by Gena Kaufman
Getty Images Every time George Clooney splits with his latest companion (sorry, Stacy Keibler!), we pretty much hear the same story: She wanted kids/marriage/more; he didn't. And we all think, God, wasn't that pretty obvious from the get-go? That's his M.O. Truth be told, we don't really know what goes on in the Cloonster's relationships, but it would serve us all well to go into a relationship knowing what both people want in order to avoid painful breakups later over major issues that neither of you had ever planned to budge on.
To get the lowdown on what values couples need to talk about before it's too late, we spoke to life coach and relationship expert Marni Battista. And what she revealed is that it's a common issue.
If you've ever hesitated to bring up serious topics about the future early in a relationship for fear of being seen as too needy or high-maintenance, you're not alone. According to Battista, a lot of daters think that in order to be seen as "the one," they have to be the most low-maintenance and "cool," but if you're really looking to find someone ready for a relationship, it's way better to talk about your deal-breakers up front.
Here are five common values Battista recommends that you discuss when you become a couple with your partner:
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1. Relationship Goals: You don't have to discuss this on your first date, but before it gets serious, you'll want to figure out whether you want the same things when it comes to a relationship. Here are some questions Battista recommends discussing:
* What does your ideal relationship look like?
* Does it include marriage in the future?
* How much independence do you like to experience in a relationship?
2. Communication Skills: Let's say you've had that initial conversation about what you see as the future of the relationship, and you weren't in total agreement. It's not necessarily a dead end. "Instead of seeing conflict between the two of you as 'bad,' turn it into a litmus test to see how good you both are at getting back to compatibility," says Battista. "You may want to circle back and discuss whether or not either party can compromise." If one of you isn't so into marriage, can the other compromise by having a nontraditional but monogamous relationship? Is there a solution that works for both of you?
3. When to Get Intimate: It might seem awkward to have a conversation about sex before you're even having it, but according to Battista, being open about intimacy will only make your relationship stronger ("Besides, this is another opportunity to see how well you both communicate your needs, set boundaries, and compromise"). Couples should discuss when they both feel comfortable sleeping together and be up front and direct about their timelines even if they differ.
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4. What Finances Will Be Like: "Money is the number one cause of divorce in modern times, so getting it out of the way early will help make it less sticky in the future," advises Battista. This is especially important if you're discussing moving in together, but even before that it's important to gauge each other's overall values about money. Try these Battista-recommended questions:
* Is he a spender or a saver?
* What are her views on how you handle finances if she makes more than you?
* Are you both planners, or do you spend spontaneously?
* How educated is your partner about financial planning?
5. Kids in Your Future: Before couples get serious, they need to discuss whether they want a small family, a big family, or no kids at all, because it's not an issue that people change their mind on very often. "Remember, this is not an issue that you should hope 'resolves' itself once he or she discovers how amazing you are," warns Battista. "No matter how amazing the chemistry or how great she is on 'paper,' having kids is not something you want to discuss after you start to discuss a wedding date."
For more from Marni, visit her site, Dating With Dignity.
Have you discussed each of these five non-negotiables with your guy? Do you think they're important to talk about early, or do you think it's too much, too soon?
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by Gena Kaufman