Dating 101: Relationship Questions to Ask Before Taking Things to the Next Level

Whether you're contemplating going "facebook official" with your new boo or you two are beginning to look at rings together - there are a few questions to ask yourself and your partner before taking any relationship to the next level. Relationships tend to have a natural progression, so even though we have social media to worry about nowadays in a way that our parent’s generation did not, it can be comforting to know that there are relationship milestones out there to help you navigate your relationship, no matter what stage it is in. Though all relationships are different, these questions should help you and your partner DTR (aka, define the relationship), figure out where you stand, and help you move in the right direction, either as a couple or in your separate ways. No matter how compatible you are with someone, the relationship is not going to work out if you don’t agree on a few basic things about your future and your goals. Below we will highlight some of the questions you should be asking your partner and yourself before you take your relationship to the next level.

What are your love languages?

Love languages are emerging as an important way to test your compatibility with another person. If you’ve never heard of this concept, there are five love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch and everyone has a preferred way to give love and a preferred way to receive love. The languages are fairly self explanatory, but a quick Google can help explain them and help you figure out what your plangaes are. It is important for you and your partner to understand what your love languages are so that you can articulate your needs to one another and make sure that you are being loved in the way that you want, and loving your partner in the way that they want. Most people do not identify with a love language 100% (it’s normally a mix of a few of them) and love languages are not static and can change based on your relationship. So this is not at all to say that your love language will determine your compatibility or make or break your relationship, just that it is an important thing to know about your partner so that you can connect and support one another as things progress in your relationship.

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What are your conflict styles?

This is kind of in the same vein as the question about love languages. Having different conflict styles will not make or break your relationship, but it is important to understand how you and your partner manage conflict so that you can navigate disagreements and move forward together. Different conflict management styles include accommodating, avoiding, compromising, collaborating and competing and each one has different strengths and drawbacks that can be navigated if you understand them. There are tons of resources online for you to find out your conflict style and learn how to effectively manage disagreements, arguments and fights in a compassionate and supportive way. Conflicts are a natural part of any relationship, but they also have the potential to destroy a relationship. Learning about your conflict styles and learning how to manage conflict can be an important step towards becoming more serious and long term with your partner.

What are the expectations for your relationship?

In the age of hook-up culture and as polygamy and polyamory are becoming more mainstream in the world of relationships, it is important that you and your partner are on the same page about your expectation for the relationship. It’s important to discuss this type of thing early on, so that you are both respecting each other and each other’s wishes in the relationship. Are you exclusive? Or are you comfortable if your partner dates or sleeps with other people? Do you hope to become exclusive at some point? If you are not exclusive, what are the expectations for your relationship to one another? Are you interested in pursuing other relationships as a couple? Or is that something that you do separately, outside of your time as a couple? All these questions are worth discussing in a candid way so that you understand each other’s expectation for your relationship. In addition to these relationship parameters, it’s also important to talk about other expectations you have. Do you expect to live in the same city? Would you be comfortable being long distance if your partner had to move? It’s important to discuss these expectations with each other, and to know your personal limits before taking the next step in your relationship.

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What are your expectations of your social life?

This may seem a bit trivial, but it is important to consider that everyone has different preferences in regards to their alone time and how they spend their social time. Relationships between introverts and extroverts happen all the time and are super successful when partners understand each other’s expectations for socialization and time apart. It can be overwhelming for introverts to keep up with their extroverted partner and it can be frustrating for an extroverted partner if they are constantly doing social things by themselves. Talking about your preferences and your expectations for down time and social time early on can help you avoid these situations. Additionally, it’s important to discuss how you feel about your partner socializing without you. Some people find that it’s important to maintain their own friendships while in a relationship, while others don’t want to spend their social time apart. Figuring out how you feel about these things as a couple can help you take your relationship to the next level, while making sure you respect both of your needs and wishes. It’s also important to recognize if this kind of thing is a deal breaker, and make the mature decision to split if it is.

Why did your last relationship end?

