It's not always easy or even that fun to have a "so, what is this?" conversation when it comes to dating. But there usually comes a time when it's a good idea to clarify what's going on between you and a person you're seeing, whether you want to solidify a commitment of some kind, or keep things casual. Figuring out how to approach a relationship talk might feel awkward at first, but it really doesn't have to be, as long as you go in knowing what you want to talk about, and what it is you want.
"First things first, when you broach the topic of 'what you are,' consider what you want," psychotherapist Darcie Czajkowski, MA, JD, associate marriage and family therapist with Coherence Associates, tells Bustle. "Do you want to be in a relationship with this person, or are you just lonely? Are you confident that you have enough information to commit to being in a relationship with this person?"
Taking time to really get to know the person and figure out what you want is key, and the process of knowing what is right for you is different for everyone.
Czajkowski says that for some people who have been dating for a really long time, they might know fairly early on that a person has the qualities they are looking for, whereas someone who is newer to dating and relationships might be wise to take more time to explore what they like and don’t like in a potential partner.
"Keep in mind that once you get into a relationship, it’s much harder to get out," Czajkowski says. "So if you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to take extra time to evaluate what you want before bringing up the 'what are we' conversation."
But if you do determine that you want to be committed to this person, Czajkowski, says, then consider your timing when it comes to broaching the topic. You don’t want someone to feel ambushed, nor do you want to start with “we need to talk,” which is a surefire way to put a person on edge.
"One approach is to raise the topic in a casual setting, like on a walk. It relieves some of the tension to have something else to do while talking," Czajkowski says. After sharing what you want, check in with the person on whether they need time to process.
"Some people are external processors, which means that they process by talking," Czajkowski says. "However, others are internal processors, which means that they need time to themselves to think through what was said and make sense of it. If your person is the latter, you’ll want to give them the same space to process."
But of course, be sure to determine a specific time to revisit the topic, so you’re not left waiting, wondering, and fearing you messed things up. How long to wait is entirely subjective. It varies person-to-person, and couple-to-couple.
As for what you might specifically want to say when you have "the talk," psychotherapist Dr. Tina B. Tessina PhD, author of Dr. Romance's Guide To Finding Love Today tells Bustle that the more casual, the better.
"Start by saying you’re really enjoying the time you spend together. Ask if [they are] having a good time, too, then ask 'I’m thinking I don’t really want to date anyone else. How do you feel?'”
If you get agreement on that, Tessina says, you’ve made the first step toward a commitment and that’s a good place to end the first talk.
"If you don’t get agreement about only dating each other, don’t panic," Tessina says. "Maybe your date just needs to think about it. But do understand that you’re not exclusive."
Tessina says that it's best not to bring any of it up until you’ve spend a significant amount of time together, after you've been at least dating regularly for a month or two. No need to rush into anything! If it's right, it will be right.
While "the talk" might feel intimidating, know that it feels that way for everyone, but communicating only gets you closer to what you want and deserve in a partnership.