You know the drill. You’ve been dating someone for a couple months, you’re spending more and more time together and you’re starting to develop feelings for them. But you still haven’t talked about what you are to each other.
Are they still dating other people? Do they see a future with you? If you’re not sure, and you’re well past the early dating stage, you just might be in a situationship. And you wouldn’t be alone — 62% of Australian singles on dating app Hinge say they’ve been in a situationship in the last year.
And while you could continue seeing the person and observing to see if their actions eventually give you your answer, clearly you’ve clicked on this story for a reason: you’re sick of not knowing where you stand (or you want to prevent a situationship in the future).
“People tend to avoid the DTR – Define The Relationship — chat because they feel awkward, or they’re scared they’ll ruin things,” says Logan Ury, Director of Relationship Science at Hinge. “But the DTR is an essential decision point — a moment in which you decide whether to continue what you’re doing or choose a different path.
“It’s a chance to discuss where you are where you’re headed. If someone doesn’t take you seriously as a potential partner, wouldn’t you rather know that sooner than later?”
Ahead, Ury shares four tips for navigating that ‘what are we?’ chat.
Assess Whether It’s Really the Right Time
“There’s never going to be a perfect time to DTR. Bring up the conversation when you feel like you’re ready to stop seeing other people and feel comfortable making it official. This will be different for everyone.
“If you know you’re someone who rushes into things, check in with a few friends for a gut check on your timing.”
“Think through how you’ll open the conversation. One trick for tough talks is to start by announcing how awkward you feel. This alerts the person to the fact that you feel vulnerable, which helps elicit a more empathetic response.
“Try an opener like ‘I feel awkward bringing this up, but…’ or ‘It’s always hard to ask this, but…’ Obviously, you could just straight up ask, ‘Are we dating?’ If that feels too direct, one technique is to say, ‘My friends are asking me what we are. What should I tell them?’”
Be Clear About What You Want to Know
“Are you looking for clarity on your labels? Do you want to know if you’re sexually exclusive? Are you hoping to complete the ultimate modern-day romantic ritual: deleting your dating apps? You may not get the response you want.
“Remember, this is a conversation, not a negotiation. Respect what the other person says. Listen. This is about learning how they feel, not persuading them to give you what you want. Even if you don’t receive the answer you hoped for, at least you have additional information. More data is always better in these situations. Now you can decide for yourself whether you want to stay or go.”
Don’t Pressure The Person
“The most important part of the DTR is to be honest about what you want and allow the person to be honest in return. It’s best to bring it up in a low-pressure way that gives you both a chance to check-in.
“When the person tells you what they’re looking for, believe them! You may hear the answer you want. But if you don’t, this is not a moment to try and change their mind. Take their feelings at face value and decide whether or not you want to stick around. You’re often better off finding someone who’s looking for the same things, instead of waiting around for someone to want what you’re looking for.”
So, there you have it: four tips for navigating the dreaded ‘what are we chat’. Ury says it’s important to note the importance of the chat as it’ll impact your future relationship.
“If you want a relationship, and you discover the other person does, too, you’ll feel happy and relieved,” she says. “But what if you don’t get the answer you’re looking for? Make sure you thank them for sharing, even if you’re disappointed with the news. This will help make them feel comfortable being honest with you in the future.