We all live for that moment when we find ‘the one’ to spend the rest of our lives with. Sadly for most of us, these dreams of happily ever after often turn into nightmares. Divorce, unhappy marriages, and deep emotional wounds are the norm rather than the exception.
The secret to a happy relationship lies in open and honest communication with your partner about the topics that matter. This ensures that the odds are not stacked against you, giving you a chance to build a strong, loving relationship.
How do I know this? My husband and I come from 8 divorces (only our moms and dads). I grew up fearing that would be my fate too. We’ve been happily married for the last 15 years with two wonderful boys because of open communication and mentorship.
Here are five topics to discuss with your partner that will help you build and maintain a great relationship despite your childhood experiences.
Money is the number one cause of divorce. It causes conflict in relationships because most relationship decisions have a financial component. Where to live, the number of kids you should have, where they should go to school, and how to spend vacations all have a financial undercurrent.
When couples are not on the same page about money, one partner might keep secrets or lie about how they spend money while others might be frustrated by their partner’s spending habits. Since partners come into a relationship with a lot of preconceived notions about money, it is important to ask the following questions:
- One of the top things every couple should worry about is who will be the breadwinner and how the bills will be paid.
- You also need to be open and honest about debts and the types of assets each of you have.
- Having a budget is always advisable, but who will create it and how?
- You will also need to decide who will have separate accounts, if you will be pooling your resources, or a combination of both.
- Will you be donating to charities? Which ones and how often?
- What are your financial goals both individually and as a family and how will you decide who makes the ultimate financial decisions for your household?
When you trust your partner, it means that you know that you can count on them and you feel safe to be yourself with them. Trusting your partner makes it possible for you to open up to each other and to share your secrets, fears, dreams, and hopes.
Lack of trust can lead to suspicion, lack of emotional openness, and intimacy which makes couples vulnerable to infidelity or worse checking out of the relationship emotionally. How can you build or rebuild mutual trust between you and your partner?
- Be open and honest about your past (childhood, relationships, traumas, careers, victories), and how they have made you who you are today.
- Practicing being honest, trustworthy, and consistent at all times.
- Openly discuss your boundaries as well as how to avoid them.
- Take the time to prioritize each other’s needs and interests.
- Practice fighting fairly and treating each other respectfully during disputes.
When there is strong intimacy in a relationship, the couples feel a strong sense of connection with each other’s emotional and physical feelings. Surprisingly, many couples find it difficult to discuss physical intimacy yet research has shown that couples who talk about sex comfortably have more satisfying sex lives.
Many couples assume that their partner should ‘get the hint’ or ‘know what they like’ without communicating their needs. When couples don’t discuss physical intimacy, there are feelings of rejection, frustration, and insecurity. Here are some topics to discuss with your partner so that you can strengthen your physical intimacy:
- Be frank about your sexual preferences.
- Discuss your turn-ons and turn-offs.
- Be honest about how often you need sex to have a happy relationship.
Many couples talk about the kids, work, bills, and politics but they don’t communicate their feelings. Most men feel like they need more respect while women feel like they need more love and affection. The best way to get these needs met is by communicating them.
Similarly, on all the major topics discussed such as finances, trust, intimacy, and goals don’t just share facts also share feelings. When you share your feelings with your partner, you create deep and meaningful bonds that lead to lasting and satisfying relationships. It also helps you to be empathetic towards your partner because you understand the why behind their behavior.
When couples do not share their feelings, it can lead to resentment, holding grudges, silent treatment, and passive-aggressive behavior. Here are a few tips to help you and your partner communicate your feelings:
- Check-in with your partner regularly to ensure they are in a good emotional space.
- Listen with an open mind and empathy to encourage more sharing.
It is important to discuss goals because they often determine the future. For instance, it is important to know where your partner sees themselves in five years both personally and career-wise.
When your goals are aligned, then you can support each other and deepen your bond. This discussion also paves the way for the setting of relationship goals like how to raise children, where to spend your vacation and how to create a solid financial foundation for your family. Discuss the following with your partner:
- Discuss your long-term and short term goals.
- What are your career goals?
- What are your plans for retirement and at what age would you like to retire?
Open communication about these topics is the best way to avoid relationship adversity in their partnership. No matter how different you may be as individuals, using open and honest communication is the key to creating a balanced relationship in which each partner feels loved, appreciated, and satisfied.