Starting down the path of a new relationship can elicit some really wonderful feelings. It is likely to be a time you and your partner look back on one day with joy and nostalgia, as it captured the rawness and beauty of falling in love. As the honeymoon phase starts to wind down, there comes a time in every committed relationship when you start to wonder where exactly things are headed. Figuring out how to talk about the future of your relationship with your partner can feel a bit daunting, but the good news is that having that conversation is totally normal, especially after some of those warm fuzzies started to wane and you began to look at things with much-needed perspective and clarity.
It's not uncommon for this clarity to coincide with major life events, such as graduating from college, moving abroad, or considering a job in a new city. But don't panic; new opportunities on the horizon don't mean your relationship can't change shape to make room for the new additions. With a bit of forethought and the right timing, there's no reason why you can't have your cake and eat it, too.
Dating expert Anita Chlipala talked with Elite Daily about some tips on how to best approach those stressful conversations about the future.
1. Have A Game Plan
Before you start a conversation as important as where you see a meaningful relationship going, it's a good idea to take some time to thoughtfully examine your own desires and goals. This way, when the time comes to have a talk, you will be able to articulate yourself clearly. According to Chlipala, it may also be a good idea to even have a loose plan of what you're going to say to avoid bad phrasing or rambling. "You don't have to have every word planned out, but [do] have key points that you want to address," she says.
Taking the time to think through and map out your talking points is not only a good way of curbing anxiety, but it also communicates to your partner that you are taking your relationship seriously.
2. Drop Some Hints
Rather than attempting to start a conversation about the future out of nowhere, try to get them warmed up a bit by sharing some of your ideas for the future you have yet to share with them, whether that's a dream job, how many kids you want to have, or a place you'd like to live.
Chlipala recommends starting small and more casual:
There are ways of bringing up important topics without having 'serious sit-down' types of conversations. For example, if you grew up in a home where your parents didn't have a lot of money and saving is really important to you, you can bring that up while talking about your childhoods. 'My parents didn't have a lot when I was growing up, but they definitely showed me they loved me and my siblings. Not having extra spending money has made me more of a saver than a spender as an adult. What about you?' or 'I was an only child and always wished to have a sibling. If I can have children, I'd love to have at least two.'
Approaching a difficult conversation where there are many different things to factor in can be much more manageable when broken down into smaller mini-conversations. When these smaller conversations eventually lead up to a larger, more in-depth discussion, you'll already have a better idea of where they stand.
3. Start With An Activity To Take The Pressure Off
Coming right out with, "So are we going to be together forever?" can come across a bit heavy-handed, even if you've been together for a while. Inviting your partner to dinner with the standard, "Can we talk?" line can make the whole situation feel much more intensive than it really needs to be.
Chlipala suggests pairing a potentially difficult convo with a casual outing — such as going for a drive, taking a walk, or even going on a hike — to take the pressure off. "Sometimes, guys do better with conversations when they're side-by-side with their partner versus a face-to-face sit-down. Start positively, saying things you love about your partner and what you appreciate about them," Chlipala says.
Starting off a tough conversation with something fun also reminds your partner why they fell in love with you in the first place. It will also help break the ice and get both of you out of your head so that you can really listen to what the other is saying.
4. When The Right Time Comes To Talk, Be Honest
It's important to go into the conversation knowing what you are and are not willing to compromise on. Too often, people go into relationships thinking they can change their partner's mind about any number of things they would consider deal breakers. Compromising about things like the timing of a big move or engagement is totally healthy, but be careful you're not giving up too much.
"[Don't give up] important things because you're terrified of being alone for the rest of your life. You don't want to make a decision out of fear or stay with someone who is not a good fit because you think you'll never meet anyone again," Chlipala says.
If what your partner reveals during a talk about the future doesn't sit well with you, then speak up. Don't hold back your honest feelings and responses for the sake of preserving the peace. Even if your different goals seem irreconcilable, it's so much better to know that sooner rather than later.
5. Be Supportive, Even If Their Answers Aren't What You Wanted to Hear
At the end of the day, we can't always have things exactly how we want. If, post-talk, you're feeling discouraged or confused, it's important to realize that people may change, but this doesn't mean that they're going to bend on major life events such as marriage or kids.
Even if you are deeply upset by what your partner has to say, it's important to try to respond respectfully, notes Chlipala. If things are getting too heated and you need a break, Chlipala recommends "telling them that you need some time alone to think things through and feel free to remove yourself from the situation."
No one said having conversations about the future was easy, but by thinking things through and starting off on a positive note, you'll both be able to walk away with clarity. In the end, regardless of how you both decide to proceed with your relationship, in hindsight, you'll be glad you stayed true to yourself.
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