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Hit the Brakes on the Relationship Talk

So you think it’s time to have The Talk. You like each other, and you want to know the deal. You want to know where things stand.

Don’t do it. In fact, delay that conversation as long as you possibly can, especially when you’ve just started dating. My rule of thumb is that you can and should get to know each other for 3 to 6 months before you’re going to start slapping down rules and regs. Because the first person to bring it up loses.

The need to have The Talk may seem all mature and adult, but really, it’s just you scratching an insecure itch. You “need to know.” I counter with this: If you’re having a fun, great, sexy time, why oh why would you drop those dreaded words, “Where is this going?” It’s the relationship equivalent of walking into the middle of a great party, turning off the music, flipping on all the lights, and saying, “So, I just want to check. Is everyone having a good time?”

I did this a few years back. And I regret it and would never do it now. I had been seeing the guy a few weeks. He was a bit of a tough read, and I got insecure. I thought I’d help things along or feel better by asking, “So what is the deal, I mean, are we seeing other people, or…” It was a moment of weakness. Big mistake. The whole tenuous, if promising, thing collapsed on itself a short while later. And while that wasn’t the only reason, I sped it to its short and brutish end. Like driving into a wall at 60 mph.

I’ve also been on the other side, by the way, many times. I gently tried to back off this very conversation with partners because it felt like I was being asked to make a decision I wasn’t ready to make. I felt pressured to say what I think he wanted to hear, and if that’s your idea of honesty, well. It’s not. I’ve often found myself marking time FROM THIS TALK, wondering who would be the one to bail out first. Why create this pressure when you’re really trying to get to know someone? Keep it a little gray–a little mysterious. This is how you keep that intrigue alive.

Ask yourself this: Why do I need to ask? What do I really want to know? What do I hope to accomplish? And while I can’t purport to read your mind, I’ll assume you’re craving what most humans do: significance and security. You want to know what’s going on, not because you’re conducting an investigation, but because you want to assuage the nagging fear and be reassured that you are special. You already are–can’t you tell? Nothing is totally secure in love and life, and no one owes you a sense of security.

And if your reason is that you’re afraid he’ll meet someone else? He could meet someone else regardless. There’s always that risk. What would happen if you held off on the grand summit meeting and just enjoyed the person without worrying about how to categorize or title or otherwise claim him? You get the best of both of you–and your own privacy, too.

“But I want us to be honest with each other!”, you cry. You can and should be open and communicative, yes. And after a few months you really do want to get serious, and you want a committed relationship, then of course you owe it to yourself and him to discuss it. But then—not now.

When you do feel the urge to have a meta-conversation, tell him (or her) instead about how much fun you have with that person, how much they rock, how attracted you are to them–and welcome those comments from him. A few sincere words about how you feel about that person can go a long way to making you feel more secure and appreciated. Early on you want to nurture growth, connection—not start laying down the law.

And that why having The Talk too early is horrible because it starts with “I like you a lot” and ends with “and this is what I need you to do/not do, etc.” It legislates. It kills the fun. It says, “Ok, so shall we look at the fine print?” Unless you’re about to close on a house together or do something else that’s legally binding (like marriage), there’s nothing to be gained by this conversation when you’re just starting to create something real.

There will be plenty of time to make it quite clear what you want, and then, if he’s unwilling to provide that, you’ll know you have a decision to make.

Also: Don’t confuse honesty with security. You think that if you know more about what’s going on under the hood you’ll feel better, but that may not be the case. Do you really want to know he likes you a lot but is getting over a crush from last summer, or that his ex-girlfriend has been calling again? Does he want to know you’re sort of weaning off this other guy? No, no, and no. Not your biz, not his problem. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you keep choosing to spend time with and enjoy each other. It’s the actions that matter, not the definition of those actions. You don’t have to kick the tires every two seconds. Just drive.

Oh–and fuck your Facebook status. Honestly. If you’re making relationship decisions so you can click a box, I fear for your future. Because checking a box has driven more than one person into relationships–and marriages–that shouldn’t have happened. Labeling your life isn’t the same as living it.

Case in point: A client of mine has kindled a connection with a man who lives states away, and a good chunk of the year overseas. She wants to know if he’s her boyfriend or if he could be, and worries that by not nailing it down she’s being played. I tell her, yes, it is a game—and the goal is to keep the ball in play. You do this by maintaining a rich and vital connection, staying in touch and letting that person know you’re very much interested. As soon as she tries to get him to submit to certain rules or titles, I warned her she’ll scare him away, and he’s already far away.

