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The Right Way to Have the “Relationship Talk”

A couple having the relationship talk while laying on a dock with their feet in the water.

After dating someone for a while, you might get to the point where you’re wondering what the real status of your relationship is. (What are we? What are we doing? Where is this going?) As much as you’re dying to know, sometimes bringing up the “relationship talk” can be tough on your partner—especially if he or she is someone who isn’t ready to have the talk just yet. So how do you know when you should bring it up and when you should just let it just happen naturally?

Psychotherapist and host of “The Cooper Lawrence Show,” Dr. Cooper Lawrence, says when it comes to timing, NEVER have this talk within the first two months of dating. “It’s the getting to know you stage where your only job is to have fun,” she says.

Relationships happen at different paces. Some take longer to develop and some relationships happen really fast. But that doesn’t mean you should have the are we exclusive talk two weeks in.

“Even if you know he/she is THE ONE, it’s still a weird conversation to have if you’re dating less than a month,” says Lawrence.

While Lawrence advises to wait at least two months to have this talk, relationship expert and dating coach, Evan Marc Katz, urges couples not to have the talk at all and thinks that you really shouldn’t have to bring up whether someone is your boyfriend or girlfriend.

“It’s the kind of thing that will be defined naturally by [them] calling you every day, spending every weekend with you, introducing you to friends and family, and so on,” Katz says. In other words, you should both know what you are without having a heavy discussion about.

But what if you’re having a hard time deciphering exclusive from not-exclusive even after being together for several months? Then, Lawrence says, you have to think ahead. If you feel like the other person is including you in his or her life, then that’s the green light to have the talk.

Dating coach, Harris O’Malley, says don’t spring the relationship talk on someone out of the blue; set a date to talk about it. “This is quite possibly the worst, most counterproductive way to negotiate something as important as the potential future of your relationship together. It immediately puts them in the spotlight and under incredible pressure to provide an answer right now.”

“Make sure [the talk] is in person. You want to be able to look in his/her eyes and read body language to see if you are on the same page. Be direct and don’t play games or make a big deal of it. Nobody likes drama over something like this,” says Lawrence.

Say something like, “I think you’re amazing, and I don’t want to date anyone else. I was wondering how you felt about that?” Then let the other person talk. You’ll have your answer fast and you’ll know if you should continue or not.

It’s also important to make sure you have your must-haves and expectations ready, so when you’re having the talk you can be up front about what you want.

“If you want or expect something from your ongoing relationship, you have to say so. If you want exclusivity, let them know. Hiding something you want because you’re worried it would chase your partner off—or hoping that you can change their mind about it later when they’re more invested—is going to just make sure you’re going to have an epic and even more brutal break up later on,” says O’Malley.

If you bring up the relationship talk and your partner is reluctant to talk about it, you need to find out why that is. Is it because he or she is dating other people and doesn’t want to stop? Or is your partner not sure about you?

“Don’t assume their reluctance has anything to do with you,” says Lawrence. But if you hear something that doesn’t match with your expectations, then you have a choice. “Do you want this person to be your friend with benefits? If so, party on! If not, and you’re looking for something more serious, swipe left… ASAP.”

Remember that sometimes you have to risk it all in order to get what you want from a relationship. But it’s better to end a relationship than to be in one where you or your partner is going to be miserable.

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