couple talking therapy

When your relationship starts to get serious and wade into long-term territory, you may feel as if you and your partner have figured it all out.

If you want your relationship to be happy and healthy five or 10 years from now, though, it's important you have difficult conversations about life-altering topics early and often — and before marriage is even in the picture

"Two people need to be on the same page about what an overall lifestyle looks like for them," Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University, told Business Insider. "For spouses, having similar value systems is very important."

If you address the values-based topics of money, kids, homeowning, and domestic chores only when they arise, it could lead to fights with your partner or the end of your relationship.

Read more: 4 steps couples can take to prevent conflict when one partner is a spender and the other is a saver

Though the topics you discuss don't have to happen in a particular order, "be sure you're with someone who is capable of loving you and interested in loving you in healthy ways," including being open to these difficult but essential conversations, the Tribeca Therapy therapist Kelly Scott told Business Insider.

"People have a lot of expectations but don't speak out loud and find out later their partner isn't on the same page. That can be upsetting," Scott said.

Figure out how you envision your future family life

family buying a house

First, it's important you and your partner candidly discuss your family-related goals in life. Perhaps the most obvious element of this topic is whether or not you want to have children, but people often forget family planning extends far beyond a yes or no answer.

According to Scott, it's also important to discuss when you want to have kids and how you want to raise them, including whether both parents stay at home with the kids, you take turns, or one person has daytime kid-watching duties.

It's also a good idea to consider if you and your partner want to raise your kids to be religious, live in a specific place, or have a certain lifestyle, like being a vegan family.

Read more: If you're the victim of an affair, you might want to revenge cheat. A therapist says the move could ruin your relationship for good.

Family also extends beyond babies. As soon-to-be-married couples often learn quickly, they have to settle on how involved their in-laws and extended family members are in their relationship.

As your partner's parents or your own grow older, for example, would you want them to live with you, or would you prefer a different arrangement? And before that, it's important to have a solid understanding of how often you and your partner want to spend time with your extended families, on holidays or otherwise.

Talk about how money will be made, used, and saved

Couple money talk from shutterstock

In addition to family-related chats, you and your partner should also discuss money matters. 

Research has shown that money-related arguments are some of the hardest ones for couples to rebound from because these fights last longer than fights about other topics. Additionally, when a couple fights about money, they tend to use harsher language toward each other.

According to Hafeez, all couples should discuss their investment goals and what she calls "big-ticket items" that they want to save for together, like a house, car, or starting a family. If only one partner cares about a certain investment, it's important to discuss how that will affect your relationship.

You should also discuss who will be making money and spending it, Hafeez said. Will you have a shared bank account, for example, and if you do, how much will each person contribute? Then, if you plan to have a family, you'll have to decide whether you'll need to invest in a nanny so both of you can work to support the family, or if just one of you will have an income.

Read more: How to know if someone is a serial cheater or if they've actually made a mistake, according to a therapist

Even if you don't plan on having kids or buying a home for many years, knowing what you and your partner both value in life can help you better understand which areas you see eye to eye on and which need compromise to work.

In the worst case, you may realize your life goals are too different for your relationship to pan out. Still, like Scott said, it's better to learn this sooner rather than later.

Lastly, Scott said it's important couples continue to discuss their stances on these make-or-break topics every few years because people's views can change and therefore need to be rehashed and readjusted so the couple can stay on the same page.

SEE ALSO: The 5 steps all couples need to take if they want to repair their relationship after cheating

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