Let’s get one thing straight: That discomfort you feel? That excitement? It exists due to the simple fact that things are NOT SET YET. Enjoy it. Don’t suck the life out of it in an effort to make it shelf stable. If you’re still with this guy 10 years from now, there will be a point, sooner than you think, when you’ll wonder where the magic went. This nervousness and thrill is par for the course—and trust me, you’ll miss it when it’s gone.

 

43 Comments

  1. JMarie
    JMarie11-01-2012

    I needed to read this; thanks. Although not completely the same stage as what you write about, I too feel insecure by my boyfriend’s lack of verbal affirmations of how he feels about our relationship. And it drives my insecurity over the edge. We live together. Happily. We call each other boyfriend and girlfriend, so that is not the issue. But he NEVER says anything about how feels. Forget “I love you”, I will never hear that. No other simple affirmations. We don’t talk of the future really. But, his actions show another story. He’s affectionate, caring, he listens, attentive, supportive. He constantly does things to show me how he cares (no, he never buys me flowers, it is more physically what he does and how he emotionally supports me and my goals), we share our life, we visit his mother every weekend. I am slowly learning that I do not need a verbal affirmation of where we stand or how he feels. Like you said Teri: he shows up. Every day. In his own loving way. But, something in my head tells me that to feel secure I need to hear him SAY it, and it does bother me. But, reading this I feel a bit better and have a new perspective.

    • Terri
      Terri11-01-2012

      Jmarie, you bring up an interesting point. And one I will explore further. The need for verbal affirmation. Fact is, if there are things you DO want, couples should absolutely voice that need. You’re together, you love each other, but you say above he doesn’t say what you need to hear, doesn’t bring you flowers, etc. For me, I don’t care about flowers so that wouldn’t matter. But it matters to you. I’m not talking about lowering the bar here in terms of the best we can do–and quite possibly we can all do better. I think this is a conversation you can and should have, certainly.

      And did you say you go visit his mother EVERY WEEKEND?! Good grief. A little “i love you” now and then wouldn’t kill him. He can’t change who he is, but growing as a couple DOES mean being able to do things out of our comfort zones b/c the relationship matters. That’s for sure. There is a way to tell someone that, though, and it’s in a loving moment, not a judgy/bickery one. I don’t think you should settle or be complacent about him. You can tell him what you need — you certainly show him how you feel.

      • JMarie
        JMarie11-01-2012

        Thanks Terri!

        I don’t care as much about flowers either, but I grew up in a VERY verbal family. My parents and siblings end each conversation with “I love you.” My parents tell me they are proud of me, happy for me etc….
        Now, he grew up the complete opposite. His parents never say anything verbal like that. His mom hugs, but they are not a “lovey dovey” family if you will. I learned as a child to hear verbally how people feel and in that way I learned how to feel secure. All of my past relationships have been verbally affirmative, but sometimes saying “I love you” can be empty if said too much, so I don’t expect anything like that as a constant.

        I tell him all the time he makes me happy. That he’s the best. Just how I feel (I don’t say I love you though as I am not sure how that would go over). He usually gives me a hug and kiss back. I sometimes get a “ you make me happy” or a “you’re the best” IM or something, but he knows he is not verbally loving.

        I have spoken to him about this. Not nagging, not judgy. I explained I do not want to change him. I explained how I was raised and why I feel the need to hear this. I cried one time and he hugged me, comforted me, but explained that he is just not used to it and it is hard for him. Meanwhile I get worried about the status of our relationship, but then his actions go and show me that he cares a lot. I think part of it is cultural for him.

        Yes, every weekend! I love his mom though. She’s awesome and she loves me. I am in his family’s life and that shows me too that he cares a lot and we are headed in a forward direction.

        I have expressed my needs, but don’t expect him to change. I know he heard me and I know that he will work on it as he can. Time will tell!

        • Terri
          Terri11-01-2012

          OK, but you sound like you’re making excuses for him. If you can live with it as is, fine. But you’re the one who mentioned your dissatisfaction w/ that part of it. Cultural whatever–part of growing with someone is doing things that are a little uncomfortable.

