- Know when it's the right time to define the relationship—and when it isn't.
You know it's the right time to have the talk when you cannot get the thought out of your head. "Not all relationship anxiety is bad anxiety—anxiety can nudge us towards something that needs to happen," says Rebecca Hendrix, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles. "If you obsess about where your relationship is going, most likely you are at the point where you need to know."
- Remind yourself that it's OK and healthy to ask for what you want.
"Remind yourself that it’s ok to ask for what you want in life, whether it be a promotion or the type of relationship you want. The worst thing that could happen is that the person says no. If they do say no, it's information that can help you take the next step that is best for you," explains Hendrix.
- Don't be afraid of scaring them off.
"If this is the person you are supposed to be with there is nothing you can do or ask that is going to make them go away. If it is ‘your person’ nothing will keep them away," says Hendrix.
- Have the conversation face-to-face.
"As tempting as it might be to have difficult conversations by phone or text, make sure you talk about this in person," says Chiara Atik, dating expert and author of Modern Dating: A Field Guide. "Texting is far too ambiguous for this type of conversation, and phone conversations just aren't the same as meeting face-to-face. If you do want to have a relationship, then maturely discussing things in person is the absolute best way to start things off."
- Don’t start the chat with “We need to talk.”
"We need to talk" are four of the most anxiety-producing words in the English language. Avoid them at all costs. "Don't ever say to somebody 'we need to talk' because that will immediately throw them into a panic," says Los Angeles-based relationship and dating coach Lisa Shield.
- Be honest if you're feeling nervous.
You're allowed to have butterflies about both the talk and also what it means. It's normal—and your potential partner is probably in the same boat. Some people are more afraid of committing to the wrong person than they are of commitment itself. You can be honest and say you're not sure they’re the one, but you think it's worth finding out.
- Keep it light! The conversation doesn’t have to be serious just because the topic is.
"The talk shouldn't be heavy and pressure-filled," says Andrea Syrtash, dating expert and author of He's Just Not Your Type (and That's a Good Thing). "If you want to tell them you see more potential, you can let them know in a fun and upbeat way. You can say something like, I'm no longer surfing around to find dates. Happily took my profile down today.' That may open up the conversation. If they respond, Why would you do that? Don't do that!' that's probably a sign they’re not ready. If they smile and say they’ve done the same, the conversation will be much easier."
- Be straightforward.
Resist the urge to have a long, drawn-out debate or explanation of your feelings—it’s easier for both of you if you're direct and clear. What might you say? Hendrix gives this example of a confident and clear way to broach the subject:
- Give the person time to think.
Your love interest may not have an answer for you right away, and that's okay! "It doesn't have to be resolved right then and there," says Shield. "You're just planting a seed. The way you have a follow-up is to go back and say, 'Have you given any thought to what we talked about the other day?'"
10. Don’t get discouraged if the talk doesn't go how you hoped.
If you have the "what are we" conversation with someone and it turns out that they don't want a committed relationship, don't be afraid to move on. Don't settle. Keep looking for the right person who is ready for the commitment that you desire.
11. Decide whether to walk away or wait it out.
Now the ball is in your court and you have a decision to make: walk away or wait it out. "Sometimes in life we have to say no to what we don’t want in order to make room for what we do want. If you walk away, take time to grieve the connection you had, the friendship, and the fantasies of what you thought you were going to have. Have heaps of compassion for yourself for how hard it was to walk away. Increase yourself care…when your stress level goes up yourself care must go up just as much to keep you in balance," says Hendrix.
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