Are you tired of waking up, day after day, not knowing if you’re going to be in a relationship at the end of that day? Fret no longer. This guide will break down how to “define the relationship” and leave no doubt as to where you stand with your significant other.
1. Think carefully about whether you’re ready for a relationship
It might not be the right time. You may have just gotten out of a long-term relationship and aren’t ready to commit again, or maybe you spend all your free time with friends who won’t leave you alone long enough for a date. Or maybe there isn’t anyone around that catches your eye. Either way, if it’s been a while since you’ve last had a relationship, take some time to get used to being single before jumping back into the dating scene.
2 Know what you want
The first and most important step in any new relationship is to figure out what you want. You can’t find the right partner if you don’t know what a right partner would look like. This is hard enough for some people to do on their own — usually, it takes a lot of therapy sessions and self-reflection to figure out what you really need from a relationship and how to communicate that.
3. Consider why you might be hesitant to define things
The two of you, along with your friends and family, might not be on the same page about how serious your relationship is right now. This can cause confusion — “Are we just hooking up or are we in a committed relationship?” — and it can make it hard to figure out what to do next.
Maybe you’re not sure if you want a committed relationship at all. Maybe you’re still healing from a breakup that involved getting cheated on or lied to, and you don’t know if you can trust this new person or anyone ever again. Maybe the two of you have different ideas about what constitutes a casual hang-out versus an actual date.
If this sounds like you, take a minute and ask yourself why exactly you don’t want to define things right now. Maybe it’s because you’re afraid they’ll say they want something more serious than what you do, in which case communicating openly is the only way to figure out if your goals align.
4. Listen to each other with an open mind.
Be willing to hear what the other person has to say without reacting defensively or trying to win an argument. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they say, but it does mean putting aside your ego for the sake of the conversation.
5. Be honest about what you want and need.
If you don’t feel like you’re getting what you need in your relationship, then it’s time to let them know. If you’re not getting enough support from your partner, then it’s time to explain why that matters (and why it doesn’t make you “needy”). That way, they’ll understand where you’re coming from and be more likely to meet your needs in the future.
6.You can actually plan ahead and set goals for your future.
You can make plans with each other that actually involve making reservations at restaurants and buying tickets to concerts well in advance.
7. Don’t blame or criticize the other person.
If you’ve been dating someone for a bit and want to move forward, blaming them or insinuating they’ve done something wrong is not the way to go. You don’t need to know why they don’t want to commit — just that they don’t.
So instead of asking “why” (which will come off as accusatory), ask “what.” What do they want in their life? What is important to them right now? And then listen.
8. Mirror their language.
If they call themselves single, don’t say “you’re in a relationship.” Ask them what they mean by that. If someone says they aren’t looking for something serious, don’t assume you can change their mind. You can ask if they’d like something more serious eventually, but don’t push it if they don’t say yes.
9. Watch their actions.
Do they introduce you to friends and family? Do they include you in events and milestones in their life? Do they frequently check up on you and ask about your day? Those are signs that someone is interested in more than a fling. If not, then maybe it’s time to reconsider the relationship.
10. Do be ready for some tough talk.
This is a chance to air any grievances or concerns about each other’s behavior. Make sure that you’re sensitive when you’re communicating these problems — and be prepared to hear some sensitive feedback from them as well.
11. Make sure you’re both on the same page.
It’s not uncommon for one partner in a casual relationship to want more — but if you’re on different pages, you may need to have a more difficult conversation. If you’ve been casually seeing each other for a few months and can sense it becoming more serious, it should be brought up with one another.
12. Be upfront about exclusivity.
You don’t need to play games when it comes to relationships, so explain how you feel and what you want early on in the conversation. Be honest about your expectations and hopes for the future of your relationship — this isn’t the time to hold back!
See, ultimately, establishing the direction of a relationship doesn’t have much to do with what you say or how often you say it. It’s about making sure people know where they stand and are comfortable with where they are. Communication is all about sending and receiving signals—you may not have any control over whether the signals your partner sends you strike the right nerve, but you do have some power over the signals you yourself send.