Every relationship would be better if one thing was prized above all else: healthy communication. Yes, you’ve heard this before. No, the answer won’t change. If partners commit to saying, Okay, no matter what we will talk and connect every day and try their best to follow the rules of good communication, so many issues will be put to bed. Of course, a big part of this lies in what you talk about in those promised moments. There are so many subjects to discuss, from the ins and outs of your respective days to how you’re disciplining the kids to childcare and the general figuring — and re-figuring — out of who’s responsible for what household tasks. The sheer number of topics mean that some things will be missed. But it’s important to not shy away from certain ones — or touch base about previously discussed issues — whether due to fear or shame or assumptions. Because they can mutate into major problems, or at least thorns in the side of your relationship. Take it from the 12 men we spoke to about the topics they wish they discussed with their partner a lot sooner. From discussions about chores and family planning to work-life balance and big-ish mistakes, here are the conversations they wish they had with their partner a lot sooner.
1. Career Balance
“I’m a father and a tech CEO. One topic I definitely wish I had discussed with my partner sooner is the balance between parenting roles and our professional lives. In our parenthood’s early years, we made assumptions about responsibilities that led to some unnecessary friction. I wish we had addressed it earlier, outlining what we each expected from the other.
The topic surfaced when we welcomed our daughter, and it became challenging to manage roles at home and work, especially being the CEO of a remote-first digital media startup. The effect of not having this discussion sooner was a period of adjustment filled with stresses that could’ve been mitigated. We eventually navigated it with open conversations, understanding, and compromise. Reflecting upon it, we should have communicated about these roles much, much sooner. I believe it’s something many couples could relate to and benefit from discussing as soon as possible in their parenting journey.” – Maurizio, 40, Spain
2. Our Priorities
“I’m all about cars, but I’ve learned there are times when you need to park the wrench and steer toward home. Why didn’t I bring this up sooner? Probably the same reason I didn’t fix the squeaky noise in my vintage ’57 Chevy immediately – I thought it would work itself out. The truth is, it’s not easy to separate work from family life. Early in my career, I found myself constantly caught up in my work. I was like a kid in a candy shop, surrounded by all these amazing machines, and I lost track of time. Once, I was so caught up in a project that I nearly forgot our anniversary. I had to find a way to share my time and energy between the two things I loved most: my family and my work. In the end, finding balance is a rewarding journey as both a professional and a partner. But, had I brought this up earlier, I could have avoided some bumps along the road.” – Robert, 41, Vancouver
I wish I had emphasized the importance of prioritizing discussions about mental health much sooner.
3. Division of Responsibilities
“When my partner and I first became parents, we didn’t have a clear plan for handling parenting duties and making important decisions together. As a result, we often found ourselves overwhelmed and unsure of our roles, leading to unnecessary stress and miscommunication. I wish we had discussed this topic earlier because it would have allowed us to align our parenting philosophies, set mutual expectations, and support each other better. We assumed that we would naturally be on the same page as parents. And we were caught up in the busyness of parenthood.
Having an open and intentional conversation about parenting styles, discipline methods, and even our long-term goals for our child would have laid a solid foundation for a more supportive parenting experience. Once we did recognize the need for open communication, we started discussing our roles, expectations, and parenting goals. This shift allowed us to support each other better, share responsibilities more evenly, and ultimately brought us closer as a couple. We should have done it much sooner.” – Max, 45, Canada
4. Being The Preferred Parent
“I wish I had talked to my wife sooner about what it means to be the preferred parent. Soon after we had our first two kids, I got so absorbed in work that I didn’t realize how much stress I was leaving with her. Being the preferred parent means that whenever the child or children need anything, like playtime, mealtime, or bedtime, that parent is the one expected to take care of it. Usually that parent is even approached by the child. Mentally, I wasn’t in a good place. I was short-tempered and negligent. Ultimately, I was causing the problem, and she was too afraid to bring it up with me. We have since had the discussion and fixed the problem, but the damage is done. She says she has forgiven me but still brings it up and is always afraid of it happening again. I don’t blame her. I also developed an everlasting feeling of guilt for those months when I was doing more harm than good. I wish we’d had this conversation sooner so I would have realized that both partners need to take on the mental load of being the parent.” – Devin, 29, Georgia
