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When To Bring ‘It’ Up: Defining the Relationship

Nearly every Hollywood romantic comedy hinges on a dramatic moment when a couple finally must “define the relationship.” Imagine the scene where one lover boards an airplane intending to leave the other forever — only to remain standing on the tarmac as the plane takes off. “I couldn’t leave,” the fellow coos. “We were meant to be together.”

In real life, however, endings usually are not quite so predictable—and that’s where “the talk” comes in. The define-the-relationship discussion involves questions such as, “Are we ‘just friends’ or more than that? Are we dating exclusively or is our relationship just casual? What exactly is the level of our commitment to each other?”

Having this kind of discussion can seem risky because we don’t want to appear pushy and scare off the other person. If you have begun to feel strongly about the individual you are dating, asking if he or she shares your feelings can be a frightening moment of truth. Ponder these tips:

Broach the issue clearly and forthrightly.
It’s probably too vague to ask, “So where do we stand in this relationship?” And it might put your date on the spot. Be as direct as possible. Chances are you want to know if you’ve crossed the boundary from “going out informally” to “dating exclusively.” If you feel ready to stop dating other people, that is an appropriate time to ask if your partner is ready to do the same.

Ask in the right place.
Probing each other’s feelings can be intense, so be sensitive about when and where you talk. Pick a private place where emotions can be expressed without being on public display. Initiating a relationship talk in a crowded coffee shop, or at lunch when she has to go back to work, probably isn’t the best idea.

Talk it over, but don’t debate.
The answer may not be a simple yes or no. If that’s the case, don’t assume complete rejection. Be prepared to listen to your partner’s response and to discuss it. However, avoid getting into a debate. If you find yourself arguing for more than your partner is ready to give, you are pushing too hard.

Don’t demand an immediate answer.
Sometimes when people feel pressure to respond, they get flustered. Their mind and emotions start spinning too fast for words to make sense. Take the pressure off by suggesting some time to think it over and a follow-up discussion.

Defining a relationship is a natural and necessary part of moving forward in a relationship—or deciding not to. Sensitivity, understanding, and proper timing will make your talk productive.

Where are you on the path to love? Read on for similar articles in our Stages of Love road map!