It’s officially Fall! The start of the colder seasons means a lot of different things to different people. As a relatively basic woman in her mid-twenties (it’s fine, I’ll admit it), it means I get to break out my chunky boots, fuzzy sweaters, and start shamelessly drinking pumpkin-spice lattes on the regular. When it comes to all our singles out there though, it can mean a whole lot more.
Summer was, for many of you, the perfect excuse to let loose (if that’s your vibe) and experiment with dating. That may have lead you to a summer fling, and as we creep closer to the end of September, you might be reevaluating what to do next. There’s this unspoken rule that if you start dating someone in the summer, it’s usually pretty casual. Now that summer is officially over, if you’re still together you’re probably thinking about having the talk. You know the one… it’s time to define the relationship, or DTR if you will.
Now, something as easy as having a discussion about what you mean to each other has become all kinds of confusing, especially in 2021. Words have unspoken meanings, things get lost in translation, and it can sometimes lead to a big ole mess. So I’m breaking down the most important things to touch on when you DTR.
Your Pre-DTR Checklist
First things first, check in with yourself before you launch into this chat. You don’t want to dive headfirst into a conversation if you’re not even sure what you want out. Here’s a good pre-DTR checklist of questions to go over in your head:
- Be real with yourself, where do you want this relationship to go?
- Are you prepared for how you might feel if they don’t want the same things as you?
- What expectations do you have for someone you’re dating?
- If they don’t want the same things as you, how would you want to move forward?
- Do you have any dealbreakers or non-negotiables that you might not see eye to eye on? How would you handle that?
1. Get Clear on What Means What
As a chronic overthinker, I have a soft spot for clarity in a conversation. If you’re someone who’s looking to define your relationship, it could serve you well to have the same. We live in a world where words don’t always mean the same things to people, context is important as hell, and there’s almost always some lingering subtext or thing left unsaid.
When you’re having that important “what are we” conversation, it can be super helpful to make sure you’re both 100% clear on what means what. If you decide you’re dating, what does that mean to both of you? If you decide things are still casual, what does that really mean? Are you really on the same page or are you going to find out down the road that there was a massive misunderstanding that could have been avoided? Now’s not the time to tiptoe around what you want. Be extra, extra clear and specific, especially when it comes to whether or not you’re exclusive.
2. Be Honest About Your Expectations
Often, the way you might act in a casual situationship is drastically different from how you might act in a full-blown relationship. I’ve certainly tried to act like the cool, chill girl in the past when the truth is, I’m actually pretty needy… like Tinkerbell needy where if I don’t get enough attention I’ll die (not really, but you get it).
If you know what you want and need in a relationship (and you should!), be honest about it from the get-go. How much time do you typically spend with someone you’re dating? What does your life look like right now, and how do you want this person to fit into it? There’s no point in hiding how you really feel if you’re going to invest time and energy into this person. Plus, it opens up a conversation where they can be honest with you in return and you can figure out if your wants and needs are compatible.
Starting a new relationship can be scary! It’s exciting too, don’t get me wrong, but it’s nerve-wracking to invest yourself in someone you’re still getting to know. We all have baggage, and it can actually start a relationship off on a really solid note if you open up about any fears, hesitations, or worries you might have.
Personally, I’m a tough nut to crack… to put it gently. It takes a little while to get to know me, and it definitely takes some patience to get to a place where I’m fully comfortable with you. Mentioning something like that upfront can give the other person an opportunity to show a little bit more grace at the start of the relationship. Plus, they’ll probably feel more comfortable sharing more intimate details about themselves as a result. Both of you might have some hesitations about a shift in your relationship status, so just be honest and talk about it!
If you’ve zoned out up until this point, here’s the bottom line when it comes to defining a relationship:
Now, go have that talk and DTR!