Here's When A Grown-Ass Woman Defines The Relationship
by Emma McGowan
Portrait of a carefree young couple standing in each other's arms at home and laughing
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Dating in 2017 is hella ambiguous. Our generation has done a great job of throwing most hard and fast dating rules out the window. These days, it’s pretty much up to you whether you want to wait one month, one week, or one hour to jump into bed with someone. We’re spoiled for choice! But while this approach to dating is undoubtedly freeing, it also makes it hard to figure out when to define the relationship.

Define the relationshipusually means deciding to be monogamous with someone, but these days monogamy isn’t the only option. Marriage is optional; polyamory is a thing; and open relationships are slowly moving out of the shadows. In this new understanding of different relationship possibilities, determining the relationship means having a conversation about your expectations for the future — and how your love interest fits into that. Do you want to be monogamous? Do you want an open relationship? Do you want more of an official commitment than you’re currently getting? It’s a complicated situation — and it can be really scary.

"People are increasingly terrified to have the relationship conversation because vulnerability is scary," Nicole Richardson, LPC-S, LMFT, tells Bustle. "In the digital age, it is becoming increasingly difficult to be open, sincere and vulnerable. We don’t want to put ourselves out there unless we are sure the other person will reciprocate our feelings."

But any grown-ass woman who's had a romantic partner knows that you have to push through the fear and have that DTR conversation at some point. And anyone who’s agonized over the conversation also knows that the fear is usually way worse than the reality of just, you know, being a grownup and talking about it. So with that in mind, here are seven moments when you know it’s definitely time to DTR.


When You Realize You’re Expecting More Than They’re Giving

Find yourself getting mad when they don’t respond to your texts right away? Frustrated that they don’t seem to be able to actually plan a date? Wish they’d spend the night? Sorry, boo: You caught feelings. When you find that you’re expecting more from a casual relationship than they’re currently providing, that’s a really good sign that it’s time to DTR.

Keep in mind in this situation that your love interest may not be responding the way you want for one of two reasons: 1) they don’t want more or, 2) they do want more but don’t want to scare you off. You can’t know which it is until you ask.


When Not Knowing Starts To Hurt

"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."


When You Slip And Call Them Your “Boyfriend” Or “Girlfriend”

Super embarrassing, right? You “accidentally” introduced them as your “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” but let’s be real: It wasn’t really an accident. Take this opportunity to turn an awkward situation into the DTR conversation you know you both have been avoiding.


When You Realize You’re Already Acting Like A Couple

You hang out at least three times a week. Your parents ask about them. You’re talking about going on vacation together. Even if you haven’t explicitly said it yet, y’all are a couple. It’s time to DTR and make it official, for everyone’s sake.


When It Just Feels… Right

Some relationships have a magical moment where you both come to the exact same point at the exact same time. When you look at a person and say, “I only want you,” and they say, “Me too.” It’s obnoxious, but this is one of those times when the cliche of “when you know, you know” is true.

"If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re happy in your relationship, and just want it to be clear where your partner wants to go with things, that’s a perfect time to define the relationship," Figueroa says. "If you feel like you know what you want, and you both seem to be on the same page, that’s also a good time to define the relationship."


When They Want You To Meet Their Friends

Meeting friends takes a relationship out of casual territory and into getting serious right quick. If they want you to meet their friends, that’s them signaling that they want to take things to the next level. If that’s something you’re into, awesome! But if not? It’s about to get weird. Either way, this is a situation where you absolutely need to have the DTR conversation.


When Netflix And Chill Becomes More “Netflix” Than “Chill”

When those Netflix and chill situations become about actually watching a movie (and probably cuddling) and not just about sex, the time for euphemism is over. Have that DTR conversation, before things get too weird.

To completely bastardize a famous saying, with great freedom comes great responsibility. And it’s your responsibility, fully functioning human adult, to have relationship conversations, even when it’s awkward AF. Go ahead. You can do it. DTR.