By Emma Chow

Communication is one of the most important elements of a relationship. Without it, a partnership can’t survive or won’t be as healthy as it could be. We need to express what we want and need, and what we will and won’t accept, and so does our partner.

Here’s a guide on how to communicate with your partner at different stages of your relationship.

First date. When you first start dating someone, communication is very surface level. You’re getting to know someone from scratch, so keep it light, bright and fun —be the best version of yourself. No one wants to go on a date with a Debbie Downer who puts all all their emotional baggage on the table as soon as they sit down.

One month. If there is anything important that your partner should know about you, now is the time to communicate it. It could be that you have a child, were once married, or have a mental health or other health issue. You need to give them the chance to ask questions, understand your situation and then decide if the relationship is still right for them. More often than not these things aren’t a problem, but they may present challenges in the future, and you need show honesty and build trust in each other if you are going to work through them together.

Six months. By six months, your walls are down and you start to feel properly comfortable around your partner. It’s also a good time to embrace confrontation as a way of communicating more about yourself, your partner and the relationship. Many of us avoid confrontation at the start of a relationship — we agree on everything and never want upset the other. It’s okay if your opinion is different to your partner’s! Just be mindful that sometimes you might need to agree to disagree.

One year. A year is a good marker to check in with your partner to see if your life goals match up. Do you want to buy a house? Get married? Have kids? Whether you agree on all, some or none of the above, it’s super important to communicate truthfully. These are the kinds of conversations that will test your relationship and love for each other, so be patient and kind.

Marriage. There are a couple of things I’ve learned about communication from the first year and a half of marriage. The first is to fight right – if you have an all out argument, never be nasty and don’t name-call. Give each other time to process what’s been said, and then sit down to have a calm, understanding conversation. The second is to pick your battles – only argue about the things that really matter. If it’s not impacting your life in a negative way, just let it go.

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