The “getting to know you” stage shouldn’t end after your first few dates.
When you first fall in love with your partner, you can’t wait to learn everything about each other. What’s your favorite way to spend a cozy Sunday morning? How many children do you dream of having? But as you settle into a relationship and a routine, conversations take a natural turn toward the mundane: Whose turn is it to scrub the lasagna pan, and where the heck did you hide the dental floss?
But keeping those deeper conversations going from your first days together through your golden years will strengthen your relationship, help you navigate the future, and learn some new and surprising things about each other. Here are some key convos you should keep having:
How Do We Fit Our Extended Family Into Our Lives?
In the beginning of your relationship, you have to work out the tricky issues about where to spend the holidays, who will be invited to the wedding, and how much time you’re going to spend crisis-managing your neurotic sibling. But the cycle of life means you need to constantly revisit your family obligations and dynamics, says Jennifer Kromberg, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Torrance, California. Not only will your relationship with your parents change once you add your own kids to the mix, Kromberg says, but it will change as your parents age. “What if your mother or father gets sick and needs a caretaker, or needs to move in with you?” she says. “You have to make sure you are on the same page about how to handle those questions when they come up.”
What Should We Spend and How Much Should We Save?
Money is one of the biggest reasons couples split up, but it’s also one of the most difficult things to talk about. “We tend to avoid these conversations, because they just bring up conflict,” says Kromberg. “But these conversations need to be ongoing, as your lifestyle and needs change.” If you don’t have a money talk weekly, at least sit down for a cup of coffee and a budget check-in any time your financial situation changes—a new job or a layoff, a school tuition bill, unexpected medical expenses—and when you want to save up for a vacation, a new car, or another big expense.
What Can We Plan Together That Makes Us Both Happy?
At the beginning of your relationship, it’s so much fun to discover shared interests—finding the best enchiladas in town, scuba diving, going to Phish concerts. You can recapture that shared sense of adventure by planning new adventures every year, even if you think you’ve done and seen it all.
Where Should We Live in the Next Five Years—How About the Next 20?
City or suburbs? Near your parents or as far away as possible? In a big fixer-upper or sleek townhouse with a community pool? These are decisions that can change as you age, especially as your kids grow up and you head toward retirement. You may be perfectly happy where you are, but you never know—one conversation can make you realize you both want to ditch the headaches of home ownership and move to a cute rental in the city once you’re empty nesters.
How Are You Feeling About Our Sex Life?
You thought talking about money was difficult? Try bringing up sex with the person you’ve been having sex with for years! “Your sex life is going to change over time, and that’s okay, but you have to communicate with each other about it,” says Kromberg. “You need to be able to say, are you okay that we are not having sex as much as we used to? How can we make more time? Otherwise, it takes a backseat and the next thing you know it’s been years and no one’s had sex!” says Kromberg.