We need to talk…
Every relationship is built on communication: conversation; body-language; and other non-verbal cues, but so many romantic relationships suffer because couples aren’t willing to have a potentially awkward or just a hard conversation about something really important.
Communication enables us to voice our needs, and also provides opportunities to approach topics like sex and romance, stress management, and conflict resolution – just some of the many – possibly awkward – conversations that every couple needs to have. You may already know you need to improve communication in your relationship, but even if you feel you have excellent communication skills, there are certain subjects you absolutely must discuss if you’re going to continue to build a healthy partnership.
Awkward Conversations Every Couple Needs to Have
Some topics can be awkward, but it’s the usually topics that people shy away from that are those ones many couples need to have. Having each of these tough conversations will help build a solid foundation of mutual respect, trust and understanding on which to base and continue your relationship – and it’ll be better as a result.
1. Let’s talk about sex, baby
You knew this was coming. Of all the feedback I’ve had over the years (and 99.9% of it is great!), the only time I’ve ever felt truly shocked is when a customer of one of our couples journals told me she thought it was inappropriate to ask questions about sex.
Sex is the one unique characteristic a marriage, or partnership has which differentiates it from every other relationship, yet so many couples won’t discuss it. Many avoid any discussion of their wants, needs and desires when it comes to sex, but making sex a taboo topic and avoiding the conversation not only inhibits communication, but prevents your growth and longevity as a couple. When we stop having sex, we often stop talking about it too, which makes problem solving more difficult.
What do you need to discuss when it comes to sex?
Turn ons, turn-offs, desired frequency and desired fantasies are just a few topics of conversation every couple needs to have when it comes to sex. When I designed our couples journals, this was the conversation I most wanted to encourage. Ideally every couple should have, and keep having this conversation.
If you find it difficult to raise this subject with your partner, think about what you might like to say if you didn’t feel uncomfortable. For example, would you like your spouse to be more romantic, wear something sexy, initiate sex in a certain way, or be more intimate with you afterwards?
When should you have talk about sex?
For some couples, the best time for a conversation about sex is surrounding it, i.e. in the initiation, or immediately afterwards (possibly not during..?). For others, it will be easier to talk about in more neutral territory, but either way, any discussion around intimacy needs to feel intimate.
You scroll down to ‘Conversation Starters about Sex’ at the bottom of this post, but the ‘our love story‘ love journal and ‘I still do‘ wedding anniversary journal will also prompt you to start these.
Yes, we do actually talk about sex! I can 100% practice what I preach here, sex is too important a topic for us not to be on the same page about it. We talk about how often each of us wants to have sex, what we like, maybe don’t like… and telling you any more than that is out of my comfort zone!
2. Money & Financial Compatibility
From one ‘taboo’ to the next, sooner or later every couple needs to have a conversation about money and financial compatibility. Money is a well known cause of stress in relationships, probably because, for many, it’s a topic that’s off-limits, which makes it a barrier to trust and open communication. Stress is so important to our mental health, and so having a difficult conversation about money is not only good for our relationship, but good for our sense of wellbeing.
Maybe you’re insecure about your financial situation, and talking it over with your partner would force you to deal with the reality of a serious situation, or you’ve only been dating for a few months, and you fear that bringing up such a “serious” topic is going to put a damper on the good time you’re having.
A lot of couples avoid talking about money and their finances, and figure that everything will simply work itself out – a lot of the time, it doesn’t.
What do you need to discuss when it comes to money and financial compatibility?
Financial compatibility will play a huge role in the success of your relationship. Money is going to impact any choices you and your partner decide to make, or not to make, so without having a conversation, you’ll have a hard time planning your future together.
Financial compatibility isn’t about being of the same financial standing – it’s not how much money you have, but your attitude to it – how you prioritise and treat money. You shouldn’t wait until you have to figure out your wedding budget to learn that your partner has a lot of debt…
Full disclosure – get ‘naked’ financially, how much you earn (net income), how much you owe (student loans, credit cards, and other debt), and how much you spend and save (down to how intensely you budget, or whether you budget at all).
When should couples have a conversation about money?
It’s usually not far into a relationship that you have an opportunity to discuss money and your financial compatibility, and whether it’s small talk on your first date night, or further down the road adding to your bucket list, it’s never too soon to work out if you’re on the same page about spending money. If it doesn’t come up naturally, an ideal time can be when you’re planning your first holiday, whether an overseas trip or a weekend getaway. Do they want to set up a joint account specifically for the trip, do they have savings to access for it or will they need to (and can they?) save, and what are their spending priorities. If you’ve left it later and have come across this article while planning your wedding and talking about wedding gifts or honeymoon funds, this is a perfect time to broach what’s important to you from a financial sense for the future.
3. What would I do without you..? Life & Death
“Only two things are guaranteed in life: death and taxes” – Benjamin Franklin
The silver lining to both Blair and my experiences when it comes to life and death, is that we were both very willing to have these conversations early on because of our family relationships. My father died without writing a will, and his affairs were really messy, and my mother had to sort out her affairs after getting diagnosed with cancer.
Thankfully for our family, both had life insurance, though Blair’s Mum didn’t, before she died. This awkward conversation is one very close to my heart, and I feel strongly about educating couples about the importance of this topic. Having life insurance really made Mum’s life, and all of our lives, easier when she became unwell. As she earned equally to my step-dad, her income was essential for mortgage repayments, and without it, he would have had to leave his home and uplift his life even more than he already was – losing his wife while in his 40’s. While Mum only wanted a modest funeral, it was such a relief that those costs were covered too.
