THE DREADED "DTR" TALK!
"What are are?" otherwise known as "DTR" (Defining The Relationship) is the infamous rite of passage for couples to determine where they stand and what their expectations are going forward. I believe "UGH" is the appropriate term to use here. Why must the important conversations in life be the most difficult? We know the initiation of "the talk" (if you like) can feel incredibly awkward and induce anxiety; concerns surrounding rejection and putting yourself into a position of vulnerability will always be afloat in the mind. So how do we navigate this stressful yet necessary situation?
Oftentimes when I was single (wow! I'm not single anymore, what the f***?!) I'd find myself dodging this dreaded question like Neo dodging bullets from The Matrix. Consequently I'd get myself into a few almost-relationship-more-situationship type arrangements which were lovely, confusing, frustrating, and pretty short-lived because of that. I'd convince myself that I could be someone who was able to live with the ambiguity, "go with the flow", and not worry about it... but this facade only magnified the reality, the fact that I'm someone with zero chill and massively overthinks — there was no chance of the plan going to go down the way I envisioned. Basically, dancing around the undefined relationship is a quick way of having no relationship at all. It turns out, labels do help and DTR'ing is an important step, especially if you're after something monogamous, meaningful, and long term.
I admit, I find the labels "boyfriend & girlfriend" quite cringey and juvenile, it's like I've gone back in time to secondary school days; and whilst we're on the subject, sliding into a relationship was so much easier back then, I don't recall having to utter those words: What. Are. We. — when and why did it suddenly get so tough? In this post, I've decided to address two key questions that always crop up around the subject of DTR... When should you define the relationship? As you may or may not know, I recently became "official" with Ed last week. We've been dating for near enough five months, and yes, I was the one who initiated the discussion. I must say, the way I dropped it was ridiculously casual — I was chilling horizontally on his sofa and as he came over to give me a long hug, I came out with "We're a couple right?" to which he responded "Yeah! Yeah we definitely are!" — and that was that! 😂 I would usually feel way more apprehensive about bringing it up but actually with Ed, he's always made communication and being open very easy; mainly down to the fact that he's a great listener and equally as transparent. In terms of the timeframe on when to define the relationship, well there's various sources out there that say "2-3 months" or "around 3-4 months" etc. In my opinion you don't have to hit a certain number dates or hit a specific milestone, it's really about feeling it out and knowing your partner is showing up the way you need them to to feel safe. I find setting a "deadline" applies pressure on yourself and the other person, though, it's crucial to get to know and spend enough time with that person to see if you want to be with them for a longer period — if your logic and emotions tell you the person is right for you, I'd say it's an ideal time to bring it up. A key takeaway for me is that it'll be obvious when things have been progressing in the right direction (ie. regular date nights, staying over for the weekend, planning for the future, family and friends know about or have met you, discussing big topics like kids or marriage, etc), and you'll just "know" through intuition. If this the case then "the talk" is simply confirmation that you're both on the same page. How to have "the talk"? Well first of all, please don't have this conversation via text! Sure, it's tempting and sounds less painful but this form of communication is too ambiguous for this kind of subject — there's no tone, no facial expressions, it doesn't have the same effect as doing it face-to-face. Besides, discussing these things in person will slowly ease you into vulnerability which is vital if you're looking to build a strong relationship. Secondly, the talk shouldn't be too heavy, my view is that it should be approached when you're both in a comfortable, relaxed environment; for example, when you're in bed having pillow talk, in the kitchen fixing up a meal, or on the sofa cuddling. And if I hadn't straight up asked Ed "We're a couple right?" then I probably would have opened the conversation with "I really enjoy spending time with you, I feel like this is moving towards something long term, what do you think?" or "You know, we've been seeing each other since May, I feel like we're past the dating stage at this point, do you feel the same?" — don't beat it around the bush or dish out some monologue, you want to keep it positive, light hearted, to the point as well as give them a chance to express their thoughts/feelings. Finally, don't let your ego get too involved in this process. We tend to worry about being the person initiating the conversation but really it doesn't matter who brings it up first — just because you're opening the discussion, it doesn't necessarily mean your feelings are stronger. Rather, focus on how you feel and what you want, and be open to the idea that it's fine if the other person doesn't reciprocate those feelings. If that's the case then you've got enough information to help you take the next step that is best for you. Whatever you do, don't settle.
If someone wants you, nothing will keep them away, but if they don’t want you, nothing will make them stay.
If you've read this and are constantly wondering whether it's time to DTR, then this is your sign! Don't be intimidated, you have every right to ensure you're getting what you want and need out of a relationship. Once you've plucked up the courage to have this difficult conversation, it'll become easier to tackle other important relationship chats in the future. Good luck! x