It finally happened: You met someone you’re really into. Seemingly overnight, you went from a first date to several and may even have the “What are we?” talk soon. But before you start creating your wedding registry, there are essential things to talk about in a new relationship. After all, how else can you tell if this person is longterm material?
“The most critical issue to remember is leaving the baggage behind when chatting with your new love interest,” Julie Spira, dating expert and founder of Cyber-Dating Expert, tells TZR in an email. “Too often, I see couples going down the rabbit hole of trashing an ex, comparing lousy dating stories, or complaining about work problems.” She says you may come across as someone with heavy drama or someone who hasn't gotten over their ex, which makes you unavailable. “Instead, leave the ex convo for your BFF or write about it in your journal to get it off your chest,” she adds. “In a new relationship, it's essential to stay positive. Learn to be a great listener when you're with your partner, and always strive to be more ‘interested’ than ‘interesting.’”
She also warns that when you're in a new — or almost — relationship, it's easy to project far into the future without enjoying the moments and new memories you're creating as a couple. It’s also easy to skip those important conversation topics you should be having. So to get you as conversation-ready as possible, TZR tapped the pros for tips on what exactly to talk about in a new relationship.
What Are Your Values, Hopes, & Dreams?
Carolyn Cole, licensed marriage and family therapist, says that it is essential to get a sense as to whether your almost-partner is on the same page regarding what they want in life. “For example, do you both want a family/children, is religion important, and is self-growth and working on yourself important,” she tells TZR in an email. “These things are necessary to identify early on, as things can get tough if your relationship becomes more serious and you find you truly want different things.” She adds that when the person answers you, take what they say at face value — do not hold onto hope that “this may change” or “you can help them have a different perspective.” Cole adds that this type of thinking can easily lead to heartache down the road.
Liza Colpa, a meditation teacher who’s created meditations on attracting love and manifesting boundaries, seconds Cole. “I think speaking about a person's longer-term (or even one-year) goals is a great way to learn about an individual's values and priorities,” she tells TZR in an email. “For example, if someone says it's my goal to pay off my debt this year, you know that they value specific ideas around money. If another person says they are finishing graduate school, you know they value their work and education. This can tell you so much about who you are dating.”
Spira, too, says it’s important to talk about your dreams and passion projects — as well as the simple things, such as what shows you're watching or the concert of your dreams that you'd like to attend. “When you talk about places you'd like to travel to or shows you'd like to see, your new partner will not only learn about where you'd like to venture to, but they might want to join you on your journey,” she says.
What Are Your Relationship Goals?
There’s nothing worse than being really into someone and thinking you’ll have “the talk” any day now … only to find out the other person wants to keep things casual. “Different people have different expectations for relationships,” David Bennett, a relationship coach, tells TZR in an email. “Some people date [as a means] to eventually get married or have kids, while others just like to date around or maybe ‘see where things go.’ With the increase in different relationship goals, it's important to be on the same page.” He says that open and honest communication is important in any stage of a relationship. “Proactively and honestly discussing concerns and expectations is always better than ignoring them or letting them fester. Often, when you explain your expectations, you can give-and-take enough to make it work.”
Spira agrees, noting that it's crucial to discuss the type of relationship you're seeking, but without adding the pressure of prematurely committing to a relationship label. “Talking about your relationship hopes and dreams is a bonding experience, so don't be afraid of pushing the wrong person away,” she explains. “And if you're living in the moment with no endgame, then it's essential to talk about lifestyle topics, hobbies, and what you'd like to do in your spare time together as a couple.”
What Is Your Past Relationship History Like?
Although bashing an ex is not a good sign, that doesn’t mean talking about exes is off the table altogether. Cole says it’s important to see how the person you’re dating talks about their past partners. “If they are all negative, toxic, or the other person seems to have consistently been the problem, this is a concern,” she says. “Anytime everyone else is the problem, it’s a red flag. This shows that this person may have trouble taking responsibility or accountability when there are issues — and is also a common theme with narcissists.”
