During these first weeks of budding romance, you’ve loved discovering every new attribute and intriguing quirk about the person you’re dating. But something less-than-lovable about your significant other has just caught your attention, and you’re worried about what this means for your relationship.

Perhaps she ragged on your friends or he’s consistently late. Perhaps she prioritized a night at the Dragon’s Keep over dinner with your parents, or he kicked a small dog.

You’re not certain it’s a deal breaker, but you’re afraid it’s a sign of deeper problems. You can’t stop thinking about it, and you’re torn between two options: suppress your doubts and proceed merrily toward eternal bliss, or confront him or her about it and risk a contentious end to your relationship. You’re not really excited about either option.

Never fear! There is a third choice! I like to refer to it as open communication!

Communication is a novelty in which two people use words to verbalize their feelings and build an understanding about how they will improve a relationship. You can – and should – communicate with a prospective mate at all stages of your relationship about anything you think is important.

Talking things out will not only put them in perspective, it will also provide your relationship a powerful opportunity to grow. When you try to solve every problem internally or hold your worries in, they naturally seem bigger than they really are. It can be easy to convince yourself that the other person cares more about this one issue than they do about you. You might think you have to carry your burden alone if you want to maintain your relationship. That’s not a pleasant state of mind to be in, and the only way to get out of it is to give the other person a chance to help you solve the problem.

The sage Mr. Rogers put it like this: “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

When you communicate, you never have to endure one-sided freaking out. You can figure things out together when you recognize that you are both united for a mutual purpose: learning and caring about each other, and seeing if this could go on indefinitely.

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When you start the conversation, both you and your significant other will breathe more easily once you establish that your relationship is more important than any of the small issues confronting it. One way to come to this agreement is to let the other person know that you care enough about him or her that you are willing to continue this discussion until both of you come away feeling happy with the outcome. Neither of you should have to leave a conversation feeling like you conceded more or that the other person won. Commit to brainstorm until you come up with a solution that both solves the problem and improves the relationship.

It’s important to have this kind of conversation early on, and certainly before you are married. Talking openly will either set a pattern of healthy communication that continues on into the eternities, or it will help you realize that the two of you really shouldn’t be together after all. You might find that the other person is not willing to talk things out or shift priorities. Or you might find that some of the issues confronting you actually are more important than being with each other. Either way, you will come away knowing that you gave the other person the best — and most honest — version of yourself you had to offer.

Stay tuned for next week’s column in which I’ll explain how you can prepare to hold an important conversation with someone you care about.

Julia Shumway grew up in Centerville, Utah and is currently studying Maternal and Child Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. Her column, “Pairing Off,” explores the intricacies of the Mormon YSA experience. She’d love for you to contact her with your dating stories, questions and complaints at jshumway@mormontimes.com.

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