There are universal things we all like and dislike about new relationships.
Like? The possibility of meeting someone amazing on a first date and the rush of excitement and passion in the honeymoon phase.
Dislike? Having the dreaded talk where you define the relationship. How do you know when to define the relationship (DTR)? How do you know that he wants to be exclusive? And where do you begin having “the talk” without appearing needy or scaring him away?
But inevitably, you reach a point in the dating phase where you’re ready for that next step. You’re tired of the confusion of living in a perpetual state of limbo where you’re dating but aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend yet, but you also don’t want to see other people.
FYI, until you’ve explicitly sat down and defined the relationship, assume that you are not exclusive and that he is dating and potentially sleeping with other women. You are also still single, and I’d encourage you to continue dating other men. It’s healthy to keep your options open, and it stops you from getting too hung up on one guy. That way, if things don’t work out, you won’t lose any sleep.
Why is it important to define the relationship?
The obvious benefits of defining the relationship are that you end the confusion, see where you’re both at, and get on the same page. There’s also the possibility you realize you’re on very different pages, like different books in opposite sections in the library, and at least you then have clarity and can move on. The less obvious benefits of having the DTR are that you can clarify your needs and set boundaries (Little Love Step #6), which is a crucial step for any long-term relationship.
Remember that not everyone is looking for a committed, monogamous relationship. This is another reason why it’s so important to discuss your values and deal breakers early on in the dating phase so that you don’t invest a ton of time and energy into a man only to find out months later that he wants to keep things casual.
Signs he wants to define the relationship
You don’t want to have the DTR if you know that the guy in question is on a completely different page and doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you. Luckily, there are some obvious signs where a man will show you how he feels. For example, he will continue to text and call, ask you out, want to see you regularly, open up more to you, and even make future plans with you.
I always encourage women to pay attention to a man’s actions (the video) rather than his words (the audio) because words are easy to say, but his actions will tell you how he truly feels. So even if he says he wants to be exclusive, but he’s partying it up every weekend with his buddies and posting photos on his social media of him with other women, he clearly doesn’t.
Don’t get stuck in a “situationship” because you’re burying your head in the sand and pretending not to see what’s right in front of you, hoping the guy will eventually change and want to be with you. In my experience, these guys don’t change. Furthermore, high-value women don’t wait around for guys who aren’t investing in them, showing up, and being consistent.
When to define the relationship
There is no exact time frame for when to define the relationship. Why? Because everyone is different, every relationship is different, and it takes us all a different amount of time to open up. Just because your friends became exclusive after a month and have been happily married for years, it doesn’t mean your timeline will be the same.
That being said, if you are looking for a rough guideline in our Love Accelerator program, I recommend having the DTR once you’ve known each other for at least two months and spent a minimum of 10 hours together. The two to three-month mark is a solid amount of time to get to know someone, see them in various situations, and determine whether you’re compatible in the long run. Plus, it gives you time to see lots of people, explore your options, and decide that you want to invest solely in this one guy. This is what I call Little Love Step #5.
By this stage, you will probably have experienced a few key milestones together, like holding hands in public, meeting each other’s friends, and maybe even going on a small trip together. These are good signs of things progressing in the right direction, and he wants to define the relationship.
Research has proven something significant about that two to three-month period because it takes people roughly 66 days (on average) to develop and form new habits.
If you define the relationship too soon, you might end up in a relationship with someone who isn’t the right fit for you simply because you haven’t spent enough time with them.
How to define the relationship
Before I show you how to define the relationship, I want you to know that I get how scary this step is. It requires you to be vulnerable with a man you really like and want to move forward with. You know you need to have the talk, but you’re afraid that he might not be in the same place. But like I said, there should be clear signs that he wants to define the relationship too. If you haven’t seen any intent from him, then you’re not ready to have this talk. If you’ve followed the Little Love Steps, he will likely initiate the DTR with you.
1. Own what you want
You don’t need to come out and tell the guy that you want a relationship with him, but it is more than okay to own that a relationship is what you want. If you’re not the kind of woman who is happy keeping things casual and are at a point in your life where you want something real and mature with a guy who fits the future you want to build, that’s great. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed for wanting that.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where women are shamed for everything. You’re shamed for being single and not wanting the whole marriage and kids thing, and then you’re also shamed for wanting a relationship. Sometimes, there will be guys who shame you for wanting to label things and take that next step, but that’s only because they like the freedom of keeping things casual with you.
So after you’ve been talking for a couple of months and you think he’s a great guy and you’re ready to define the relationship, own what you want. Tell him that you’re in a place where you’re looking for something real and that if he’s open to that, great, and if not, then you’re probably not the best fit. This way, you’re putting the ball in his court and giving him the opportunity to commit or walk away.
2. Ask him if you should be seeing other people
Another great way to broach the DTR is to ask the guy in question if you should be seeing other people. He’ll either say, “no, I don’t want you seeing other people,” or he’ll say, “yeah, I think you should be dating other guys.” Either way, you’ll get a stronger sense of where his head is.
From here, you can clarify the situation. If he says he doesn’t think you should be seeing other people, then you can ask him if he’s dating other women. If he says no, you can ask, “does that mean we’re exclusive?” And if he says yes, then you’ve just created a boundary for commitment.
Still, if he says he thinks you should be dating other guys, you still need to clarify what he’s saying. Follow up with something like, “okay, so you have no interest in anything more exclusive here?” If he says no, then be clear with him that it’s a dealbreaker for you. Be willing to walk away.
This is a great conversation because it makes him decide what he wants. Most of the time, if everything has been going well up to this point, and he has been investing in you and consistently showing up, he won’t want you to continue seeing other guys.
3. Ask him what he wants
Another way to define the relationship is to start by saying something like, “look, I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, but I’m curious – what are you looking for from this?” If he asks what you mean, you can say, “Well, are you at a point in your life where you’re looking for a relationship?”
At this point, you should have a strong sense that he does want a relationship, but it’s important to be direct about it and gain full clarity on what he wants.
4. Don’t be afraid to lose him
The one thing you don’t want to do is have him tell you he wants to keep dating other women and then agree to this situationship where he gets all the perks of being in a relationship without any of the responsibility that comes with it.
The final thing to remember when having the DTR is to mentally prepare yourself for the possibility that it won’t go the way you want it to. If he wants to keep things casual or isn’t ready to commit, you must be okay with losing him. You have to be willing to walk away, go back to Little Love Step #3, start meeting new guys, or pursue some of your other options (if that feels right). High-value women know they have walking power and won’t hesitate to say, NEXT!
What’s after defining the relationship?
If you successfully sit down to define your relationship and are now in an exclusive relationship, congratulations!
You might be thankful now that heavy conversation is out the way, but remember that’s just the first step in a healthy, long-term relationship. Relationships require constant work, commitment, and communication to thrive. Enjoy this phase, but don’t sit back and rely on it either. Keep learning, talking, growing together, and ensuring you’re both on the same page as you align your relationship with a shared life vision (that’s what we call Little Love Step #7).
What part of defining the relationship do you struggle with the most? I’d love to hear your experiences and stories with the DTR – drop them in the comments below.