Whether you’re at the beginning of a new relationship, or you are considering getting more serious with your partner, it is important for both of you to reflect on past relationships and why they did not work. After all there’s no point making the same mistake twice! With a little self-reflection and honesty you can better understand your past relationships and work towards making your current relationship more successful. It’s really easy to fall into behavioral patterns that lead us to make the same mistakes again and again. Being honest with yourself and your partner can help you navigate your relationship in a healthy and intentional direction. While it might seem weird to talk openly about an ex, you have to acknowledge that you had lives before meeting one another, especially if it helps you avoid making the same mistakes. It’s also worth discussing so that you can learn if there are certain deal breakers that will end your relationship.

What are your plans for the next 5 years? 10 years?

If things are getting serious between you and your partner, it is worth discussing what your plans are for the future. I understand that not everyone is a planner, and that not everyone has a five year plan (much less a ten year plan) totally worked out in their heads. But for the sake of your partner and your relationship, it is worth it to know what your general ideas are about the future. Do you know where you want to live? Overseas? In your hometown? Somewhere new? Will you be applying to schools and expect flexibility on behalf of your partner? Will you be in residency on your way to your MD and have very limited time? Do you want pets? Is marriage important to you or are you fine living together as domestic partners? Do you want children? How many?

Talking about your future does not mean that you need to have everything planned out. Most people know what they want their futures to look like in a broad, general sense, and it’s very important to discuss these things with your partner so that you are on the same page. You and your partner can be the most compatible duo out there, but if your plans don’t match up, your relationship might not be ready for the next level. Understanding this sooner rather than later can save you both a lot of heartache, even if it means some honest, hard conversations. It’s also important for you to recognize things that you are willing to compromise about and things that are deal breakers. It’s unlikely that you and your partner share the EXACT same life plan, so figuring what things overlap and where you both are willing to compromise should be a part of this conversation.

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What is their relationship with their family? And yours?

Even though your relationship is ultimately about just you and your partner, it’s important to understand your respective family dynamics and expectations as the relationship gets more serious. Is your partner super close with their parents and plans to eventually end up living in the same city? Or is that something you want to do? Or is it that you want to live by your sibling? Or are you responsible for an ageing parent or grandparent? Are people financially dependent on you? Or are you totally cut off from your family?

Discussing and understanding these realities is an important step to take as your relationship gets more serious and your start to plan a future together. Understanding family dynamics can be especially important if you and your partner are of different religions. Families often have specific expectations for religion that you and your partner may not share. Discussing these things openly will help you navigate what can often be difficult inter-family discussions. As hard as it can be to come to terms with, the adage that ‘you don’t marry the person, you marry the family’ often holds very true. Taking into account your respective relationships with your families is a necessary step you should take before becoming more serious with your partner.

What are the expectations for finances?

Okay so this probably applies more to couples that are considering becoming very serious, but it is also useful to discuss in the early stages of a relationship. Is there an expectation that one person pays for the dates? Or are you splitting things equally? Are you both on the same page about that? While this may seem like a small thing, it can be important at the early stages. As your relationship progresses and you consider marriage or life partnership, how do you and your partner feel about financial self-sufficiency? Will you combine college and credit card debt after you tie the knot? Or are those personal responsibilities? In addition to discussions about debt, it’s important to consider your comfort with financial risk. Are you willing to invest in risky stock options? Do you care about having a flashy car? Do you prefer to play it safe? What about loaning money to family? What are you saving for?

We are all conditioned to think of money as a taboo subject, but if you and your partner are planning to share a life together it is important to make sure that you are on the same page about finance, especially when considering that money is often a leading cause of stress for married/long term couples. This conversation can also get into your expectations about work life balance and parenthood. Do you both plan to work in your adult life? Full-time? Or will one of you pursue other things? If you choose to have children, will one of you stay home to raise the child? Or do you both expect to be working parents? Will your roles depend on your income levels? This is another hard conversation, but definitely worthwhile to consider when talking about finances and your future as a couple.

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