Furthermore, if someone says, “I put that behind me” or “I don't want to talk about it,” that says there may be some unresolved issues that are being suppressed and need to be worked through, she explains. “This is important so these same patterns don't show up in your relationship. As the famous founder of analytical psychology Carl Jung said, ‘What you resist, persists.’” If your partner talks about what they learned from a past relationship experience or how it helped them grow — and they seem a bit more objective, neutral, and even calm when bringing this up — this is a positive sign. “This can show that the person is self-reflective,” says Cole. “It also seems that the person is not holding onto judgment or anger toward their exes.”
What Are Your Views On Money — Are You A ‘Spender’ Or A ‘Saver’?
Bennett explains that views of money can be a major conflict in relationships. “Some people are ‘spenders’ who believe that if you have money, it's important to enjoy it by spending it (or they spend through credit even if they don't have money),” he says. “Others are ‘savers’ who believe it's important to hold money and save up for emergencies or bigger items.” Even though talking about money is still often considered taboo in society, it’s crucial to discuss it with the person you’re dating before you escalate your relationship to the next level — you can only hide all your student debt for so long.
Speaking of which, Stef Safran, owner of dating and matchmaking service Stef and the City, also thinks talking about money is imperative early on, she tells TZR in an email. In addition to figuring out if someone is a “spender” or a “saver,” she says that “many people have very different expectations on how to handle school debt or even how to manage spending when there might be a windfall.” Plus, life always throws us surprises, she notes. “If one person becomes unemployed, it's good to get an idea of the type of person you are with — are they going to be helpful or resentful?”
How Do You Deal With Stress Or Problems?
It’s good to learn how your potential partner manages stress and problems in different areas of their life, including your relationship, says Cole. When you’re talking to them, she suggests asking them questions like:
- Do they have a support system or have coping skills in place?
- How will they handle stress and problems in your relationship?
- Will they address them or are they more avoidant, such as brushing things under the rug and hoping they’ll get better with time?
- Do they need time to process or do they like to resolve things right away?
And, most importantly, Cole says, what do they need from you when stressed to feel supported — time alone, a supportive space to talk, a hug? While asking someone these questions is helpful, you can also pay attention to how they react under stress when you’re with them. If you’re out to dinner and it’s taking forever to get your meals, does the person stress out and snap at the waitstaff? Or do they stay calm? Nonverbal cues can reveal a lot, too.
Bonus Tip: Things To *Not* Talk About In A New Relationship
Of course, there are always those who may broach certain topics too soon. But what, exactly, are those topics? “There shouldn't be pressure on getting engaged, talking about a biological clock ticking, pressure to label the relationship, or anything that feels like it's rushing the process,” says Cole. “This takes away from the fun of getting to know one another and from the deepening of the relationship. This way, you can be present with the process, which is a beautiful gift!” And, at the same time, you also don't want to miss any cues that this person may not be a good match due to being too focused on getting to the future, she explains.
Colpa adds that when you’re in a new relationship, you may want to hold off on going too deep too soon. “I personally feel our survival stories are something that take time to open up about due to the intimate nature of them,” she says. “We simply need to build a level of trust with the person, so we are open to them receiving this information.” She says she didn't share her deep resilience stories with her partner until they’d built a level of trust two months into their relationship. “For others, it may take even longer, or maybe shorter,” she says. “Either way, sharing your trauma, and deep and personal resilience stories, can never be taken too lightly.” Bennett echoes Colpa’s sentiment. “It may not only be challenging to reveal these traumatic things immediately, but if the relationship ends, it can add even more stress and trauma to your life,” he says. “Let the trust develop.”
To sum it all up, Spira says, “Successful relationships are based on shared values, and it takes time to solidify and gel as a couple, so remember to take lots of deep breaths and enjoy the ride.”