  2. C
    C11-01-2012

    This article came across my radar today and I would normally not read or even dare comment on this (great article btw)…so here I am…commenting SMH. I’ve recently encountered a very similar situation where the relationship felt forced because she needed affirmation.

    I enjoyed our time together, until I started to feel pressured to show my affection or affirm my feelings to her in ways that didn’t feel natural. Love/affection/true feelings should be a natural flow of interaction, not coerced reactions to a request or from fear of being kept up for hours into the early morning discussing the topic.

    I recently had an eye opening discussion with a friend about “The 5 Love Languages” http://www.5lovelanguages.com/learn-the-languages/the-five-love-languages/ <–I had no clue there was entire site dedicated to this (I have not read the book but have had a brief synopsis, so I am no way endorsing this book). The basic gist is that guys and gals are different, in that we sometimes desire different forms of affirmation or affection. My ex would not see that I performed acts of service (I was no stranger to words of affirmation as well), instead she wanted flowers and other cliche romantic comedy gestures of affection. All I wanted was some peace and a reduction in late night conversations.

    If your significant other is "showing up" and increasing your quality of life and/or happiness, then cut them some slack and start doing some internal analysis of what's the reason for you wanting these additional affirmations. I the reasoning comes back to you want a fast track to marriage and it looks like the two of you are on different channels, then it's time to get crackin'.

    Do you think this may be the secret to sustaining life long spark, or at least a contributor…or otherwise?

    As far as trying to get someone to change how they show their affection. I would recommend being tactful and not making them feel coerced into these unnatural forms of affection. Also, don't discount their current forms of affection. For example, if he cares for your car or house…does he do this for everyone in his life?

    • Terri
      Terri11-02-2012

      C, I hear what you’re saying and I want to be clear here that YES we must acknowledge/respect the different ways people show love for each other. She cannot turn her man into a loving linguist if he’s not naturally. I don’t think she can force him, no. But they’ve also been together a while and I think each person has to make an effort toward the other. So rather than her expecting him to change for her, they need to move show evidence of their willingness to grow and express their feelings in ways that speak to both of their “languages.” I don’t know if it’s just about cutting someone slack or pushing someone. Those are two extremes. But yes–you just said it–it’s often women who need so much affirmation, and we need to learn to find affirmation in ways that are being shown to us but that we don’t see, can’t see. Which is the genus of this post: That when we let our insecurities get the best of us, we actually undermine the experience/communication. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Belinda
    Belinda11-02-2012

    I’ve read the 5 Love Languages and it’s really a life changing book. It helped me to see how others experience love and why I’d had disconnects in the past. Reading it also transformed my relationship with my daughter.

    • Terri
      Terri11-02-2012

      Hey Belinda! I will check out that book.

  4. JJ
    JJ02-21-2013

    Wow. I just read this after reading another of your articles on Jezebel. I was just thinking about something like this regarding the girl I’m seeing. I kept thinking, “are we/ should we be headed toward a talk?” And I kept scripting out the necessary parts of the conversation I assumed would happen.

    In retrospect though, we kind of know where we stand. We keep our communications open especially in a pretty new situation. I’m trying to be more in the moment and appreciate this relationship for what it is, as it is.

    My biggest stimulus for this “talk” is the fact that I’m 7 months out of a relationship and was having all of these concerns: do we have the talk? Why would we have the talk? We’re ok, right? Why wouldn’t we be ok? I just keep telling myself to relax and be in it as it happens. It’s exciting and that can be scary.

    Thank you so much for this post.

    • terri
      terri02-21-2013

      So wait–you’re 7 mos out of a relationship and now you’re in a new one. Seems like it must be around 6 mos or less. I think the key here is not avoiding things that need discussing, but not putting undue pressure to formalize, esp this soon out of the gate. She still wants to know and would likely welcome hearing what you THINK of her, and how much you like her. We all need to hear that. And that to me matters–as long as she feels loved/liked, appreciated, cared for, special, you can hold off on legislating things. That saps the fun out of everything. It’s like letting lawyers into the room. It becomes less about what you like about each other, and more about The Rules and what you can and cannot do heretofore.

      • JJ
        JJ02-22-2013

        I’m fighting against some of those old-relationship-me instincts: defining and steering and labeling. I honestly planned to not have anything serious for a year after the last relationship ended, but I met someone great and am just seeing where it goes.

