Not Alone Series: DTR

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Defining the relationship can be a tricky thing, but it doesn’t have to be hard. What are some of your preferred “do’s” and “don’ts” with DTR’s? What should you ask to see where the relationship is going? When do you ask (3rd, 5th, 10th date)? How do you respond when you get an answer that you were hoping to avoid? How do you reassess your dealbreakers and desired qualities? Do you re-consider your “nice-to-have’s” on your “list” of qualities you want in a guy? What else should we know for DTR’s? We all want to be well-equipped for dating this year. ;)

Welcome back, NAS girls and regular readers! Whether it’s your first time linking up, your fifteenth time, or you’re just reading along, we are glad that you are here. As long as you stay close to Christ, you’re never really alone.

But that’s not all we talk about here. We get down into the nitty-gritty details. We lay out our dealbreakers for the world to see. We talk about what we would like in a man (not just what would make us walk away). We talk about how to handle rejection. And today, we’re talking about the dreaded DTR: the conversation in which you Define The Relationship.

I have never been a fan of referring to people who are dating as “in a relationship.” (I have been “in a relationship” on Facebook with someone I was actually dating, but there’s something unsettling about broadcasting your status changes to your college professors, your middle school best friend, and that person you only sort of know.) Almost any interaction between two people constitutes a relationship. I have a relationship with my hairstylist. It’s just not a romantic relationship. Even though it sounds awkward and clunky to actually say “romantic relationship” every single time, I do it. My language-loving heart won’t let me have it any other way.

It’s been a blessing that all of my romantic relationships have sprung from friendship or begun with clear romantic intentions. We knew what we were doing. The clarity was essential. I don’t think I would do well just “hanging out” with a guy if I really wanted more. I’ve reached an age where I know what I want, and I’m willing to dive right into an awkward conversation if it gets me answers fast.

I like the idea of do’s and don’ts as a framework, so here is my not-so-seasoned advice:

Do the DTR soon. My friend Carly calls it the fourth date rule. The third date rule has already been claimed by less chaste types, so I guess we have to wait a little longer. If you’ve made it all the way to a fourth date, it’s time to figure out if you should stay or go. Waiting any longer puts greater strain on your heart. If you get the answer you want, you can move forward with purpose and intention. If you have to cut and run, at least you’re not deeply invested yet.

One of my guy friends suggests a test to determine whether it’s time to DTR that is not date-based, if you’re not sure that you’ve actually been dating. There’s only one question: If another guy asked for your number (or made an equivalent pursuing move), would you give it to him? “Yes” means you’re not exclusive, but not necessarily that you don’t want to be exclusive. “No” means you are exclusive already, so it’s probably time to just say the words.

Don’t be vague. You know what you want. You want to know if he’s seeing, dating, talking to, or hanging out with anyone else. If this relationship is exclusive. If it’s romantic. If he’s your boyfriend. If marriage is a possibility (understanding that “yes” is not a proposal!) The conversation might start with “what is this,” “what are we,” “where is this relationship going,” or something similar, but then you need to get specific.

Take a deep breath, look away if you have to (although looking him in the eye is better), and just say it. Most of the men I know like coy flirtation, but they also like it when you just tell them what you want. They don’t like guessing, because we get mad when they guess wrong. So don’t make them guess.

Do proceed with confidence. It hurts, but “we’re just friends” is an acceptable answer to the DTR question. I don’t generally define my friendships, though, so we’ll proceed as though what you wanted to hear was a confirmation of dating, exclusivity, romance, boyfriend/girlfriend-ness (en español, que son novios), marriage-mindedness, or something similar, and you didn’t get it.

So you know now that you’re not dating/exclusive/whatever. Tell him that you want to be dating/exclusive/whatever. (You have been thinking about it. This does not mean that he has.) If he’s not on board, walk away (literally is best, especially if you’re crying) and initiate breakup protocols. If you decide to move forward in the relationship, now you know you’re on the same page.

Don’t compromise on your dealbreakers. I support dealbreakers, but my list is short. I am unwilling to compromise on those things even if means I never get married and die alone in my apartment. (That actually happened to a relative of mine. She was much older than I am, but it did happen.) Maybe I could marry a shorter man, but I’m allowed to have one superficial one.

So many things in life are already uncertain. If you’re in a romantic relationship that defies definition, you need to have the talk. Like my friend Carly says, start out just having fun and spending time together getting to know one another. Then get a move on. If you need a buddy to talk you through the talk, you know where to find me.


Next week’s topic: Financial Responsibility

Money and budgeting seems to be at the top of many New Year’s plans. Finances can add stress to a relationship, but it’s obviously preferable that we know how to manage our finances before we are married, as well as have some sort of idea of how we want to share finances once we are married. What are some of your recommendations for planning your finances and budgeting your money now so that it will be less stressful down the road? Do you hope to share accounts with your spouse or have a yours/mine/ours system? How have you seen other couples manage their finances in a way that works well?

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