As a relationship progresses from the first date through the long term, there are key talks that signal what point the relationship is at. Not only do these conversations let you know how your partner feels, but they force you to crystallize your own emotions and make sure the two of you are on the same page. These milestones start early on, and each one presents a new set of challenges as the dynamics of the relationship change over time.
“What Are We?”
Believe it or not, this can be the most difficult because things are still pretty new when it comes up. Defining the relationship and initial expectations are a great thing. Honesty is highly important here, as many people do not want to ruin things and try pleasing the other person with what they want to hear. Being open at this point lays the foundation on which trust and honesty are built in the future, so do your best to get it all out and demand the same.
There are distinct challenges in this conversation. Partners who might be in the relationship for selfish or dishonest reasons have less invested and more incentive to mislead you at this point. Moreover, you have little experience reading body the person’s body language and non-verbal communication at this point, so be careful.
“I Love You”
Do not make the mistake of treating “I love you” simply as a verification, as if love is an on or off switch. There is not one type of love, it is the most unique and individual emotion a person can have. Try to flesh it out as much as you can for each other. You will have the advantage of more comfort around one another and be better able to read body language.
The difficulties you run into here are typically that you or your partner might have trouble getting in touch with emotions, or not be good at expressing what is felt. If this is the case, look for signals of a genuine desire to get everything out and sent to the other person, even if the execution is not perfect. Your familiarity and ability to read body language come into play here because you will be able to notice huge emotional changes and when a person is really trying. It is not necessary to have full mastery of your emotions, but you do want to see a mature approach to the emotional levels you happen to be at as individuals.
The obvious thing that comes to mind here is marriage, but similar issues come up around moving in together, talks about having kids, or even job relocations and career choices. Two very different people can love each other, but whether they can live with each other is an entirely different question. Some things are logistics issues, such as living habits and personal routines. Other things represent personal values, like how important is work to a person, or what roles should each partner have in a long term journey. This can also be a very difficult conversation if there are legitimate issues. However, the momentum of a long time spent together and strong emotions for each other will help you break through roadblocks to reach the compromises you have to and move on.
There are many things represented by all three conversations. You start out figuring out whether there is potential for something serious, discover just how serious it is, and finally you move through life’s adventures side by side. With an honest, open approach and a genuine desire to make it work, strong relationships can overcome pretty serious obstacles in these talks.