It’s time to have ‘the talk’…
Whether you’ve been together for a few months or many years, it’s inevitable that there will be some harder discussions along the way.
Sometimes it can be about finances, family or maybe unmet expectations. Most of the time, these difficult topics come up out of the blue and may challenge your relationship.
The good news is that with the right kind of communication and support, these talks can make your relationship even stronger and bring you closer together. Luckily, there are some ways to make approaching uncomfortable discussions easier:
Don’t put them off
Avoiding the tough conversations doesn’t help solve the issue. Especially if you are upset about something, you don’t want to delay those feelings and let them bottle up.
If you’re in a more serious relationship or marriage, it can be a good idea to start off with some conversation starters to make sure you cover these topics before they arise as an issue.
“Can we talk?” usually has some negative feelings associated with it, so you may want to start off by explaining how you’re feeling and then asking if your partner has some time to talk it over with you. Let your partner know that there is something important you’d like to get off your chest or work out with them.
The key to being a good listener means removing anything that could distract you from your partner. Find a quiet space and put the phones away so you guys can really give each other your attention. However, you should avoid trapping your partner in a space that confines them like a car ride.
Think before you speak. We all know that getting angry or defensive can block effective communication or allow us to say things we wouldn’t say if we weren’t so upset. Listen and understand your partner and if necessary, repeat their point of view to make sure you’re on the same page. Always ask for clarification if you’re unsure of something.
Reach a solution
Even if you don’t come to an agreement, talk about ways you can navigate this together. This will usually involve some compromise but you can meet in the middle.
Plan Your Future Together — In Sickness and In Health
Even though life gets busy, it’s important to make time to connect with your spouse. Talking about your future plans can help you discover things that you never would have known about each other. Set aside time to discuss these topics — whether you’re snuggled up at home or out on a date. As life evolves and changes, check in with each other periodically. Review your plans and feel free to make changes as you grow your relationship.
Download the printable conversation starters below to help you ease into these challenging conversations. You can cut them out and place them in a bowl to randomize them or take turns making your way down the list. Utilize the blank templates to add in your own important questions.
Questions About Family
Whether you hope to grow your family or welcome elderly parents into your home, discuss what your future might look like together. If you’re planning on children, talk about the timing and alternative options like adopting.
- Do you plan to have kids (if you don’t have them already)? Discuss each other’s desire to have children, how many, and when. Talk about the possibilities of adopting and foster children.
- In an emergency, who would you choose to take care of your children? Share the important people in your lives and talk through who you trust most, considering their own health, location and stability.
- Does your employer offer life insurance or should we buy a separate plan for our family? Talk about your employer’s benefits and putting a life insurance plan in place.
- What plans do you have for your parents’ care? Once your parents are unable to live on their own, do you hope to have them in your home or help them transition into a care facility?
- When an emergency happens, which family members should we notify? Think about the first people you would want in the loop if something happens, and who you might want to avoid notifying.
- What did you like and dislike about how your parents or guardians handled family life? Listen to each other’s stories about roles within the home, family traditions, and family size.
Questions About Finances
Your finances impact your household, future plans, vacations, and more. Understand what assets you have and what each person in the relationship is responsible for.
- What debts or liabilities do each of you carry? Talk about student loans, credit card debts, mortgages, and any other outstanding payments.
- Will we combine our accounts or keep them separate? Decide if you want to have individual or joint savings, checking, and investment accounts.
- Who are your beneficiaries? Figure out who should get your assets, including real estate, cash, and personal property.
- What financial goals do you have for the next few years? Note debt repayments and plan for larger purchases like a home or a new vehicle.
- Who would you trust with our finances should something happen? Discuss which family member or close friend would handle financial decisions should you be unable to.
- Growing up, how did your family manage finances? Listen to each other’s stories about how finances were handled, and talk about what you liked or disliked.