        “You want to know what’s going on, not because you’re conducting an investigation, but because you want to assuage the nagging fear and be reassured that you are special. You already are”

        We both live wonderful separate lives, and enjoy time together. I like her and have shown and told her as much. She likes me and has shown and told me as much. I’ve made it a point not to rush things and just enjoy them as they go.

        This article stopped that nervous voice in my head that was steering me back into the lawyerly conversation you suggested. I’m enjoying being in the present and wanted to thank you for providing some great words that helped me go in the right direction

  5. mel
    mel02-22-2013

    ok so needed to read this. i should know this…i’m 39…but i feel like i’m JUST starting to get it.

    thx for this

  6. Alexandra
    Alexandra03-11-2013

    Wow am I glad I found this today. I’m in a new relationship (going on 4 mos) and sometimes I so badly wonder if he is my “boyfriend”, but then every single sign shows it. People continually ask me if we’ve had “the talk” and I always say no, but I just know things are good between us and we care about each other. The need for affirmation and commitment seems important sometimes, but when we’re together, I don’t need it at all because I know we are, whether we’ve had other people’s view of “the talk” or not. I’ve been debating asking what exactly this is, but this confirmed that there’s just no point.

  7. Koko
    Koko04-16-2013

    This article came a little late for me but I’m glad I read it anyway. I think I just messed up a situation with an absolute perfect guy because I started stressing about “where things were going” because he’ll be moving out of state in a few months. In so many words but without actually saying it I was trying to get him to make a decision to either make our situation “serious” or to leave me alone all together. When he started to show signs of the latter it hurt. I wished I hadn’t ever said a word. I wished I would have just stayed content in what we were doing because it was AMAZING fun. I beat myself up a lot because I’m never the woman who get’s the girlfriend title so every time I’m having a great time with a guy I’m dating I stress about the fact that I can’t introduce him to my family and friends as my boyfriend. They will ask me and the pressure I feel to be good by being committed overshadows my feelings for the guy. Its a sick sad cycle I’ve been torturing myself with for years. I feel a little better after reading this. Thank you Terri.

  8. Ron
    Ron04-17-2013

    Hey, late to the party but I thought I’d share. I met B only a few months after my divorce so I naturally didn’t want to commit right away. Things were great and she rapidly became my full time girlfriend. I had never had it so good. With anyone. Ever.

    Then came The Talk. We wound up dialing the relationship down for a while, seeing other people (which neither of us really wanted to do, but still …). We ultimately got married, and have stayed together for a very long time. I doubt we will ever split up.

    However. There was an emotional whiplash that came with The Talk that I don’t think either of us has fully gotten over. Our relationship quickly became more like a job. An important and in many ways fulfilling one, but still a job. Even before we got married the sex wasn’t quite as hot, or as frequent, as it was before The Talk. Now we have kids, and jobs, and property, and aging parents. We gave up the freedom to see all the surprises life had in store for us, and we had in store for each other.

    There is a word for what we lost, and that word is romance. B and I shared a lot of it for awhile, and its loss stings forever. So, ladies, if things are going well, and you’d like them to continue, just trust your judgment and go along for the ride. Lots of relationships survive The Talk – mine did – but they don’t come through it unchanged.

  9. Charles
    Charles06-12-2013

    Wow! What a great article. I’ve been seeing a great woman for about five months. Things have been casual, but have recently escalated a bit. I’ve been fighting the urge for a status check, but reading this has helped realize I should just go with it. I don’t know how we’ll end up — committed or not — but right now we seem to be having fun and enjoying the time we do spend together.

  10. sharon
    sharon06-16-2013

    I understand that we shouldn’t force these uncomfortable decisions. I tried to force my current boyfriend into the discussion, only to be evaded entirely. It was only when he realized that I had started to see other people that he decided he was ready to label it. But now, I’m left wondering….what’s it going to take for any new affirmation to happen? A next step? We’ve talked about the future, but he’s not ready to move in. And definitely doesn’t want to get married any time soon. That’s what he said about being in a relationship too – until I was nearly gone. What’s it going to take for the next level of commitment? Me leaving? How do I find out without having A Talk?

