A few years back, I’d been seeing a guy for nearly three months when I realized I didn’t even know his last name. We’d shared various dinners, date nights, and watched the Chicago Cubs win their first World Series in more than 100 years — and yet, I knew little more about this kid than his job title, favorite karaoke song, and the fact that he kind of looked like Harry Potter. All of this hit me one night as I dotted on lipstick before our zillionth date. Which left me wondering: Do you have to define the relationship? And, is it a red flag that I don’t really care about "what we are"?
In my situation, the answer to that red flag question was a big ‘ole yes. I enjoyed this kid’s company, sure, and I think he enjoyed mine, but neither of us were particularly excited at the prospect of Dating with a capital D. And, as someone with an aggressively excited disposition in general (seriously, I’m like a recently adopted puppy — it’s exhausting, even for me), I soon figured out that my total indifference towards this guy meant that there was no real spark. I like to put labels on everything — literally, I own a label-maker — and my desire to leave this relationship undefined meant it was time to call it quits (whatever "it" was).
That said, there are tons of couples who never have "the talk" and are happy, comfortable, and honestly thriving. Exhibit A:
For tons of men and women — including the gal above — there’s just no reason to DTR.
"[You might] not even need to have [the talk] at all because it will just naturally happen," says Lori Salkin, senior matchmaker and dating coach at SawYouatSinai.com. "Perhaps in a Hollywood moment, where one of you will say something implying you’ve already defined the relationship in your head without question and the other will agree, without hesitation."
It’s like asking your roommate if you can steal a splash of their milk for the hundredth time, or texting your desk buddy at work to see they’d like an iced latte in the morning — you just know that the answer is going to be yes. And if you and your partner feel safe, secure, and on the same wavelength with one another, there’s really no need to stress over answering that question. I mean, you already know what it’s going to be.
I’ve got friends who even moved to new cities with their SOs before officially adopting the titles of "boyfriend" or "girlfriend." And if High School Musical‘s Troy and Gabriella never bothered with the DTR chat and still managed to become all of our #RelationshipGoals, why the heck should you have to bother with that convo, either?
Read: You don’t.
When asked how long is too long to date without defining the relationship, licensed marriage and family therapist Nicole Richardson explain that it’s only really an issue if and when someone "is is ready for a commitment and she hasn’t heard one way or the other from the other person that she’s dating."
So, if you like — nay, need labels as much as I do, and your partner’s not open to having that discussion, it might signal that this relationship is not quite right for you.
"I think the way to handle that is to say, ‘Hey, this is the kind of relationship I’m looking for. I don’t know what you want, but this is what I want. And if that’s not what you’re looking for, that’s cool, but I’m going to looking for something else,’" says Richardson. "Not like an ultimatum… But basically say, ‘It’s OK if we don’t want the same thing, but please tell me.’"
Ultimately, you’ve just got to do what feels right for you! Maybe it means defining things ASAP. Maybe it means raising a baby with your SO and never once asking, "But… what are we?" Maybe it means proposing to your partner without ever having called them your "girlfriend." No matter the situation, as long as you’re both feeling happy and fulfilled in the relationship, you’re doing everything right.
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