Questions About Retirement
Creating a vision and plan for your retirement can be exciting. From talking about the places you want to visit to the hobbies on your to-do lists, making plans now helps you prepare for later. Figure out when you hope to retire so you can enjoy as many years together as possible.
- How do you envision your retirement? Paint a picture of what retirement might look like, including the ideal location, what you want to do, and how extravagantly you want to live.
- When do you hope to retire? Talk about the age you’d both like to retire and what that means for saving.
- How much do you feel comfortable retiring with? Come up with a ballpark estimate for your retirement nest egg goal. A retirement calculator can help.
- How much should we start saving for retirement now? Put together a realistic monthly plan for stowing away funds for retirement.
- Would you want to work in retirement? Cover everything from consulting to part-time work to volunteerism.
- How did your grandparents or parents retire? Discuss what you like or dislike about how loved ones handled their retirements.
Questions About Health
Your health and well-being should remain a priority throughout all your years. Give your partner insight about your health history and future wishes. Talk about what you’d desire if a serious illness or injury occurred.
- What will you do if either of you is diagnosed with a serious illness? Talk about how you’d support each other during such a time.
- Who will be responsible for making medical decisions? Discuss making each other power of attorney, along with someone else who would take on this role should something happen to both of you.
- What kind of medical conditions run in your family? Cover illnesses on either side of the family, including diagnoses that happened later in life.
- How should we prepare for unexpected medical expenses? In the case of larger medical bills, consider boosting your emergency fund or bolstering your savings account.
- Are you an organ donor? Tell your partner if you’re registered as an official organ donor and why you made that decision.
- Would you want to be resuscitated? In the unexpected event that your heart stops or you stop breathing, explain to your partner if and how you’d want to be helped.
3 Key Decisions to Discuss With Your New Spouse
With these conversation starters at the ready, it’ll be easier to complete important documents. You’ll be able to put your thoughts and decisions on paper and have them officially signed.
1. Power of Attorney
Power of attorney is a written authorization for someone to act on your behalf for personal, legal, medical, and business matters. Should the unthinkable happen, a trusted person will be able to take care of important affairs for you and your partner.
The four types of power of attorney are general power of attorney; “special” or limited power of attorney; “healthcare” or springing power of attorney; and durable power of attorney. Work with an attorney or legal representative to ensure you and your partner have these documents in place.
2. Healthcare Directives
Healthcare directives specify how you’d like to be cared for if you’re unable to make decisions for yourself. For instance, if you’re in a coma or otherwise incapacitated, the directives detail what treatments you’d like to receive, if any.
You’ll also want to choose someone as a preferred healthcare proxy — someone who will make important medical decisions if you’re unable to. Most people opt to do this through a living will. A living will is a document with your preferences on care treatments should life-sustaining measures be necessary.
3. Last Will and Testament
A will describes any last wishes about someone’s estate. It specifies the executor of the estate and the beneficiaries. It allocates assets and addresses debts. A will also gives special instructions such as naming a caretaker for pets or an explanation of how the home should be maintained.
Living Happily Ever After
Kind, candid conversations with your partner about tough subjects makes you better communicators. Ultimately, you’ll feel closer and more in tune with one another. These talks also give you an inside look at how you can support your partner better — no matter the situation.
We created some printables to wrap up your discussions and show each other why your love is so special.
A Recipe for Marriage Printable
Fill in the blanks to create your own unique recipe for a happy and healthy marriage. Once you’re finished, frame it or hang it somewhere in your home to remind each other of your devotion.
Partner Gratitude Printable
Download and print out a copy for each partner. Take time to fill out your gratitude sheet separately and then share your responses with each other. Remember that honest answers will mean the most, whether they’re lighthearted or heartwarming.
When you’re prepared with these conversation starters, you’ll be able to tackle important topics as they come up, such as which type of life insurance you should buy. Remember that even when life throws curveballs, you’re in this together — to problem solve, communicate, and lift each other up.