What do you need to discuss when it comes to life and death?
When you get serious as a couple, and especially when you buy a house or get married, it’s really important to have hard conversations about what you would do in possible worst-case scenarios. For instance, if you buy a house together and one person dies or is diagnosed with a terminal illness, life insurance can pay off the mortgage, to enable you to remain in your home, as well as potentially a lump sum to help you bridge the gap in earnings, enabling you to take some time off work, or spend in whatever way suits you best (if the unthinkable happened to Blair, I think I’d want to take a break from work, for instance, as my life is so public).
Along with having a discussion about life insurance, especially once you own property together you should also consider whether you should write a will. If you die without a will, New Zealand law can dictate who will receive your assets. If you’re married, this will be to your spouse, but there may be others who you wish to provide for too, as well as specify directions for your funeral arrangements, and whether you wish to donate your body towards medical research or people in need of organs.
Understandably, this kind of conversation is not one that’s particularly fun of sexy to have, but it’s really essential that every couple does.
4. Baby Talk, Nesting and Other Major Milestones
If you’ve recently got married, this probably won’t be the first time you’ve been asked if or when you’re having babies, but you and your partner should be having the “babies” discussion well before then.
Whether you both want to have children (and if so, how many) is a conversation every couple needs to have, the sooner the better, because as well as being a discussion about just babies, it’s really about planning your future together and finding out if your lives are compatible.
What do you need to discuss when it comes to babies, nesting and other major milestones?
Every couple needs to have a conversation about whether they want to get married, to have babies, and where and how they might want to ‘settle’ in future. If career growth is a priority for either or both for instance, babies may be further off, especially if you envision a period of living overseas prior to settling down. The ‘our love story’ relationship journal is designed to help with these conversations too.
If you and your partner are from different countries, or even cities, this is a really important, and possibly awkward conversation to have, because often it involves not only the two of you, but your families too.
When should you have talk about babies, nesting and other major milestones?
Because this is really a conversation about the potential future rest-of-your-lives together, whether to have babies, where you want to settle and bring up children, and closest to whose family to do so, can be a really difficult subject to broach. However, having this shared plan is crucial to longevity as a couple, so as soon as the relationship steers towards ‘serious’ is when you should have this conversation.
When couples discuss what they would like to achieve in their future and how they envisage their future families, they create a blueprint for making other decisions and prioritising their time – bringing couples closer together.
I can’t even remember it being a ‘thing’ to talk about babies… I’ve always wanted to have children so I must have checked with him along the way that he was happy to! We certainly have had to discuss where to live though, and because of Blair’s job, we’re pretty constricted to New Zealand, whereas I’d have liked to do an O.E. or move overseas for a while. Thankfully we go on holiday fairly often, and being with him is much more valuable to me than the opportunity to live overseas for a while.
If you are trying to conceive, or hoping to get pregnant soon, have a look at made with love pregnancy journal to begin your pre-conception planning and keep a beautiful keepsake of your pregnancy journey.
5. What Really Makes You Happy?
As you progress in your relationship, what makes each of you happy is actually likely to change. The more you think about it, the more this makes sense; the things that made me happy at 18, don’t necessarily make me happy at 28. However, this is something that we regard as an unimportant conversation to have with our partners, which shouldn’t be the case. Sure, you may realise your own priorities are changing, but what about theirs?
Do you retain common interests, or do you need to make an effort to find things which you both enjoy doing? Hopefully this one won’t be an awkward conversation, and you’ll find you’re on the same page about most.
What do you need to discuss when it comes to what makes you happy?
Sometimes relationships can be challenging, so it’s imperative that you actually have fun together, and do things which bring you both happiness, rather than just sailing alongside each other for eternity.
Discuss new things and activities you’d like to try together and most importantly what you consider fun. This is important to keep the spark in your relationship and to continue to grow together as a couple.
For some people, they may communicate with their partner they would like to be happier, but they do not give examples of changes or things that would make them so.
Blair and I talk about what will make each other happy all the time. For example, Blair has expressed he would like me to come out shooting more often, as well as spend time away off my phone… Whereas I said I’d like to go to work out with him, so we found a gym which suits us both!
Whichever potentially awkward conversation you need to have, here’s some ideas to get it off on the right foot:
- “Can you tell me what you like?”
- “How about we try…?”
- “Can I tell you what I think could make our sex life even better?”
- “Is there anything you’ve thought about trying but never have?”
- “You know what I’ve always wanted to try?”
- “I liked doing this – but not… that. Can we talk about it?”
- “I’ll be so glad when I’m done with my student loan… Do you have a student loan? I’ve got X amount, how about you?”
- “I am so glad I set up a Kiwisaver account when I was younger… did you?”
- “If you could get $100 now, or wait 5 years and get $500, what option would you choose?”
Life & Death:
- “Now that we have joint obligations, I’d really feel more comfortable if we had a look at life-insurance.”
- “Have your parents ever talked to you about their wills – have you ever considered what you would write in your will?”
- “Have you ever thought about having a living funeral… what would you want people to say/do.”
- “Would you prefer to be buried or cremated…”
- “Have you ever thought about how big you want your family to be?”
- “How many siblings do you have, do you want that many children?
- “I always thought you would be an incredible parent because…”
Happiness & Fun:
- “We should both come up with a list of new things we want to do together as a couple”
- “I’ve always wanted to try XYZ – would you want to do that with me?”
- “Remember when we did XYZ – we should do it again!”
- “Let’s get out of the house this weekend, what could we do which we’ve never done before?
- “Do you still enjoy XYZ as much as you used to?”
See also How to stay in love