In the Lean In era, we’ve become primed to know exactly what to ask our bosses to get to the next rung on the career ladder. But when it comes to discussing our wants with our S.O., it’s harder to be as upfront—even when it’s just as essential as career satisfaction to our happiness. But being clear on what you need in your relationship ensures that you and your guy are on the same page—and that your bond will be as satisfying and fulfilling as possible. Here, experts share the things you should ask for.
Don’t bite your tongue if he’s contemplating a cross-country move while you could never imagine yourself living in Los Angeles. “Honesty often erodes in relationships because of good intentions; the partner wants the other person to be happy, so they may fudge the truth to avoid a confrontation,” explains Ellen Kenner, Ph.D., co-author of The Selfish Path to Romance: How to Love With Passion and Reason. In the long run, keeping quiet on how you really feel can lead to resentment and distance. Not digging a cross-country move? Instead of immediately confronting him, ask him how he imagines the move will change his life. That way, you can share your fears about how the move will affect the relationship and share your own thoughts, so it becomes a convo rather than an argument.
Maybe that means an orgasm every time. Maybe it means plenty of foreplay, or cuddling under the covers after you do the deed. Whatever it is, being able to verbalize what gets you off is key, says Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., a sex and relationship therapist and director at The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, CO. “For a lot of couples, talking about sex is much harder than having it,” says Skyler. Spend an evening in bed, exploring each other’s bodies and telling each other, on a one to ten scale, what feels eh to awesome.
Time to Be You
“So many relationships fall apart down theline because partners get so wrapped up in the relationship that they lose track of what makes them tick as individuals. While it’s good to think of yourself as a pair, having some separate interests maintains the individuality and uniqueness that drew both of you to each other in the first place,” explains Kenner. Make sure that you both do you on a regular basis. By all means, invite him to your killer Spin class and try a game of Frisbee golf with him, but be fine having your own hobbies and reconnecting later. Not only is this good for your bond—you'll have new things to talk about and learn about—but it ensures you stay true to yourself too.
We’re not saying you should bring out your credit card statements on the first date, but once you’re pooling finances, it’s important that neither of you are hiding anything—and you’re both on board for future plans, whether it’s paying for your wedding or putting a down payment on a house. “Financial infidelity can be hugely damaging in a relationship because it propagates dishonesty,” warns Kenner. Planning a trip together can be a good way to suss out financial compatibility and talk out issues as they arise in a relatively low-key environment. Once you’ve learned to talk through money when you’re working toward a specific goal—like a beach vaycay—the tone is set for talking about more serious stuff.
An Ally in Awkward Family Issues
Part of combining lives is combining families, and it’s common to occasionally clash with your significant other’s family. But experts agree you should always feel like your guy has your back first, and won’t allow his mom or dad to bully you into something. “Feeling first and foremost like you’re part of a team is essential,” reminds Kenner. Start by letting him know how it feels: Because he’s so used to communicating with them, he may not realize his parent’s comments can be interpreted as critical, says Kenner. Then, let him know what might make it better—maybe it’s him taking the lead in discussing a controversial issue between you and his mom instead of him staying silent while you do it.
In the daily grind, it’s easy to lose the romance, silliness, and excitement that attracted you both to each other in the first place. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay, reminds Skyler. Making it a priority—date nights, cute messages written on the mirror, taking the day off together to hang out in bed— ensures that it won’t get lost in the shuffle.