When Should You Define The Relationship? Get The Answers!

couple sitting on a stone wall in the autumnOne of my coaching clients started to quickly fall for a guy she met on Bumble. They went on three dates and really connected. She knew she wanted to get into an actual relationship with him.

But, he continued talking to other women and even went on a couple of dates with them. She knew she had to define the relationship, but didn’t know when.

When should you define the relationship? Women (and men) ask me that question a lot. If you bring up the topic too early, you might seem clingy and needy. If you wait too long, you might lose the person you like.

This article will help you deal with that stressful task of defining a relationship!

Take A Breath

Before I talk about when to define a relationship, I want to first offer a piece of advice that has helped me (and many coaching clients) over the years. Most great relationships happen very organically, meaning that both sides get to know each other, develop feelings, and progress naturally.

In other words, if the spark is there and the chemistry is clear, you don’t have to lose sleep or stress out about defining the relationship. So, first and foremost, take a deep breath and relax!

Start Defining Soon

I just told you to not worry about defining the relationship and now I say to define soon? I’m not crazy. I promise!

I don’t think you should confess your love or ask for exclusivity on your first or second date. But, I do think it’s important, if you like someone, to keep that person regularly updated on your thoughts and feelings about the relationship.

This open and honest communication not only starts the relationship in the right way, but also allows you both to know each other’s intentions without playing a ridiculous guessing game, one that I see played by people of all ages, from awkward teens even up to people in their 60s!

For example, after a great date, let him know you want to see him again. If you’ve gone on several dates and feel a spark, be open and honest that you see the relationship going somewhere.

Online dating has created a culture where people have options and sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the choice. The person you like might be messaging and going on dates with several people. If you’re interested in more commitment, you’ll have to take some initiative.

By being honest and sharing your developing thoughts and feelings, you’re bringing more clarity to the relationship. You’re even defining it, even if the definition starts with “I like you and let’s see where this goes” and evolves to something more serious.

Read the Signs

Many people ask about defining the relationship because they really like someone, but aren’t sure if the other person feels the same way. So, they fear that trying to define the relationship in exclusive terms too soon might push the other person away or risk ruining the relationship.

upset woman in bed with man under the coversIf you’re worried about defining the relationship because the other person might not feel the same, the best thing is to look for clues he shares your feelings.

First, look for general signs related to romantic interest. Obviously, if you’ve gotten physical, flirt a lot, and seem to connect romantically, then it’s a great start.

If your relationship feels more like a friendship or only seems sexual, then you probably won’t have much success asking for anything exclusive.

Second, pay attention to verbal clues. For example, if he talks about “not wanting a relationship” or “not being ready to settle down” those most likely reflect his true feelings. On the other hand, if he mentions things like marriage, kids, and wanting a relationship, you can assume he’d be open to that with you.

Third, look at his body language, especially when you discuss your feelings about a relationship. Does he seem comfortable, relaxed, and happy? Or does he seem closed off, unhappy, or hesitant? Even if he won’t give you verbal feedback (or is telling you what he thinks you want to hear), his body language can tell you a lot about what he’s really thinking.

Finally, look at the level of time and attention you get. Does he always respond quickly to your texts or are you left on “read” for hours? Does he frequently cancel plans or does he drop everything for you? If you get his time and attention consistently, then that’s a great sign that he likes you in a unique way and wants more.

Do It When You’re Ready

There is enormous outside pressure to define a relationship. This can come from many sources, including family, friends, religion, and culture. Hell, the winter months are even called “cuffing season” from the expectation that you should be in a relationship once it gets cold!

Pressure can also come from within. You might feel like the odd person out if you don’t have a boyfriend. Or, you could fear that if you don’t define the relationship fast enough, you’ll lose the person you love to someone else.

In fact, one of the biggest reasons people ask when should I define the relationship is because they worry that if they don’t define it quickly, their partner will leave or get away. However, this type of fear and worry can ultimately sabotage your relationship goals.

silhouette of a man and woman kissing at the beachIf you’re trying to define the relationship out of fear or pressure, step back and look at your real motivations. Are you doing it for the right reasons or the wrong ones?

Getting into an actual relationship is a huge investment, emotionally and otherwise. You should only go in if you’re in touch with your true feelings and doing it for the right reasons.

That’s why…the best answer to the question when should I define the relationship? It’s: when you’re truly ready!

About the Author

Jonathan Bennett

Jonathan Bennett

Jonathan Bennett is a writer, speaker, and dating/relationship expert. He's helped millions through his articles, speaking, consulting, and coaching. He's appeared in over 500 major publications, including Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal, and Psychology Today.

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