One of the most awkward (yet crucial) conversations to have when you’re dating is “defining the relationship” (is this casual or serious? Are we exclusive?) There’s no clear rule that states how many dates it takes until someone turns into your boyfriend. It’s also not clear as to when your relationship should take the next step (moving in together? Having kids?). It’s a path we must blaze each time we start a new relationship, because this talk happens at different times for everyone. We may not be able to tell you at what point in your relationship to have it, but here are some tips on how to begin the conversation.
Carefully pick a time
When you think you’re ready to take things to the next level, it’s important to communicate that as clearly as possible. To ensure there will be no distractions and that you won’t catch that person completely off guard, casually plan a specific time to chat. You want to give that person ample time to think about it.
Just go for it
If you really want to be with this person, take the bull by the horns. Nothing is going to get accomplished if you two just wait around. Lodro Rinzler, a writer at Marie Claire, gave women some tips from a man’s point of view: “We genuinely want to define the relationship and move forward,” he says. “We just really appreciate not having to bring it up ourselves.”
Know your terms and communicate them
Make sure you take time before the conversation to weigh the situation in your mind and figure out what you want and need. Listen to what your partner wants, but don’t shortchange yourself. If you’re not happy with the terms, be honest. Harris O’Malley, a dating coach who goes by Dr. Nerdlove, says, “Relationships, after all, are partnerships; you want something that feels right to both of you, not just one person giving in to the other’s wants and desires at the cost of their own.”