7 Crucial Conversations for Couples
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By Julienne B. Derichs LCPC

It is no secret that love relationships change over time...so how does this effect the topics couples need to be talking about? Healthy couples talk about many subjects during the life span of their relationship and the content of those conversations change from when you are dating to the senior years of your relationship.  

In a recent study, the topics of couples’ conversations where categorized into 13 categories (in order of frequency): 

1. Self-report 
2. Observation
3. Life history
4. Story telling 
5. TV/Movie Talk
6. Partner’s experiences
7. Miscellaneous information
8. Household task talk
9. Humor
10. Plans 
11. Narratives
12. Positive comments
13. Conflict

Stages of Romantic Relationships

Love relationships, like people, undergo stages of development. During each stage, positive factors sway partners toward maintaining and strengthening their relationship while the negative factors at any stage contribute to its deterioration.

The five stages are (1) attraction, (2) romance, (3) passion, (4) intimacy, and (5) commitment.

Stage 1. ATTRACTION - a positive response to a person beyond friendship. This can further be broken down into two areas: physical attraction and emotional attraction.

Stage 2. ROMANCE - an act of trying to influence or gain favor of another by pursuing their attention. There are two type of romance: selfish romance (pursuing a romance for purely self serving reasons such as getting gifts, sexual favors, or trying to impress someone else) and selfless romance (romantic acts for the enjoyment and pleasure of your partner).

In all stages you have these choices:

        1. To Continue moving forward
        2. To Stagnate
        3. To Slow down 
        4. To Exit

Selfish romance and love will quickly die out. Selfless romance and love will thrive. Because romance is an "act," many couples who have been together a long time take it for granted. With a conscious effort, it can be rekindled.

Stage 3. PASSION - a desire for another person, which has grown to intensity that can't be ignored. This is often where an emotional relationship turns into a physical relationship. The passion stage is very important. From here the couple must decide which path to take. The relationship will either burn itself out or will move onto the next stage.

Stage 4. INTIMACY - a close relationship with another person of the deepest nature. In an evolving process, you share you thoughts, your feelings, and your dreams. If you cannot establish intimacy with your partner, your relationship may work for a while, but is unlikely to endure throughout the years.

Stage 5. COMMITMENT - a promise to maintain and protect the “contract” of your relationship with your partner. These are the spoken and unspoken limits and boundaries that surround your relationship. Commitment is easy when times are good and extremely difficult when times are bad. 

7 Crucial Conversations for Dating Couples

While you are dating someone your main focus is to learn if you are compatible. During that time your task is to decide if you can live with their life views.  There may not be any right and wrong views, but views and values that you would not be able to handle. For each person this is different. Below are 7 crucial conversations to have while you are dating:

1. How do you feel about ex-lovers being friends?

2. What is your 1-year, 3-year, and 5 year career plans/goals?

3. How close are you to your family? What is your relationship like with your Mother and Father?

4. What are your religious views?

5. What are your views towards handling money?

6. Do we like and respect each others friends? Do we have the same idea about together time
    and alone time?

7. Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect or need?

7 Crucial Conversations for 
Engaged or Newly Committed Couples

1. If you're angry about something how will you let me know?

2. If you were having problems would you talk it out or keep it inside? ? Would you ever consider
    going to counseling?

3. Have we discussed whether or not to have children and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver? When will we plan on having children?

4. Do we have a clear idea of each others financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving blend?

5. Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in 
    agreement on who will manage the chores?

6. Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?

7. Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?

7 Crucial Conversations for 
Recently Married or Committed Couples

1. Does each of us feel fully confident in the others commitment to the marriage and believe that
    the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?

2. What does my family do that annoys you? What are the limits and boundaries we are going to
    set with our families?

3. What are the most likely conflicts to cause problems in our marriage? How will we manage the
    problems that arise?

4. Are there couples you look up to? What do you respect about their marriages? 

5. What are the qualities you see in your partner that made you want to marry him/her? 

6. Describe the marriage of your dreams. What do you think you need to do as a couple to get
    from where you are to where you need to be? 

7. In what ways have you attempted to communicate love and appreciation to your spouse? 

7 Crucial Conversations for 
Couples Married or Committed 
5 to 10 Years

1. Describe how your marriage has changed over the years. 

2. What do you see as the strengths of your marriage? What do you see as the weaknesses of
    your marriage? 

3. How do we make time for each other? What gets in the way of connecting with each other? 

4. What are your dreams or wishes for me, for you, the kids, your career, family, etc.? Where do
   you want to be in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? 

5. As if it were a person not a thing, how would you describe your relationship with money?

6. In what ways have you mindfully attempted to communicate love and appreciation to your 

7. What needs have I given up trying to get met by my spouse? What are the needs that my
    spouse meets does meet for me that keep me in this relationship? What are you convinced
    you couldn’t live without? 

7 Crucial Conversations for 
Empty Nest Couples

1. So what kind of an empty-nest parent will you be? 

2. How much control and influence should we try to maintain with our adult children?

3. How much do you want to help them financially?

4. What do we want to do, as a couple that will keep us from going in separate directions?

5. Describe the marriage of your dreams. What do you think you need to do as a couple to get
    from where you are to where you need to be?

6. What are your unspoken dreams? How can you share in my dreams? What are you convinced
    you couldn’t live without? 

7. In what ways have you attempted to communicate love and appreciation to your spouse? 

Stage 6. ENDING. Ending can be the final stage of any relationship. It takes a conscious effort to prevent a deteriorating relationship from ending. 

For example, people who continue to find some sources of happiness, who are committed to maintaining the relationship, or who believe they will eventually be able to overcome their problems are more likely to invest what they must to prevent the breakdown. 

Relationships fall apart when partners find little gratification in the union, when other, more interested, partners are available, or when couples are not committed to saving the relationship. 

What will prevent or slow down the deterioration is putting time and energy into your relationship. What you value, you spend time on. Give the relationship a reasonable opportunity to improve. If you've made it this far, why give up? Listen to each other, be willing to give and take, and remember why you got together in the first place.

All information on this page is intended for advertising and personal use purposes only and is not intended for therapeutic or legal reasons. All information herein is the property of Julienne B. Derichs, MS, LCPC. Julienne B. Derichs accepts no liability for the content of this site or damages that may result from use, reference to, reliance on, or decisions resulting from its use. Use of this site determines your agreement to this disclaimer. Copyright 2015.
Julienne Derichs LCPC

Couples Therapy and Marriage Counseling Serving  
Highland Park, Lake Forest, Deerfield, Lincolnshire, Illinois

 Couples Counseling Today
    ...Courage, Compassion, Connection
Julienne B. Derichs LCPC


773-562-3074                  Office in Highwood, IL 60040                   CouplesCounselingToday@gmail.com        
                                   (between Lake Forest and Highland Park, IL)