OP-EDS

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February 28, 2003

Discussing relationship status

Does the following sound familiar?

A: Hey, I think we should talk.

B: All right, talk about what?

A: Well...us...I mean...like, where are we going?

B: (long pause) Uh...well, where do you think this is going?

A: I don't know, I just want to make sure I'm not wasting my time with you...

B: Well, I like you, a lot. But I'm not sure if I want to have a relationship with you...I like hanging out with you and hooking up with you...but I don't know if I'm ready for something more.

A: uhhhhh...

The above conversation, affectionately known as "Defining the Relationship" (DTR), is a painful but necessary step to a successful relationship. Or is it? It amazes me why people feel the need to define relationships that are still taking shape and growing each day. Very rarely does the traditional DTR provide a positive outcome; in fact, having it can bring a relationship to crashing halt. It is possible to have a meaningful relationship sans DTR, though. Don't worry, all you Rules addicts, it will eventually occur. This new DTR won't be like anything you've experienced before, so if you want to revel in relationship bliss, read on for the following don'ts of the DTR.

First, remember that you are an equal participant in the relationship. Therefore, if your partner wants to have the DTR before you're ready, put it off. Say, "I'm really tired, can we talk about this later?" While seeming harsh at first, your partner will thank you later. The longer you let your relationship develop, the more easily the DTR will occur. Next, if you feel the urge to have the DTR within the first month of your relationship, stop. Think about kittens, calculus, or peanut butter. Then, sit down and contemplate why you're craving a DTR. Did you two have a fight? Did you see him talking to another girl? You're probably overreacting, so making a joke about the anxiety-producing event is a much better way to discuss your insecurities. Last, avoid having the DTR after hooking up. Physical intimacy raises your emotional level but also makes you highly irrational. Being a great kisser doesn't mean she's going to be the woman of your dreams.

In my experience though, the best results occur when you simply let the relationship happen. Girls and guys who need to classify worry me, because it's so hard to define a relationship. Anything can be a relationship, so why do certain relationships need defining and others just happen? For example, if you're a heterosexual girl, and you hang out with a girl in your bio class, do you spend the next month worrying about how she feels about you? Do you agonize over being just an acquaintance, wondering when you'll move up to "friend" level? I hope you don't. You probably devote little if no thought to the matter and just let the friendship progress.

Why is that when it comes to dating, we have an internal meltdown? It seems that we put too much of ourselves in the relationship from the beginning, thus creating a vulnerability that didn't exist before. As your relationship progresses, you'll find common interests and likes, you may disagree, and you may fight. However, you'll certainly realize whether you could see yourself being with that person for an extended period of time. Plus, certain cues will totally show our partner's feelings. Does he kiss you in public? Does she tell stories about you? Do his friends always say hi to you? Has he ever included you in his future plans?

If you've received a few of these signals, then you, my friend, are ready for the DTR. But do not follow the traditional DTR; the new one is so much easier. The next time you introduce your dude or dudette to a friend of yours, say, "Hey, this is my...? (look at him or her confusedly)," with a questioning lilt in your voice and a smile. If he reacts negatively, you know that this boy is either going to need more time or you're just going to get of rid of him. Most likely though, he won't even notice that you called him your boyfriend, because in his head, you two have been together ever since the first time he skipped class to be with you and then made out with you in the C-Shop.