General Question

speakingofwhich's avatar

When and how do you have a "Define the Relationship" talk?

Asked by speakingofwhich (5 points ) April 4th, 2009

I just want to get other people’s opinions based on their past experiences.

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11 Answers

marinelife's avatar

There is no specific timing. There is also not only one talk. Both people should be straightforward about what they are looking for in the relationship or if there are issues that will impact it.

For example, “I need you to know that I like seeing you, but I just got over a bad break-up, and I am not looking for a serious relationship right now.”

If you do not have that kind of good communication, why not? If I was unsure of my partner’s feelings, I would ask.

Start the conversation by being open yourself. For example, “We have been seeing each other for a month now. I like you a lot, and have found that I don’t want to see anyone else, but I am wondering how you are feeling about things.”

If you mean a more permanent conversation like marriage or cohabiting, then you are in trouble if you and your partner are not communicating better than that.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

You need to do it when it naturally occurs. If you feel the need to have it, casually mention that you are/aren’t seeing anyone else, gauge the reaction and have the talk from there. If you can manage it, don’t do it over the phone, over IM, or any situation in which you’re not face-to-face. If you’ve just been on a date or two, you might wait until you’re seeing the person more regularly because you don’t want them to feel rushed or pressured into anything. Around five or six individual dates, I would say. Most of mine have come from after we’ve been spending a lot of time together and maybe have hooked up.

wundayatta's avatar

There’s something about this that bothers me. I keep thinking, ‘can you define a relationship?’ ‘Should you?’

What is this belief that you can say anything that will mean anything? You can say what you want, if you even know, but how do you know that won’t change soon? Any promises that have to be put in words are meaningless.

Either you feel it, or you don’t. If you don’t feel it, but it’s good enough to keep going, then you keep going. If you don’t feel it and it’s beginning to suck, you stop.

Maybe things these days are different, and everyone is negotiating this and that. This is what dating means. That is what hooking up means. Surely you are feeling some pretty intense feelings by the time you “hook up?”

Or maybe not. People these days seem to believe they can fuck without it being anything more than exercise with a bonus at the end. I think you’re fooling yourselves if you believe that, but hardly anyone seems to agree with me.

I guess I believe in feelings. If you want it; if you like this person; if you can’t stop thinking about them —you know what you want. And if you say, “I can’t stop thinking about you,” and they say “yeah, me, either!” You know.

There’s no need for this talk, it seems to me. If you need to have it, then the relationship ain’t doing it for ya. That’s my experience, anyway. It’s probably out of date.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

@daloon: I think the definition at this point mainly means exclusive or not. That’s a discussion that should be had for sure, because it spares the possibility of confusion and hurt feelings.

casheroo's avatar

If you mean define it by if you’re exclusive or not, I’d have it after quite a few dates, when you want to ask them to be exclusive.
My husband and I knew each other for about six months, but had only been “dating” less than a month, before he asked me to be his girlfriend…i found it cute.

cwilbur's avatar

I just had this conversation last week. I like the way things are going, and I wanted to see if he liked the way things are going and if he sees the relationship going the same way I do.

@daloon: It’s not about asking for promises. It’s about saying, “hey, this is where I am right now, and this is what I think about us right now. Does that match what you’re thinking?” Or, in your terms, “hey, I’m feeling it—are you?” Because if you aren’t checking in, you’re likely to wind up in a situation where you think you’re true lovers, but your date thinks you just like to hang out on Friday nights, and you don’t want to rely on telepathy for things like that.

wundayatta's avatar

@cwilbur: I wish I lived in a world where it was as simple as that. But the world I live in has people double thinking each other, answering questions strategically, telling each other what they think the other person wants to hear because they aren’t really ready to tell the truth.

I guess I think that mindreading is involved whether you want it to be, or not. Sometimes a conversation like that might be helpful, if both people can be pointedly honest, but most times, I think, you’ll get more garbage than information, and you’ll end up more confused that when you started.

cwilbur's avatar

@daloon: this probably reflects the difference between your relationships and mine. When things move to the point where people are answering questions strategically rather than honestly, the relationship is badly broken and probably past the point of repair.

If I found myself in a relationship where I didn’t have any idea where the other person stood and couldn’t trust him or her to be honest about it when asked, I think I wouldn’t be in that relationship any more.

wundayatta's avatar

@cwilbur: I guess you’ve never been disappointed when someone assured you they would do something. I’d love to see how you do it. Things have seldom been simple for me, as you, no doubt, can tell, since I can rarely keep an answer under three paragraphs (unless I’m being funny).

cwilbur's avatar

I have often been disappointed when someone assured me that he or she would do something, and did not. But a statement of how someone is feeling in a relationship is not the same as a promise to always feel the same way, and it really sounds to me as though you’re lumping them all in together.

“I like the way things are going, and I really look forward to seeing you on our dates, but I’m not sure I want to call us ‘boyfriends’ just yet” is a statement of the way things are now. It’s a description of the way someone is feeling about the relationship at the moment he answers, and it’s a very good one, but it’s not a promise of future behavior.

Basically, the summary of the summary of the summary is that if someone is answering my questions strategically rather than honestly, well, that’s as near as being manipulative as makes no difference, and I have a zero-tolerance policy for being manipulated. Once it’s clear that the result of answering questions strategically rather than honestly is worse than any possible outcome from answering questions honestly, a lot of bullshit gets cleared away.

People are willing to put up with a lot of bullshit under the delusion that any relationship is better than no relationship. I’ve been guilty of this too. But since my last relationship ended I put a lot of effort into being happy as a single man, and it worked very well.

But I stand by what I said: answering a question strategically rather than honestly is a sign that the relationship is badly broken. Add to that the realization that one cannot fix a broken relationship unilaterally. The clear result is that when a relationship hits that state, if the other person cannot or will not change the way he or she participates in the relationship in order to repair it, then the healthiest thing to do is to break it off.

Speranza's avatar

I’m not at all sure you NEED it. If things feel good, then don’t rock the boat by forcing someone into a corner and asking them to ‘define’ things. Surely that will make some guys head for the hills? Although I’m in the UK so it’s slightly less complicated cos we tend not to do the ‘I’m dating five guys to see who I like best’ thing. (How would you know if it might work out if you aren’t concentrating on that one person for a little while?!)

And yes I agree about sex – once that’s involved, it’s not simple any more. I can see that it’s possible to get hurt if you are in that deep and making assumptions, but on the other hand if you are in that deep and having normal everyday conversations, it’s clear enough where you stand – or don’t…

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