    • terri
      terri06-16-2013

      Fact is, whoever is willing to walk away first wins. I applaud your decision to see other people (then). You know the pattern. He only likes you when you’re leaving. So that means when you hang around waiting for affirmation, you won’t get it. It’s not that you can’t talk about it ever–of course communication is key. But when women start in on The Talk in the early stages of a relationship, it’s a killer. There’s a diff between forcing the issue and also not getting what YOU want in a relationship. How long have you been involved with this guy? If it’s less than 6 months it is a bit soon and maybe you should see other people even now. But if it’s been a year or more and your clock is ticking and you really want to be married/kids, etc, then you can’t afford to wait around. I have a post on how to get a guy to commit that i’m posting here in a few minutes, that went up earlier this week on thedatereport.com – but hang on, I’ll have it up shortly. Bottom line: You’ve made it too easy for him–he knows you’re willing to wait, and so he doesn’t have to rush. Having the ultimatum talk is not going to work, b/c if he tentatively and unwillingly agrees to make things more “serious” with you, it’s to appease you and I can guarantee he’ll resent you for it later, or simply leave. If he’s not on the same page, he’s not on the same page. But hold up, read this other article and see how it works for you.

  11. Sambadywhambam
    Sambadywhambam07-08-2013

    I agree in general.

    But, there’s one practical detail that, I think, deserves “air time”, that is quite likely to come up before your 6-month “probationary” / “no The Talk” timeline (you gave that timeframe in a comment not the post)….

    It’s “Are you seeing (fucking) other people?” There are a lot of sex-safety issues to contend with out there, never mind the emotion-safety ones. So, if one party reaches the point where they want to start exclusivity and still has no idea about the other party, then the convo is fair game. Not advisable in the first few weeks, perhaps.

    Don’t drag it out. Don’t repeat it. Make it short and to the point, and the guy (or girl) will understand and appreciate it, and give you a straight answer (or not). Adjust your sex acts and commitment-energy on the basis of their answer (assume that no answer / vague answer means they are playing every table at the casino).

    Assuming you made the topic short and sweet, anyone who responds with “Aw, I was all hot for you and now I’m not, because you brought up a relationship-definition agenda” is a knee-jerking, immature waste of your time (short-term or long-).

    • terri
      terri07-08-2013

      I hear your concern. However, I don’t think that’s the way to go. Nor does it make anyone safer by having it. What makes you safer is by picking partners carefully, talking about your sexual history and practices (condom use, other birth control, etc). Not by asking if that person is with other people, because if one person IS fucking other ppl and the other isn’t, there will be hurt/jealous feelings that can throw a wrench in something that need not be there at this stage in the game.

      I say play it safe: Assume the person you just started dating is seeing/sleeping with other people. That’s why it’s called dating. It’s unfair to assume that just because you had sex with this person, they put themselves on lock down. So again, the person who feels the need to have said Talk, and who wants to, in your words, be “safer” by having the talk, you can avoid this uncomfortable discussion by assuming that person is. Practice safe sex, get tested regularly, etc. This is just how it is. Because this version of The Talk is even MORE personal, b/c you’re now asking to police their genitals. You’re saying you have a right to know, and that’s when it gets weird if you’re not in a committed thing.

      Don’t assume someone comes to you with a clean slate and no prior romantic connections; focus on getting to know them and seeing if there’s something you’d like to pursue there. if you’re not comfortable having sex outside of a committed thing, say so, but warning, that could be a dealbreaker for some. Because it all comes down to the same thing: Trying to make your thing secure before it’s time to be secure. Telling each other whom you’re sleeping with or if doesn’t make anyone emotionally safer. Sorry. Until you decide to have that discussion, where you swear off all other lovers for now or later, assume that’s not on the table.

  12. CW
    CW09-04-2013

    This article literally stopped me in my tracks from initiating the talk after female friends advised me I needed to finally have it with the guy I have feelings for so that I can know where I stand and whether I’m wasting my time. We have been like best friends for 3 years he has supported and cared for me during some really tough times and doesn’t hide the fact that he gets jealous if I talk to him about other guys. But recently we hooked up at a friends wedding (this has happened before but at times when neither of us were in the right head space to want a relationship). I really want more and hope that he does too. He talks about wanting a relationship one minute then he’s worried that relationships never last and he then loses a friend.
    What do I do about the talk? How do I know if we are now more than friends and exclusive or if he wants that?! He is a good looking guy who gets a lot of attention and can be a commitment phobe with really mixed signals so its hard to know what to do next without making a fool of myself or losing a good friendship?

