There are lots of emotions that go into a budding romance. Joy is one of them, of course. Perhaps a bit of nervousness as you wonder if someone that awesome could really fall for little ol' you. But as your connection and affection grow, you'll likely find yourself facing a whole new set of emotions that may or may not include insecurity, self-doubt, and soul-crushing anxiety. And it's probably because you're wondering if the time has come to have a define the relationship talk.
Perhaps I exaggerated just a tad, but let's be honest: telling the object of your affection that you want to make things official can definitely be enough to give your heart rate a boost. Is it too soon? Do you even know them enough to be sure if you want to be their partner? Do they actually like you a lot, or are they just into the fact that you're a sex deity? It's no wonder that so many people hang out in that gray area for so long before having The Talk.
I'll be the first to admit that making things official is not a strong suit of mine; my current boyfriend and I spent about a year in that awful gray area before I finally got fed up and told him we needed to make things official already. Luckily for us, it ended up turning into a great long-term relationship. But looking back, there were plenty of times when one of us should have said, "This is ridiculous. Let's be boyfriend and girlfriend, yeah?"
Many people never feel a need to DTR, but if you're someone who needs to put a label on something for it to really be official, then you can eliminate a lot of your worry by being able to identify some signs that it's time to move beyond the "it's complicated" stage. Don't be like two-years-ago me — check out these ways you know it's time to define the relationship, then just suck it up and have that awkward talk already.
1. You Frequently Display PDA
Perhaps you're those people that enjoy sticking your tongues down each other's throats on the train, or maybe you just enjoy holding hands while walking down the street. Either way, PDA is a non-verbal way of saying, "I am the one who gets to kiss this person, and I'm not afraid to show it." Making out in a bar one night might not mean anything, but if you two are showing off your adoration for each other on a regular basis, then it's probably time to just call a relationship a relationship. Of course, if one of you isn't into public displays of affection, it might not be any cause for alarm — a survey of 2,000 people by MSN revealed that up to 25 percent of us aren't comfortable canoodling in public, so a lack of a kiss from the person you're with doesn't necessarily mean the kiss of death for your potential relationship.
2. You've Given Each Other Pet Names
Don't get me wrong — I've received numerous creepy messages from internet strangers calling me "babe," and I'm definitely not dating them. That said, when you've been seeing someone for a while and suddenly start using cutesy names around each other, it might mean that things are ready to progress to the next level.
In fact, Pepper Schwartz, who teaches sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle, discovered that about 76 percent of people who consider themselves to be in "happy relationships" have a special nickname for their partners. Pay special attention if the pet name you receive is clearly personalized just for you — it means that the person you're with is paying attention to a specific aspect of your personality, and that's always a good sign that they want to make things a bit more serious.
3. You Leave A Lot Of Stuff At Each Other's Houses
Having five outfits, a toothbrush, and an extra bottle of shampoo at your not-partner's house doesn't always mean that you're on the cusp of making things official, but it usually does. Whether consciously or unconsciously, many of us leave our things at the home of the person we're dating to have an excuse to see them again, to mark our territory, or simply because we're there so often that it would be silly not to have half our stuff there. Once you find yourselves unable to keep track of whose toiletries are at which house, it's probably time to just suck it up and make your relationship the real deal.
4. Neither Of You Are Interested In Seeing Anyone Else
Plenty of people avoid getting into a "real" relationship because that instantly makes hooking up with other sexy people a no-no. I'm not saying that you should settle for the person you're seeing because there's just no one else around you that seems particularly bangable, but if you both start to realize that you only have eyes and sexual urges for each other, it's a big sign that it's time to kick all those other unworthy prospects to the curb and make things serious with the one that you want.
5. You Refer To Them As Your Girlfriend Or Boyfriend When Talking To Other People
When you're just hooking up, it's easy to just introduce your fling by saying that they're your friend. Eventually, though, you'll start realizing that the word "friend" just isn't cutting it anymore. They're more than that to you. In fact, they're basically your boyfriend or girlfriend, even if you haven't really made it official yet, so what's the harm in just referring to them as such when you mention them to other people you know? If you find these thoughts running through your head (and you're pretty sure your not-yet-S.O. has them running through their head, too), it's time to eliminate the gray area and make your "kind-of-partner" your real partner.
6. You Can Both See A Future With Each Other
Maybe it's the "'til death do us part" future, or maybe it's the "until we graduate and then we'll see what happens" future. So long as you both find yourself wanting to be together romantically for a long period of time, why not just make things official? After all, if you believe you might want to marry this person someday, being their partner is one of the first steps in getting there.
7. Everyone Around You Already Assumes You're A Couple
I know, I know: "Who cares what everyone else thinks?" However, when virtually everyone you know already assumes that you two are in a bona fide relationship, it might be good to pay attention. They're probably noticing the connection you have, and if that chemistry has been there for a long time, maybe it's time to give some weight to what everyone else is saying and D that R.
8. You Spend More Time Together Than Apart
When you first meet someone you really, really like, it's normal to basically pee your pants with the anticipation of seeing them again (or at least, that's what I tell myself). When both of you start acting on those urges and find yourselves spending all your time together, you might have to admit to yourselves that you fit really well together. Running errands or doing other typically "boring" activities together is a particularly strong sign that what you have isn't just something casual, and you should take advantage of that by sealing the deal.
9. You Have *Those* Kinds Of Pictures Together On Social Media
Don't even pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about. Everyone and their technologically-inept mother can tell the difference between a picture where your friend has their arm around you and a picture where your "friend" has their arm around you. If both of you are totally fine with posting and being tagged in each other's pictures that suggest you two are an item, just admit it: you two are basically a couple already, and it's time you both grew some gonads and set that relationship in stone... or just on your Facebook profile.
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.
Images: Farhad Sadykov/Flickr; Giphy (9)