When To Have The 'Define The Relationship' Talk (And Why It's So Important)

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Dating Advice For When To DTR (Define The Relationship) & Talk About Commitment

Are you wondering if the person you're dating is ready for an exclusive commitment with you? It may be time to define your relationship (DTR).

With online sites and dating apps, there are so many nuances with modern-day dating that it’s hard to know when to DTR.

RELATED: How To Bring Up The DTR Chat With Your Guy, Step-By-Step

There's chatting online, which moves to text or phone calls, casual dating which can last a few dates or months, which develops into an exclusive relationship, and then finally comes a defined BF/GF status.

And you keep asking yourself, "Are we dating, exclusively?"

Exhausting, isn’t it?

With the multitude of dating advice available now, everyone has a different approach to dating — some put all of their eggs in one basket, while others date multiple people at a time. It can be confusing which relationship stage you're in unless you talk about it directly.

An exclusivity talk or a conversation about commitment will ensure that you’re both on the same page.

Nothing feels worse than to invest your valuable time and energy into an emotionally unavailable partner.

Defining the relationship is going to be unique to each couple because it depends on what each partner is looking for and whether having an official title is important. The only rule is to never assume exclusivity, even when you're sexually active.

Forming healthy relationships take vulnerability. So, if you're ready to love and commit, don't let the fear of rejection hold you back. One person has to be brave and show their cards first in order to move forward.

Keeping up your self-protective wall for too long can stunt the growth of the relationship.

When you figure out that you're both equally invested in creating a longer-term relationship, this creates a sense of security that allows each partner to safely open up, be more expressive, and develop a stronger bond.

How do you know when to DTR?

It's easy to know where you stand when a confident suitor tells you their intentions straight up. However, too often, each partner in a relationship is anxiously wondering how the other person feels and whether they are moving forward.

Plus, our emotions and level of interest do not always develop at the same speed. The whole experience can be nerve-wracking.

If the person you're seeing wants to get more serious:

1. They make future plans with you a few weeks or months in advance.

2. They introduce you to their friends and ask to meet yours.

3. They make you a priority when life gets busy.

On the contrary, there’s a good chance your partner may not be ready to commit if:

1. They constantly blow off plans or need to reschedule

2. They are secretive with their phone.

3. They still actively log in to dating apps.

4. They haven’t introduced you to their network.

5. They use sex to gain intimacy instead of intimacy to gain sex.

If these ring true, then there’s a good chance that they are not ready for a commitment.

However, the best way to know is to get out of the dark and start communicating.

RELATED: How To Know If He'll Ever Take Your Relationship Seriously

How should you bring up a conversation about defining the relationship?

The words "exclusivity" and "commitment" can be intimidating, especially for men.

If you've been waiting for him to bring up a define the relationship talk for a while, and you're unclear about what he wants, try starting a discussion without using these "triggering" words:

  • "How do you think our relationship is going?"
  • "I’m having a lot of fun and am wondering how you’re feeling. How do you see us moving forward?"
  • "How do you feel about us only seeing each other?"

Notice that these questions are open-ended, so they are meant to be conversation starters. Give him a chance to elaborate. Though it’s scary to be vulnerable with the possibility of rejection, it’s how you progress forward together.

What if you want to keep dating this person, but you're the one who's not ready for an exclusive relationship?

When my husband first asked me to be his girlfriend, I actually turned him down! Though there were sparks when we first met, I had recently gotten out of a long-term relationship and was enjoying casual dating.

The way I turned him down was key because I still wanted to continue seeing him, I just wasn’t ready for an exclusive commitment.

I told him that despite not being ready for a girlfriend title, I saw the long-term potential and listed off many of his qualities that I found endearing.

In fact, I was evaluating him as husband material and, so far, he was checking off all of my core values and none of my deal breakers.

He understood that I needed to move a little slower, so we continued to check in with each other along the way about how our feelings were progressing.

Within a few months, it became very clear that he was the one for me.

Your relationship isn’t doomed if one person is not ready to commit.

If you’re dating with intent and truly looking for a relationship, then it’s important to be direct with your partner and let them know that you’re taking this seriously, you’re invested in getting to know them further, and that you’ll be honest if you don’t see it going further.

You both just need to communicate openly and honestly about where you are, emotionally.

If your feelings are lagging behind, a great way to boost attachment and emotional intimacy is to have conversations about core values.

Stop skimming the surface and dig a little deeper to talk about career aspirations and life goals, whether you want children and the lifestyle you envision living, religion, spirituality, and family values.

Pay attention to things such as money management, sex drive, and complementary or conflicting energy levels. All of these issues impact satisfaction and the success of a long-term relationship.

If you’re just having fun and don’t see a future together, this is the time to end things before the person you’re seeing puts in more effort and energy.

Should you only bring up the relationship talk if you know 100 percent that you want to get serious?

I don't recommend bringing up an exclusivity conversation if you're not ready to commit.

An exception to this is when you think the person you're dating is becoming too attached or moving more quickly than you're comfortable with.

If this is the case, don't feel pressured to rush into anything. You can gently but directly tell your partner that you're enjoying getting to them, but you're not ready to define the relationship.

If your partner is willing to be patient without an exclusive BF/GF title, then it’s your duty to be honest, as your feelings do or do not develop.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Get A Guy To 'DTR' & Become Your Boyfriend (Without Making The First Move)

Samantha Burns a Licensed Counselor and Dating Coach, and the love guru behind Love Successfully. Sign up to receive Samantha’s Free worksheet “Reframing My Negative Thoughts About Love.”

This article was originally published at Love Successfully. Reprinted with permission from the author.