It’s one of those conversations that can be challenging, but it’s also very important: The “do you want kids?” talk. If you and the person you’re seeing have opposite visions when it comes to having a family, wouldn’t you like to know ASAP, so as to not waste either of your time? If you’re worried that bringing it up too soon might scare your partner away, . are some tips on handling the conversation gracefully—i.e., without drama or anxiety, but so you’ll actually get some answers.

Initiate the Conversation ASAP

“If the person you’re dating doesn’t want kids and you do, this could be a deal-breaker,” says couples therapist Jessica Schroeder. So, as uncomfortable as it might seem, you really can’t wait too long to raise the issue. “This does not need to be a first date conversation, but this topic should be talked about shortly after that, just to ensure you’re not on completely different pages.”

Raise the Topic Indirectly

You can bring up the kids talk indirectly by discussing siblings with your S.O. “Ask what they liked or didn’t like about growing up with the number of siblings they had,” suggests relationship expert Thomas Weeks. “For example, they might be an only child and might express that they want kids because they didn’t like growing up as an only child.” Exploring your partner’s past and sharing your own may help you decipher if they want kids without even asking them.

Don’t Lead with Expectations

If this is a premeditated conversation, be prepared to hear the exact opposite of what you’re hoping for. “Be willing to discuss and find out why they hold their beliefs. The more information you gather and the fewer expectations you have, the better the conversation will be,” says Weeks. Remember, people change their minds as they mature and have more life experiences, so try to avoid having an overblown . that you might regret later.

Be Simple and Direct

And, be prepared for the answer. “It can be a good idea to think about your response to both answers. How do you think you’ll feel if the answer is no? How do you think you’ll feel if the answer is yes? Write your responses down and take it with you if needed,” says Schroeder. “If your partner’s answer does not match what you want, it’s okay to ask questions, but try to avoid asking “why?” which can put people on the defensive. Instead, ask, “What makes you feel that way?”

 

Keep it Private

Because their response may upset you, or yours may upset them, it’s not a good idea to have this talk in public. Plus, Weeks says it’s probably wise to not discuss it on the way to an event like a dinner party—again, so neither of you are upset about a very personal topic in front of others.

Be Open-Minded But Honest

Start by stating that you care a lot about them and that you’ve been thinking about your possible future together, says dating and relationship coach Carla Romo. “Clearly state that having children is very important to you—or not important, as the case may be. Ask your partner how they feel about having children.” Approaching it this way instead of, say, “I see myself having kids with you; do you?” can lead to a more open discussion without putting on too much pressure.

Don’t Be Overly Serious

“Even if you’re having this conversation with someone you’re freshly dating, who’s to say you can’t have a normal conversation about the things you want in life?” says relationship coach Jenna Ponaman. “Just as we speak about our career goals, fitness goals, etc., family goals don’t have to be treated any differently.”

Don’t Take Their Response Personally

It can feel hard not to, but keep in mind that your partner may have feelings about this topic that they have yet to sort out. “This could be a great way to grow together through vulnerability if your partner is having trouble with this topic. And if you and your partner are on the same page, you can mutually discuss further what that looks like for your future, which is a win-win,” says Romo.

Bring it up Organically

Say you’re watching TV together and a character has a name you might like for a baby; you could say something like, “Wouldn’t that be a great name for a boy/girl?” says Caleb Backe, an emotional wellness expert. “Take note of your partner’s . in order to determine their stance on the subject.”

Have the Talk When You’re Around Kids

If you’re out and about, seeing children in the street or in a store, consider saying something like, “Wouldn’t that toy be great for a little boy?” or “I can’t wait to dress my daughter in all the cutest clothes.” This is a way of suggesting or reminding your partner that you’re interested in having children, says Backe.

Speak Openly and From the Heart

Consider saying something very clear, like: “This is what I want in my future—whether its with you or someone else. What is it you’re looking for in your future at this time?” One of two things will happen, says Ponaman. “Your partner will be excited and say they’re totally on board, or they may say they’re not so sure they want the same thing. And remember that ultimately, nobody is ever completely sure of the things they want in the future, because nobody really knows what they’ll be like during that time.”