoidable, but if we’re in it with someone we trust to do it effectively, this keeps us from finding ourselves in an ever-deepening pit of battles with the person we’re supposed to do life with, not in spite of.
5. “What’s your relationship with money?”
Ah, money – we all want it, work for it, need it. While it’s one of our biggest motivators for working harder, it’s also known as one of the leading causes for clashes within relationships and marriages. It’s safe to say that money has a certain power over us.
Fights about money are rarely about the money itself.
This is why it’s best to get the money talk out of the way early, asking our boyfriend, “How were you taught to view money? What about debt? Are you a spender or a saver? ” If we’re careful about keeping our credit card debt as low as possible, and hardly ever buy anything new for ourselves, but our boyfriend seems to constantly be getting new packages, we can consider that a sign of money-related fights in our future. But remember, fights about money are rarely about the money itself.
6. “Do you think dreams are worth chasing?”
Everyone has a “what if” in their life. Some of us dream of opening our own restaurant, others of designing dresses for A-listers, others of being a beloved teacher or a stay-at-home mom. Some dreams are realistic enough and worth chasing, and others, not so much.
It’s important that our boyfriend considers his goals or dreams as important as we consider ours. A few questions we can ask him are: “Do you think having dreams and goals is realistic/valuable, or do you prefer to focus more on what you know is possible?”
If we have ambitious goals, it’s important that our partner not only shares this same kind of hunger, but will be there to support and encourage us instead of hoping we’ll one day match their pace of life.
7. “Do you have any boundaries or issues when it comes to intimacy?”
Some conversations are a little more personal than others – and this is one of them. Everyone’s feelings about sex are different. Some believe in minimal boundaries and think of it as a fun time, others consider it more meaningful and have boundaries set up around their intimate lives.
Do your personal convictions align, or is one of us going to be pressured into something they’ll regret?
Having a conversation about any issues or boundaries we have, as well as any of our boyfriend’s, will save us heartache later on. What are his thoughts on the purpose or meaning of sex? When does he think it’s appropriate? Do our personal convictions line up with his, or is one of us going to be pressured into something they’ll regret? Don’t wait until after the fact to have this talk.
8. “Do you want children?”
One of the most important things to be united on is whether or not we desire to have children. We’ve all heard some story about a woman who spent years trying to convince her husband to have a baby with her, or even just agree to one in the future, only to be met with a devastating “no.”
It’s necessary that we’re honest with ourselves and our boyfriend about our wish to have or not have children. But even if we both want them, there are a few follow-up questions to ask: “How many?” “Do you envision a household with both parents working or just one?” “Do you want to put them in school or homeschool them?”
Having children, while incredibly significant and beautiful, isn’t all fun and games – and it’s a season of life that needs to be planned for. It’s in our best interest to ask these questions long before we’re pregnant or in the process of adopting.
9. “Is divorce an option for you?”
Divorce isn’t exactly rare – in fact, even with a recent decline in divorce rates in America, splitting up is still seen as a common solution to a difficult marriage. But some of us – maybe the children of a broken marriage, or those who see marriage in the context of religion – would never dream of divorce, no matter how challenging the marriage got. Others – people whose parents never divorced but were always fighting, or those who consider marriage just a piece of paper – see it as a necessary option. It’s important that we ask, “If divorce is an option for you, what would it take for you to choose it?”
If we don’t share the same vision for marriage, there’s no way we’ll make it through the unavoidable conflicts.
When we enter into a marriage with someone, we absolutely need to be on the same page here. If one person is committed to making it work no matter what, and the other always has an escape plan in the back of their mind, there’s very little common ground shared and our tactics to resolve conflict will be uneven. If we don’t share the same vision for marriage, there’s no way we’ll make it through the unavoidable battles of marriage.
So… Where Does That Leave Us?
Now that we’ve covered the make-or-break conversations we can’t avoid forever, where does that leave our relationship? What if we agree on some issues, but don’t on others? How many differences are too many?
This is a question that there’s no universal answer to. The differences we tolerate will vary from person to person, and in the end, it’s a personal decision when we choose to stay with someone for good. Of course, there’s no single person out there who’ll be perfect for us from the get-go. Often, successful, thriving relationships involve a lot of fighting against our natural urges, maturing, and growth behind the scenes.
But if you were to make a list of just a few non-negotiables, what would it include? What is something you can’t and shouldn’t sacrifice for a guy?
Identify Your Non-Negotiables
This takes soul-searching and an understanding of our personal needs. But we can easily begin to identify our non-negotiables by asking ourselves a few questions: What values, ideals, and beliefs make us who we are? When we imagine ourselves in 50 years, what kind of life are we living? What are three qualities we’ve always wanted our future spouse to have? What are qualities that, while annoying or challenging, wouldn’t force us to break up with a guy we love?
What values, ideals, and beliefs make us who we are?
We might even ask a friend or someone who knows us well to help us answer these questions. Then, make a list – one that we may revisit and revise as needed, but nonetheless, a list that we can refer back to when we’re questioning whether or not he’s the one, or if we’re caught up in our emotions. Once we’ve determined our non-negotiables, we can have these conversations without the worry that we’ll compromise too much or forget about our own desires as we seek to fulfill his.
We can’t ignore these big questions forever – even if we really like him. Sooner or later, these issues will arise, and it’s in our best interest if we’ve already done the work and explored these subjects with our boyfriend, saving our future selves unnecessary heartbreak.
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