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The DTR (Defining the Relationship)

When to have it? Should you have it? How to have it?

The DTRThe first few weeks (or even months) of any dating relationship can be filled with mixed emotions, and often these emotions can take us on the proverbial emotional roller coaster ride. Consider this: You’ve met someone and been out a couple of times. It’s great. Conversation is fabulous, and the chemistry is there. After a few weeks of fun and spontaneous romance, suddenly your emotions start to head downhill, getting the best of you. Do any of the following questions sound familiar? “I wonder how he/she is feeling about me.” “Where is this going?” “I think she has stronger feelings more for me than I do for her.” Perhaps the time has come to have the “talk.” Yes, I’m referring to the DTR — the defining the relationship conversation.

The DTR is the conversation that ideally establishes exactly what the relationship is; unfortunately, the DTR often can be the end of many budding romances.

Because of our own insecurities, many of us start feeling uncertain about how things are going fairly early on in a relationship. This uncertainty leads us to a “need-to-know” state of mind — ”I need to know where this relationship is heading, and I need to know now.” While they have their place, “defining-the-relationship” conversations often occur too early in a relationship. Additionally, expressing how you are feeling to the person you are dating — and not knowing how he or she will respond — can be a frightening moment of truth.

With this in mind, before deciding to broach the DTR, consider these tips:

  1. Is the timing right? Ask yourself whether it is the right time to have this conversation or if it can wait? Don’t be too quick to classify a new relationship. If given the opportunity, a relationship will define itself as two people getting to know each other. Instead of rushing to have any relationship conversation, try to enjoy your time together a little longer. If you pay attention and use your observation skills, you will have all the information you need to make an intelligent and thoughtful decision about your relationship.
  2. Have the right mindset. If you decide to move forward with the “talk,” go into it with the right mindset. The goal should be to create an atmosphere where both of you feel comfortable to share your thoughts, feelings, hopes and concerns about the relationship. Don’t make it about coming away with a “label” for your relationship, and do not pressure the other person to say they feel the same way as you do.
  3. Pick the right location. Having a serious discussion about your feelings can be intense, so select a private place where emotions can be expressed. Spontaneously initiating a relationship talk in a crowded coffee shop or over lunch probably isn’t a great idea.
  4. Be direct. Don’t ask something like, “So where do we stand in this relationship?” This will probably put your date on the spot. Chances are you’d like to go from “dating informally” to “dating exclusively.” If you feel ready to stop dating other people, this is an appropriate time to ask your partner if they are ready to do the same.
  5. Be open and receptive to all perspectives. Answers may not be a simple “Yes” or “No.” If that’s the case, don’t assume complete rejection if he or she expresses a desire to move slower than you. Be prepared to listen to your partner’s response and discuss it. In contrast, try not to be overwhelmed if he or she expresses a desire to move faster than you. A good rule of thumb is to listen and take it all in before you react.
  6. Don’t give false hope. If it’s the other person wanting to move your relationship forward — but you’re not so sure — make this clear and do not offer false hope.
  7. Just say “No” to ultimatums. Likewise, if you are the one ready to take the next step and the other person isn’t, be honest, but steer clear of being pushy and issuing ultimatums. These are guaranteed to sabotage a new relationship.
  8. Offer an opportunity to think things over. It’s not necessary to demand an answer immediately. When people feel pressure to respond, they often get flustered and find it difficult to express themselves. Suggest that you both take some time to think things over and pick up the conversation at a later date.

It is natural and necessary to define a relationship. However, proper timing, understanding and clear communication will help your talk have a more successful outcome. If it goes the way you anticipate, hopefully you will both come away confident that you are on the same page. If it doesn’t go as you had planned, take the opportunity to gain some perspective and then decide where you feel this budding (or dying) relationship is headed.