Robert and Candice had been dating for three months. They had a lot of fun together, made each each laugh, and they both wanted to get married and have children. Neither wanted to waste time on the wrong person, and so they asked for a check-list to work through on their dates to explore the potential of their relationship at a deeper level.

Below is a list of thirty questions that you can work through over a period of time. Each one will need to be thought about individually and as a couple. Make notes and take time to reflect on each other’s responses.

It’s normal while doing this to spot a few things you aren’t 100% sure about. You don’t have to have a perfect relationship to make things work. But it’s important to acknowledge these rather than sweep them under the rug, and talk about them with your partner, a trusted friend or a professional (a coach or therapist). They will only become more pronounced once you move from the passionate to the companionate stage of your relationship (usually after 18-24 months).

The best research shows that the ability to argue well – without becoming defensive, walking away, criticising or showing contempt – is key. You will probably both need to work at that, as you will bring your own argument styles (often learnt from your own family) which will need adjusting. Robert came from a family of door-slammers and sulkers; Candice from a family where talking about emotions and vulnerabilities was seen as shameful. In our coaching sessions, they both needed to understand the beliefs and behaviours they had internalised from childhood, and develop a new dynamic just for them.

Other essential factors include warmth, friendship, admiration and allowing your partner to teach you how to love them. These relationship skills do not all come naturally, because we all learn from imperfect role models. What feels comfortable, normal and safe is not always what works best: just because something is familiar, it doesn’t mean it’s the way to make your relationship flourish.

It would be great if it were the norm for Robert and Candice to get a yearly check-up on their relationship. Whatever stage we are at, and however good things are, there is always the potential to enhance and enjoy our romantic connection even more.

Thirty questions to discuss before committing to a serious relationship

  1. Can you both be yourselves?
  2. Do you feel calm, safe and content when you’re together?
  3. Do you like and feel comfortable around each other’s friends and family?
  4. Do you feel proud of each other when you’re with others?
  5. Do you have similar energy levels and drive?
  6. Do you both have positive, warm, appreciative feelings about the other?
  7. Do you respect and admire each other?
  8. Are you building a friendship as well as a romance?
  9. Are you able to give a balanced view of the costs and benefits of the relationship?
  10. Are you both building up or tearing down?
  11. Can you both deal constructively with disagreements?
  12. Are you able to repair the relationship after arguments?
  13. Have you identified your perpetual conflicts – the things you will never agree on, which every couple has – and talked about how you will manage those?
  14. Can you apologise effectively when necessary and accept the other’s apology?
  15. Do you share values about saving and spending?
  16. Have you discussed how much time you’d want to spend with your families over the year?
  17. Do you both have a growth mindset? Are you curious?
  18. Can you enjoy the mundane moments of life together?
  19. How do you both respond when you reveal vulnerabilities?
  20. Do you want to change each other?
  21. Do either of you feel threatened when the other requests a change in behaviour?
  22. Are you both able to allow the other to influence you and change your mind?
  23. Are you both open to being taught by the other how they want to be loved? Do you know each other’s love languages?
  24. Do you know each other’s triggers, wounds, insecurities and sensitivities? What have you taught each other about how to treat those?
  25. Are you able to comfort each other when you are sad, anxious, despondent, etc? Are you comfortable hearing about each other’s emotions and difficult memories and thoughts?
  26. Have you both been transparent about mental health challenges, past relationships, any involvement with the law, drugs, medical treatment, etc?
  27. Have you discussed cultural, class and educational differences between your families?
  28. If you both want children, have you discussed how you would bring them up?
  29. Have you discussed your dreams and plans for the future? Do you share a common vision?
  30. Are you able to communicate what you want from sexual intimacy and what it represents for you?

How can I get help with my relationship?

To find out more about couples coaching with Rachel, read more here or take the first step to book something here.

Recommended reading

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman & Nan Silver (2018 edition)

The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships by Dr Diane Poole Heller

After the Honeymoon by Dan Wile

Main photo by Viktoria Slowikowska.