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Your guide on defining a relationship

Are you at the stage where you’re thinking you should define a relationship? Or is someone in your life hitting you with the “What are we?” question after date number two? Or are you just absolutely confused about the whole process and wondering when things got so vague and complicated?

Personally, I’m the queen of overthinking: 

“Do they like me?” “Should I text them first?” “Are we exclusive?” “Are we officially dating?!”

Maybe you can relate. The endless thoughts turn into a vicious cycle and the urge to overthink your every move is exhausting – especially when it’s about someone you really, really like. 

Those complex feelings and daunting questions can be stressful, or simply annoying, but just assured that they’re pretty common. Take a breath and don’t panic because there are certainly some helpful tips to make defining (or not defining) a relationship as painless, comfortable, and loving as possible. 

Why is defining a relationship important? 

Defining a relationship can be awkward, nerve-wracking, or intimidating, but it’s sometimes necessary. First, you deserve to feel wanted, loved, safe, and comfortable. If the ambiguity of a situationship is stressing you out or making you feel less-than, it’s time for a deeper convo with your partner.

Not to mention, you want to be on the same page as your partner for health, safety, and sanity purposes. If you’re in the dark about their feelings, whereabouts, or actions, it can lead to some undesirable situations, and no one wants to be put in that position. Your time, love, and feelings are warranted and precious, so if you need and/or want clarity on where you both stand, it’s time to talk the talk. 

Is Defining A Relationship Always Necessary?

When it comes to a relationship, it’s all about your personal needs, preferences, desires, and boundaries. If you’re just starting out with a new partner and you prefer some allure and ambiguity, that’s cool! If you need answers and want to minimize your anxious spiral, that’s cool too! 

Being in a relationship is emotionally vulnerable, and deciding what you want is most important. If you’re okay without a label and you like the chase or openness there’s no need to force a conversation. 

In the same vein, if you just started seeing someone, don’t rush into anything. Relationships and feelings take time, so give yourself permission to explore each other and see if a label is something you even want. It’s okay to take your time and/or change your mind.

How To Know When It’s Time To Define Your Relationship

Every relationship is different and there is no right or wrong time to have the conversation. Follow your instincts. Just remember that relationships should be special, sacred, fun, loving, etc, etc, etc. Putting some serious thought into your significant other is normal and warranted, but if you find yourself over-consumed with the parameters of your partnership, then it’s time to define your relationship. 

Plus, a relationship requires your time and investment. If someone is stringing you along with no intention of getting serious (and that’s not what you want), don’t waste your time. If you see a future and they aren’t ready for the next step, do your best to get on the same page. Save yourself the heartache and headache.  

On top of that, exclusivity is worth a conversation when it comes to safety. If you feel your partner is being unsafe or unreasonable (say, having unprotected sex with others), then it’s necessary to define the relationship and set guidelines.  

Defining A Relationship The Right (And Wrong) Way 

Whether your relationship is casual, monogamous, open, or a little ~complicated,~ communication is necessary for setting boundaries and expectations. 

Every partnership is different, but head into the conversation with your ducks in a row. What do *you* want? What are *you* comfortable with? What makes *you* happy? Are *you* ready for a committed relationship? Does this person make *you* feel happy, safe, and cared for? You get the point. Be honest with yourself. 

Also recognize your goals and future aspirations. Think about how your partner compliments you and what they want from their own life. Will you be in the same city? Are you comfortable with long distance? Do you respect their values and morals? A relationship takes two to tango, so it’s important to be mindful of how the two of you co-exist.

Once your thoughts are in order, it’s time to tackle the actual conversation. Instead of sending the dreaded “we need to talk” text, maybe start with “I really like you and I want to talk about the next steps in defining our relationship.” If possible, do this in-person or on Facetime. This will open the door to conversation and make space for each persons’ voice. Listen, stay calm, and be open.   

Try using “I statements” like “I enjoy spending time with you” or “I would like to take our relationship to the next level.” This keeps the conversation honest and allows your partner to have their own voice. 

Another tip? Be specific about what you want and/or need to avoid any further ambiguity. 

What Comes After You’ve Defined Your Relationship

A lot of things can happen after the talk, but there’s likely two options we’re working with:

1. It goes well. Yay! If the conversation goes well, that's great news. It should feel exciting that you’re both on the same page. Just remember that a relationship takes work, and it may be necessary to revisit the topic from time to time. Evaluate your expectations, boundaries, and goals, and always keep an open line of communication.

2. It goes poorly. I’m sorry. It’s never fun and it’s okay to be sad or hurt. Your feelings are valid. That said, it’s important to respect the other person and take your space. These conversations are hard for everyone, and it may be beneficial to take some time apart and recuperate. Love should be mutual and if your partner can’t give you that, it’s time to move on. 

All in all, defining a relationship is about clarifying your wants, needs, desires, preferences, and goals. Be honest, clear, and thoughtful. Share how you feel. The conversation can be vulnerable and uncomfortable, but setting expectations and honoring your commitment is ultimately all about defining the love.