During the first year of a relationship, you get to know little things about your partner, like what their favourite pizza topping is or what TV show they can’t stop watching. But if your relationship is meant to last, asking them some important questions can help you determine whether your relationship will stand the test of time.
Asking certain questions early on can help you and your partner come up with a strategy to handle arguments when they inevitably arise in the future. For example, asking them about how they handle being angry can help you figure out how to treat them during a fight. “Your first fight lays down a pattern for all future fights, so if you calm down, solve the problem, and then makeup, you’ve created a useful format to follow,” Dr Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a psychotherapist specializing in relationships and author of Dr Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today, tells Bustle.
“These patterns are like the first layer of bricks in a wall,” she says. Each of these questions touches on an important part of your relationship, so if you can’t come to an agreement while discussing some of these topics, that might be a sign that this relationship isn’t one that will stand the test of time.
Here are some important questions to ask your partner to determine whether the relationship is built to last, according to a relationship expert.
1. What Is Your Definition Of Commitment?
Every couple has different standards for their relationship. For some, it’s OK to have sex with other people as long as you ask your partner first. For others, any romantic or sexual activity with anyone who isn’t your partner is off-limits. “Whether you know it or not, you and your partner will define your relationship,” Tessina says. “If you don’t know what your relationship means to both the of you, you risk repeating past mistakes, getting stuck in uncomfortable roles, or fighting about what a healthy relationship is.” Instead of just assuming that the two of you are on the same page, take the time to talk clearly about what you mean by words such as relationship, commitment, love, and faithfulness, she says.
2. How Do You Handle Your Finances?
“Next to sex, money is the biggest generator of problems, arguments, and resentment in long-term relationships,” Tessina says. “Couples tend to assume that money should be pooled, but it usually isn’t that easy.” For example, one partner might make significantly less than the other, which might mean that you adjust who pays for what accordingly. If you’re trying to determine whether you have a future together, it’s important to know whether your partner likes to save as much of their dispensable income as possible, or whether they are a big spender. Knowing what you’re getting into can help you decide a money strategy that works for you both.
3. How Should We Share Household Responsibilities?
In the first year of a relationship, you may or may not already be living together. Whatever your arrangement is, though, discussing how each of you feels about household tasks can help prevent tension for when you do live together. “Drastically different decorating styles, neatness, and organization levels can become sources of arguments, and so can housekeeping and chores,” Tessina says. If you have different decor tastes or contrasting ideas about how clean the home should be kept or who should do which chores, take some time to talk until you come to a compromise. That way neither of you gets frustrated when the other doesn’t do a shared chore.
4. How Close Are You To Friends And Family?
“If one of you has a lot of family or friends, and the other does not find out what those relationships mean,” Tessina says. For example, maybe you are very close with your family and expect to be able to spend the holiday season visiting them. If your partner doesn’t have a good relationship with their family, they might be down to go with you. But if they are close to family members, the two of you might decide to spend holidays apart from each other. You can also discuss whether any family members have a history of addiction or mental illness, which can help you both support each other better.
5. How Do You Handle Your Emotions?
People can have very different ways of dealing with negative emotions. Some people might need to take some space and centre themselves before returning to the situation. Others prefer to express their feelings until they feel better. “We all get upset from time to time,” Tessina says. “If you are usually good at diffusing each other’s anger, and being supportive through times of grief or pain, your emotional bond will deepen as time goes on.” That’s why it’s important to talk with your partner about how each of you deals with anger, sorrow, or even stress, she says. “If your tendency is to react to each other and make the situation more volatile and destructive, you need to correct that problem.”
6. How Do You Show Love?
While it’s important to talk about difficult topics like how you deal with anger or whether your money philosophies align, it’s also crucial to ask your partner questions that aren’t quite as heavy. Ask your partner how they give and receive love. “Sharing what actions and words mean love to you may be surprising,” Tessina says. “Even if it’s a struggle, discussing how you give and receive love will improve your relationship.” Knowing your partner’s love language can help you show how much you care for them in a way that will really resonate with who they are. “You will understand what makes each of you feel loved, and how to express your love effectively,” Tessina says.
7. How Well Did We Discuss These Topics?
After you’ve asked some of these questions that can help you figure out if your relationship with your partner is something that will stand the test of time, pause and ask yourself how these conversations went. Was your partner candid and expressive about how they felt? Were you able to find a compromise whenever you disagreed about something? “Asking yourselves these questions is an excellent test of your ability to define and work out problems,” Tessina says. “Constructive discussion that leads to a mutually satisfactory solution means you know how to solve problems in your relationship. If not, get counselling before going further.”
The more you talk with your partner about how you think and feel, the better you’ll get to know each other and determine whether this relationship is something that you want to pursue long into the future.