Whether you've been together for one week, one month or one year, there are a few conversation topics that you have to cover if you want to make your relationship go the distance...
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been with your partner – life is always on hand to screw things up and leave you questioning everything. But before you freak out and give up on love altogether, fear not – we chatted to Durex Sex and Relationship expert Susan Quilliam about how to bulletproof your relationship. And apparently it just comes down to nine simple conversation topics…
WHAT DOES LOVE ACTUALLY MEAN?
‘It was Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, that alerted us to the fact that the word ‘love’ is capable of so many meanings. Your partner’s definition of love could be to buy you presents, when you’d rather spend time together. You might think that you’re demonstrating how much you love him by telling him how proud of him you are – while he only feels loved when you have sex. But if that’s the case, then you’re both likely to feel uncared for. But all is not lost. If you can talk through your differences, then make a conscious effort to try to deliver what the other needs, you can bridge the gap.’
DOES HE WATCH PORN?
‘Of course in the first flush of love, the sex is likely to be wonderful. But once the honeymoon period is over, you’ll want to know that he’s going to be capable of keeping desire alive even when things are less exciting. And if he is a huge fan of porn, it may signal that he’s less able to relate to a ‘real’ (as in, three dimensional) woman, and more willing to turn to the computer screen if he feels unfulfilled or if for some reason sex with you is off the menu. If you feel like he has the issue of porn in perspective – preferably a perspective you share – that bodes much better for the future.’
HOW CLOSE IS HE TO HIS MUM?
‘Yes, you guessed it: a man’s relationship with his mother reflects relationship with his partner. If he respects and cares for her, he’s likely to care and respect for you. If he’s at her beck and call, you may end up coming second to what she wants. And if he’s individuated from her – is affectionate but not emotionally dependent – then you’re more likely to be able to avoid situations where he feels pulled between you and her.’
DO EITHER OF YOU GET EMOTIONAL?
‘Apparently one of the most crucial factors in relationship success is whether you can each respond to each other’s emotional needs. This doesn’t mean that huge temper tantrums should be par for the course – unless, of course, you both enjoy the drama. But the ability to notice when the other needs support – and then be prepared to put in time and energy to do so – is vitally important. If he’s comfortable talking about emotional things, happy to open up as well as able to listen when you do – that’s a really good sign.’
IS RELIGION A BIG DEAL?
‘It’s obvious that if your religious beliefs are deeply opposed, you need to talk that through. But even if neither one of you follows any religion, aren’t practising, or have turned against your original beliefs, your attitudes to the topic will underpin your moral standards. Being brought up in a particular religion – or in none at all – may also have created some of your most influential childhood experiences, and hence your personality. Make sure you appreciate what these means about each other’s world views.’
WHAT DO YOU COUNT AS INFIDELITY?
‘It may seem absolutely obvious that you’ll be faithful to each other. But what precisely does that mean? For some people it’s a concern if you talk for too long with members of the opposite gender, while for others anything short of nudity is fine. And then there’s the issue of who with, and in what situation – does what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas? You need to know you’re on the same page as to what constitutes a lack of loyalty.’
WHAT HAPPENED WITH YOUR EXES?
‘Talking about past partners will reveal a number of important issues. First, a big difference in numbers (either way) may make one or both of you feel uneasy, so best to get that cleared early. Secondly, a willingness to have the conversation will build trust between you – and an unwillingness might reveal his (or your) tendency to jealousy. Lastly, you can set down some agreed guidelines about what contact with past partners is acceptable between you.’
ARE YOU SPENDERS, OR SAVERS?
‘In some senses, it doesn’t matter whether he’s a spender or a saver, so long as you are both happy with the result. If you’re both savers, then you’ll be fine money-wise even if you rarely have treats. If you’re both spenders then you’ll support each other to have good times, even if that means you’re often overstretched at the bank. If you differ, then you may well complement each other, balance out to make sure that there’s always enough money available to keep you afloat. You can mix and match – but aware that the outcome of this conversation will predict your financial future.’
DOES HE REALLY, REALLY WANT KIDS? (AND DO YOU?)
‘This is the conversation that couples leave until far too late because it feels as if it’s only relevant once you’ve made a commitment. But once you are deeply bonded with a partner, if you then discover that their attitudes are the total opposite of yours, it’s very tempting to ignore that and imagine that when the time is right, the two of you will agree. But if you don’t, it can tear your relationship apart – for having (or not having) children is often a wish that trumps even the desire to stay with a partner. Best discuss it now, ahead of time.’