Living in a home with a committed life partner can be a lovely, comforting thing: you know each other’s routines, you get to spend meals and evenings together, and you probably even have some joint projects and hobbies.
One truth of living together is that once you’ve done it, it’s possible to stop talking about the future except when renewing your lease each year. Many couples who live together find themselves spending years, even decades, focused on the day-to-day without talking about big-picture plans for the future. It isn’t always a fear of commitment that postpones these conversations indefinitely; often, it’s simply a busy, mostly happy life that causes couples to delay the future focus. However, it’s valuable to set aside time to talk about the following questions at some point. When you do, you’ll see that these conversations don’t have to be long and drawn-out, but that both partners feel more content and understood afterward. Here’s four questions to center discussion on with a long-term partner.
Is Marriage on the Table? (And If So—When?)
Live-in partners have to deal with other people asking about marriage, which can be irritating, but it really is helpful to know what your partner feels about the subject. For one thing, if one or both partners think marriage is not a necessary “next step,” then you can defend each other against more traditional pressure, knowing why you stand for what you stand for.
For many couples, marriage isn’t a big immanent priority, but they consider it a possibility in the future. Give yourselves time to talk about why this is, and when it might be a good time to revisit the marriage question. It doesn’t have to be a weekly subject; if your partner wants to finish school and says that it’d be better to talk about marriage in 2020 after he or she has had a job for a few months, that’s fine! Just make sure that you both are clear on when the subject should come up again; it helps neither person feel nagged or pressured.
Where Is Your Career Headed?
With many dual-income households these days, it’s worthwhile to sit down and think about where your careers are going. This can even be important if one of the partners doesn’t have a career and otherwise spends time parenting, volunteering, and pursuing non-monetary endeavors. Does moving up in the company mean more travel and time away from home? Could the career involve moving to a new location? Is it necessary that one partner has to spending nights and weekends working? Thinking these things through together with your partner can help you both feel a little more secure. After all, you want to know that your dreams are a priority for your partner, and you want to know the best way to support your partner in their dreams.
When and How Do You Want Children (If At All)?
Another important point of discussion that must be addressed is the question of whether to have children together or adopt children. Most likely, you and your partner each have mentioned your views on the matter offhandedly, but the consequences of these desires are fairly big. No one in your life should be allowed to pressure you one way or the other, but if your partner wants to try for biological children and you are certain you don’t want any, some form of compromise will have to be reached.
The desire of each person matters, but the strength of the desire is also important. If you or your partner are deeply committed to your relationship and have conflicting views on kids, it’s worth deciding if one person’s view is less strong than previously assumed. For instance, people who previously hadn’t really thought they wanted kids can change their minds when living with a supportive partner who is deeply committed to parenting.
How Do You Anticipate Participating in the Care of Aging Family Members?
This question often gets overlooked because it involves thinking about eventualities that can be sad or difficult, but it is deeply necessary. Even if you have no dependents now, family members may at some point need care, especially if they do not have the financial means for assisted living. It’s a good idea to talk through the family members that you would and wouldn’t be comfortable living with you if needed. It’s also a good idea to think about what a “short-term” stay could look like, versus someone permanently joining your household. While these conversations often feel a bit bleak and maybe premature, think of them as a way to show your support of your partner through the thoughtful consideration of their loved one’s needs.
These conversations rarely, if ever, come up organically in the course of making dinner or taking out the trash. However, making a special effort to have them means that you both will know each other a little better, and be more prepared for when these items do become daily life questions.