We get it: Life can get soul-crushingly boring and feel like an endless loop of sameness. But, still, it’s amazing that couples find themselves needing things to talk about. There are so many topics to discuss, both not very important (Are scallion pancakes a perfect food? How do you think they make the punches in Indiana Jones’ sound so satisfying?) and very important (What about the world scares you the most? Do you want to move closer to your parents some day?). The list goes on and on. And, of course, there are several topics that couples should discuss regularly to keep their marriage happy and healthy: finances, their sex life, their day, the issues they’re facing. While they might seem insignificant or, let’s face it, a bit boring, they’re essential to making sure you’re on the same wavelength. So read up and ask away.
“So, how was your day?” Sounds cliché right? We think so too. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Asking about your partner’s day is a way to tell them that you care what their life was like when you’re not around. It means you’re curious about their world — their wins, their losses, the soggy egg sandwich they ate but still kind of enjoyed because the bread was good and fought the sogginess. The key is not leaving it at that question. Press for context. Understand the nuance. Listen. And when you’re asked, no pleading the fifth: think of something to say. Start a conversation. Invite them into your world.
Their Sex Life
Despite the urgings of Salt-N-Pepa, we Americans are notoriously bad about talking about sex. That needs to change. “When you aren’t talking about sex, you’re only scratching the surface of what experiences you could be having and the amount of pleasure you could be experiencing,” Stella Harris,a sex educator, intimacy coach author, and BDSM instructor told us. “We aren’t mind readers, and honestly, that’s probably for the best.” In other words, if you’re not talking about sex, you’re not going to get better at it. Talking is especially important for parents. “Bodies change. Even if you thought you knew what your partner was into before, there’s a good chance what they’re body is up for has changed,” says Harris. “This is really the time where you need to talk about maybe doing new things. You’re not going to stumble into it by accident.
Their Appreciation of One Another
A simple note, text message, or compliment can go a long way in a relationship. Just letting your spouse know that he or she is appreciated and that their efforts aren’t going unnoticed can help them to feel validated and understood. “The number one correlation with happiness in couples is the number of appreciations they give to each other,” Jonathan Robinson, a couple’s therapist and author of the book More Love, Less Conflict: A Communication Playbook for Couples told us. “We forget to do daily appreciations.”
Their Division of the Household Labor
There’s never going to be a true, 50-50 split of the household labor. Schedules change. Workloads vary. But couples should constantly touch base about who’s doing what around the house because when they don’t happen that’s when resentment builds and a simple conversation about one dirty dish on the counter turns into a gigantic fight about something far more. Due to societal expectations, men often have a lack of awareness about the amount of work both visible and invisible that women take on. Having regular conversations about splitting chores and handling household tasks and parenting are crucial to a happy marriage.
Their Inside Jokes
Inside jokes are silly, but that’s the point. Life as parents is busy and stressful and without little reminders of why you’re living a life with this person or of the simpler, carefree days before your biggest concern was how to get squeeze yogurt out of the cracks in the car seat car seat, life becomes less enjoyable. Inside jokes are a reminder that, while not every day you spend together has been perfect, they’ve been better because you’ve spent them together.
Relationships work better when finances aren’t secret. Much, much better. You need to be honest about money to build a life together. Budgets. Savings. But there’s hope. It’s possible to talk finances without crippling anxiety, vicious recriminations, or despair. You just need to approach the conversation carefully. Wherever you start talking about money, you need to take the right tone. Don’t be accusatory or condescending. Nobody wants to talk finance with an angry man. Focus on facts and look for solutions.
“You want to put your cards out on the table, like these are the facts,” says New Jersey-based accountant Tracy Beveridge. “Then the two of you can decide what needs to be fixed, what can be fixed, and what you can do to fix it — if there is something that needs to be fixed.”
Once you clear the first financial talk hurdle, subsequent money talks get easier. With that newfound comfort over talking money with your spouse, take the opportunity to get more detailed in your presentations.
It’s tempting to not discuss any problems with your partner, especially when you have young children. You can handle them, right? But without explaining the issues that are bothering you — shitty bosses, massive workloads, anxieties about the world — it’s tough for your partner to know your headspace or offer advice. Burying worries and head-downing it only work for so long. Should you be mindful of what your partner is dealing with and hold off on venting about work because they got thrown up on not once, but five times today? Yeah. It’s a give and take. But it’s important to not keep issues bottled up.
Their Future Plans
This is about talking about things that excite you — that vacation coming up, the movie you’re excited to see, sure. But this is also about: What kind of life do you look forward to? What kind of life do you wish for our kids? Where do you see our family in five years? 10 years? Without regular conversations about the years to come, you’ll miss out on the beautiful art of shared dreaming and bonding over some possible, glistening future, but also being dialed in. Without sharing thoughts about plans, there’s no way to know, say, what you need to save or be blindsided from the fact that your wife wants to move closer to her parents next year. The last thing you want to happen is to be one of those couples that’s on different pages or, much worse, reading separate books.
There’s an episode of South Park where the writers poke fun at our cultural obsession with pop culture nostalgia by creating a product known as Member Berries. The grape-like fruit constantly talks about things they remember fondly (“Member Chewbaca??”and people become helplessly addicted to their jabbering on about remembrances past. But for couples it’s important to think back on wonderful vacations or funny things the baby did to gain perspective — and keep from losing it during stressful times. These are moments you shared that, if not addressed, will fade.