5. What If We Can’t Have Kids?
“From my personal experience, discussing whether or not you want to have kids is something most couples talk about. Unfortunately in the excitement of youth and the assumption that nature will just work as intended, the conversation about, ‘What if we can’t have kids?’ becomes essential. This is a discussion that involves really how much money do you want to spend, how much invasive — and sometimes potentially humiliating — steps do you want to go through, discussing adoption, and potentially disrupting the child-free freedom that you’ve built together in those years while your peers have started having kids the natural way. In many ways this conversation is something that you should have even before you begin trying to conceive. It’s certainly a discussion you shouldn’t wait to begin having until you notice things aren’t moving the way everyone told you they would.” – James, 48, Ohio
“Back in 2011, I was running a business which, unfortunately, I had to close down. It was a very difficult time for me. Not only was I working through the admin that comes with shutting down a business, but I was also trying to keep it together and stay strong for my family. Looking back, I wish I had just told my wife sooner how difficult I was finding it, how much debt I was in, and how many mistakes I had made. I kept it to myself, trying to take it all on my shoulders and handle it alone, but I know now that if I had just come clean about it right away we would’ve been able to come up with a solution together. While I regret not speaking up about my struggles sooner than I did, from that experience we’ve learned how important that immediate communication is and have taken the steps to implement it into our lives and the lives of our children. If I had opened up sooner, we may have been in less debt at the time, or could’ve even avoided the situation completely.” – Nathan, 42, Walsall, England
7. Mental Health
“Reflecting on my journey within past relationships, I wish I had emphasized the importance of prioritizing discussions about mental health much sooner. If I were able to emphasize this, my partner and I could have created a safe space to share our struggles, support each other’s growth, and cultivate a stronger bond. It’s something I’ve made sure to focus more on these days, but definitely would have benefitted from doing sooner. That’s because nurturing your mental health is not a solo endeavor; it’s a shared commitment to building a healthier and happier life together. Start the conversation early, prioritize your mental well-being, and watch your relationship flourish.” – Corey, 32, New York
8. Love Languages
“When you’re initially dating and falling in love, just about anything your partner does is enough to make you feel good. You love the whole idea of your partner, so it can be a more one size fits all approach to showing affection. As you grow, though, as a couple and an individual, you realize that your preferences for receiving affection are more specific and unique. I’d never heard of ‘love languages’ until long after I was married, but once I did it made a lot of sense. I realized why the same things my wife and I did when we were dating and newly married didn’t really have the same effect as when we became parents, and life became more complicated. Love languages help you learn how to talk to your partner in ways that are meaningful. The sooner you can learn that about the person you love, the better.” – Case, 48, New Jersey
I was hesitant to bring up finances for fear of appearing materialistic or overly pragmatic, perhaps curtailing the romance.
“My wife and I did not communicate effectively about how we would handle childcare. We both assumed different things, and it led to a lot of confusion and arguments. My parents live close by, and had agreed to help out with caring for our son when he was born, so I thought that’s what we would do. I didn’t realize that my wife had also been talking to her sister, and a friend of hers who was unable to have children, as other options. So when the time came for us to go back to work, it was nothing but stress and disagreements. None of the options were worse or better than the others, but we didn’t start on the same page. It was a really stupid situation, looking back. And had we discussed each of our goals and priorities regarding childcare earlier and more often, if could have been completely avoided.” – John, 43, Pennsylvania
10. Individual Financial Goals
“Initially, it might seem mundane compared to the intoxicating allure of love, but money and how we handle it is one of the most consequential facets of a shared life. I was hesitant to bring up finances for fear of appearing materialistic or overly pragmatic, perhaps curtailing the romance. However, by not discussing it, we inadvertently set ourselves up for unforeseen tensions. From different spending habits to varied investment philosophies, not addressing these matters early on led to several uncomfortable situations. Since we hadn’t communicated our financial aspirations, we often found ourselves at odds with each other’s approach to spending and saving. When we finally confronted this subject, it was like lifting a veil.It allowed us to understand each other’s viewpoints better, align our financial goals, and work together towards them. Having this conversation has brought more financial harmony and less stress into our relationship. In hindsight, I wish we’d done it sooner.” – Sam, 43, California
11. Hopes And Dreams
“I’m a marriage and family therapist who works on relationship dynamics. The topic I wish my wife and I would’ve discussed sooner is our evolving hopes, dreams, and aspirations. They continuously evolve as we grow as people. And as time progresses, the landscape changes and our hopes, dreams, and aspirations change with it. One discussion is not enough. Even though we’d had an initial conversation, we never really ‘updated’ it as life got in the way. That’s what I wish we would have done sooner, or more regularly. It just wasn’t a priority. By not having the discussion, we just moved forward without growing, and we didn’t achieve our family goals as quickly as we could have.” – Chris, 38, Michigan
“My wife and I never had a single, pointed conversation about disciplining our kids. We knew we’d have to, obviously, but we didn’t know how we planned to do it. We both had ideas, based on how we were raised as kids, but we never stopped to discuss whether or not what we were thinking was the best way to raise our kids. It was a lot of learning as we went, which doesn’t really work with the consistency and structure needed to provide effective boundaries for a kid. Even if we’d started with something as simple as, ‘Are we going to use time outs?’ we would have been in better shape, and able to figure things out more quickly. Instead, we assumed rather than communicated, and for the first few years it was a really big mess.” – Josh, 40, North Carolina