The new relationship checklist
You’ve been dating for a little while now. You see him a few nights a week and you know what coffee he has and what the tattoo on his waist means. There are sexy times and long talks and feelings. Right now, he’s a little bit perfect and you’re starting to wonder if it’s time to have The Big Chat and make it official.
The beginning of a relationship is a lot of fun and it’s easy to get caught up in all the exciting possibilities. But before you get in deep, it’s a good idea to check for red flags and take a level-headed look at your compatibility, and that means checking in on a few important things.
We know this can be a tricky conversation. There’s the worry of whether they feel the same way, let alone the different things to talk about!
This is where we’re here to help. We’ve been through this before — more times than most of us like to admit! So, we’ve put together a few small but significant points for you and your new bae to get off to the best possible start together — think of it like your new relationship check list.
Get these out of the way first up. These are the aspects of a relationship you’re not willing to compromise on — things like smoking, or eating vegetarian, or religiously following the Kardashians.
You’ll both have them, and it’s important they’re out in the open before you start getting too serious. Generally speaking, if you can’t agree on these, your relationship is probably going to struggle.
2. Monogamy vs non-monogamy
Committing to someone you love doesn’t necessarily mean sexual exclusivity. Lots of guys have lots of different relationship dynamics that work for them, and it’s worth talking about how you both feel about being monogamous, without judgement.
You might be exclusive most of the time, but still occasionally invite a guest star over to play as a couple. You might be completely open, but have rules around the who and the when. Or you might be completely monogamous.
Whatever you decide, make sure you’re both comfortable with your level of exclusivity, and leave the conversation open so you can speak up if your feelings change. Agreeing to something now doesn’t mean you can’t revisit the conversation again.
3. STI and HIV strategies
You may have already talked about your STI and HIV strategies when you first started having sex (good on you!), but now is a good time to revisit. Talk about when you both last got tested and whether you’ve been seeing other guys in the meantime. Depending on how exclusive you’re going to be (see previous point), you may want to change if/when you use condoms — in which case it’s a particularly good idea for you both to get a full STI screen done. This will help eliminate any (unwanted) third parties in the bedroom before you change your condom use.
“You may have already talked about your STI and HIV strategies when you first started having sex, but now is a good time to revisit.”
If you’re on PrEP, you may also want to reconsider how you use it. There are now three different ways to use PrEP, so you can choose which one suits you and your circumstances. On-demand PrEP is good for hook-ups when you can plan or delay sex for at least two hours. If you like to make friends while you’re on holiday or cut loose at events over a finite period (like Pride month or Mardi Gras), periodic PrEP is something to think about. And if you just want the reassurance of HIV protection around the clock, standard daily PrEP is for you. The three options all offer the same level of protection, so if you do want to start or continue taking PrEP, work out the option that suits you both and have a chat with your doctor.
There are new ways to use PrEP in Australia! | Emen8
4. Living arrangements
If living together is something you want to do (it may not be), then it’s definitely something to discuss. Are you going to move into his place, or yours, or somewhere else new? Do you want housemates? What about pets? How will the bills and expenses work? All these things are critical to a harmonious household, and it’s good to hammer them out from the get-go.
WARNING! If this is a very new relationship, consider whether it’s a good idea to bring up your living arrangements at all — it’s one of those big scary decisions that need time, even if you’re already basically living at his place four nights a week. There’s nothing more terrifying than just showing up with a suitcase and a houseplant. How soon is too soon to talk about living together? The ‘toothbrush test’ is a reasonable benchmark: if you’ve already started leaving personal items at each other’s houses, you’re generally safe to raise the idea of moving in.
This is something that can trip you up further down the road, so talking about how you’re going to manage your finances as a couple is best done early on. While it may be a little soon to be talking pre-nup, it’s worthwhile discussing your expectations around money and paying for things, especially if you’re thinking about living together at some stage (see above). There are lots of different ways to handle your money, and they’ll change depending on how much you both earn and what financial commitments you have, or plan to have. Work out some boundaries now and it will save you a lot of pain in the future.
6. Plans for the future
This doesn’t need to be about making plans together, but you should have a mutual understanding of where you see yourselves a few years down the road. What are your goals and ambitions, and are they compatible? If his career/passion/study is likely to take him overseas or interstate, how will that affect your relationship? How do you both feel about marriage and having kids? What other commitments and complications are likely to be part of your life together?
Make sure this isn’t the last time you have The Big Chat
There’s no real ‘set and forget’ option when it comes to relationships. Getting the foundations right is a big step in the right direction, but everyone’s circumstances and feelings change with time. As unromantic as it sounds, it’s a good idea to make regular times to check in with each other and how you’re feeling about things. This will help stop little things from building up into big things, and take some of the guesswork out of planning a future together.