There comes a certain point in dating, where it feels like a conversation needs to happen. You've been seeing each other a while, it feels like it could be getting serious, and suddenly you wonder, "What is this?". You get to a place where you want to define the relationship. Sometimes, however, it can be a tricky conversation, so it's important to proceed thoughtfully.
“There are few sentences that come with as much baggage as ‘we need to talk’ in modern dating,” Demetrius Figueroa, founder of the dating blog and podcast Tao of Indifference, tells Bustle. “If they’re already a bit gun-shy about defining the relationship, hearing that will only make them more anxious. You’ll get better results by saying something like ‘Hey, can we talk about where we see things going between us?’”
But of course, before you actually define the relationship it's important to make sure that you're very certain what you want from this person and that you're ready to hear what they want from you, too. Doing it too early can feel rushed and confusing, but waiting too long can leave you feeling frustrated and in the dark. How can you get the balance?
Here's what you need to keep in mind about defining the relationship, according to relationship experts.
Make It A Conversation, Not An Announcement
Just announcing that you want things to get serious can be startling — and start the conversation on the wrong foot — so think of it as a back-and-forth conversation.
"You should be upfront about what you’re looking for, but leave room for conversation,” Figueroa says. “It’s one thing to say ‘We’re going to be in a relationship, and it’s going to be like this’ and it’s another to say ‘This is the kind of relationship I want. What do you think?’”
It Can Be Scary
Sometimes, the conversation goes deep, so don't be afraid to put yourself out there. "People are increasingly terrified to have the relationship conversation because vulnerability is scary," Nicole Richardson, LPC-S, LMFT, tells Bustle. You might have to really honest about how much you care about this person and how much you want it to work, so prepare to lay things out on the table.
You Shouldn't Have To Live In Limbo
If you feel like it's important to define the relationship, you deserve to know where they see this heading. If you ask them about it and they're vague or ignore how you're feeling, it's time to rethink things.
"When not knowing where you stand becomes hurtful, it is important to talk about where the relationship is going," Richardson says. "If you don’t, resentment builds and you often find yourself pulling away or arguing about things you are really upset about." If they really won't give you an answer, it may not be the right person for you.
There's No Need To Rush It
There's no a perfect time to DTR. In fact, it's more about quality time you've spent together and how much you've bonded, rather than just being about how long you've been hanging out.
"Whether it’s pillow talk, dinner conversation or time on the couch while watching TV, give yourselves plenty of time to talk about what you think and how things are going," Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences, tells Bustle. Everyone moves at their own pace, so you don't need to rush into anything.
You Shouldn't Do It Because You Feel Obligated To
If the person you're seeing wants to DTR, don't feel like you have to say yes. Sometimes, especially for women, it can feel like there's a pressure to be in a relationship whenever one presents itself, but that's just not the case. If you're not feeling it, be honest with them. You don't have to commit just because you've been hanging out a long time — there are other important factors at play.
"Finding someone to commit to is a mix of things such as intimacy, passion, love but also a share of life goals and values. Things need to work in real life,” sexologist and relationship expert Dr. Nikki Goldstein tells Bustle.
You Might Not Get The Answer You're Looking For
Even if you think it's obvious that the other person is on the same page as you, you might find out otherwise.
“In the beginning, relationships are like a trial run and sometimes they just don't work out,” executive editor and founder of Cupid's Pulse Lori Bizzoco tells Bustle. That's OK. If they aren't as into you as you are to them, you can bow out and find someone who is.
Knowing when to define the relationship isn't always easy, but it all comes down to you and how you're feeling about this person. If you feel like you need to know if you're on the same page, take the leap and start the conversation. It may not be easy, but it always helps to know where you stand.