  13. B
    B09-22-2013

    This article was great! Thanks for that but it was a little too late and I did bring up those questions. But nothing changed, in fact we continue to get closer and closer. We are more then friends with benefits. The thing is, although he says he “doesn’t want a relationship right now” he still treats me like we’re in one! We act like we’re together and we’re each others best friends. I know he was hurt before by someone he was in love with but it’s been 6 months and his actions show he wants to be with me but what he says doesn’t match up. I don’t want to bring up the talk again, I want him to make the decision to be with me but should I really be worried about the affirmation if I know how he feels by what he does and I know we’re exclusively dating each other? Does him calling me his girlfriend really matter? I’m confused….

    • terri
      terri09-22-2013

      Thanks for writing! How long has it been since you’ve been dating? This article is really for ppl who pull the trigger way way too early, like before 6 months of dating. If it’s still new, go with the flow. If it’s been closer to half a year and you know you want something more of a commitment, you must and should bring it up, absolutely. YOu want what you want. And if he says he doesnt’ want a relationship, but acts like he’s in one, that COULD be confusing. ARe you datingn other ppl? B/c if he says explicitly that he doesnt’ awnt to be in one, then you should be. Dating a few others. If he’s not closing off his options neither should you.

      If you’ve been together half a year or so and he’s with you 5 out of 7 nights/week, you’re in a relationship :) But fact is, you have to know what you want. Is it being called the Girlfriend? Is it a ring? Is it moving in together? You have ot know what you want. And you should bring it up and say, look, I’m having a great time with you and want to continue to do that. But you want him to know that ultimately you want something committed and you’re not going to bother him about it every day, but it’s something you want, and if he avoids the topic, it will be a problem. Another month, two, three goes by, and still he’s “not ready?” Then you have to tell him you’re going to have to move on. You’ve got to know what you want and set about getting it. You’re not in the girlfriend-rehabilitation business. He needs to man up and decide what he wants. ANd if he begs off, then he wasn’t going to stick around anyway, right?

  14. B
    B09-22-2013

    Thanks for the help!

  15. Bridget
    Bridget09-24-2013

    If you already had the talk and it didn’t go well, but you are still seeing each other – is it completely doomed? I’ve been dating a guy for a few months, and he just got out of a serious relationship. I think I can still turn things around but this article isn’t making me hopeful…

  16. E
    E09-30-2013

    Hi Terri, thanks for this post.
    I’ve done crazy things (that you think are romantic at the time and then kick yourself) many-a-times. I’m in a new (potential) relationship where I’m resisting those urges that push men away. And guess what? It works.
    If I’m feeling a little insecure you know what I do?… I don’t call him. I don’t text him. And guess what? He texts ME, he calls ME – he tells ME he misses ME and wants to see ME again. Then the insecurity monsters fade away.
    At the end of the day we need to follow our intuition, and forget the crazy voices in our heads that tell us to GET AFFIRMATION NOW!! Because you always know in your heart if you ‘rock their world’. And if you do – they want to get their world rocked. So they’ll show up. What I do now, is reward him for the things I WANT him to do. So if he calls me – we have a nice chat, I acknowledge that his come around and we have a wonderful time when we see each other.
    I don’t know where this relationship is going, but what was discussed definitely rings true to us. When I get ‘The Talk’ tingles, I just look at him in the eyes and say ‘You’re delicious’. And that’s all. He knows I care. He knows I’m there. And it works for us.

  17. Dani
    Dani10-01-2013

    When I tell you I WISH I would have seen this article about a year and some change ago it would have definitely saved me some confusion, I might still be confused though. I had just got over a short relationship right before my senior year in college and decided that I will just focus on school and graduate. The weekend before school started I met this transfer student. Long story short about 2 months in (we talked everyday, hung out a few times a week etc) My friends would always come and ask me “So are you and K and item or what?” In the back of my mind I always would say what’s understood doesn’t have to be explained. Like his friends know who I am, my friends know who he is then it should be ok. Right?

    Feeling pressure from my friends I had the talk one night that ended up into a 3 hour convo. I started it like “So how do you feel about me?” Not asking to jump into a relationship but I just wanted affirmation that I wasn’t beginning to waste my time. He responded with ” I think I know where this is headed? What are you looking for? I’m going to tell you right now that I am not looking for a gf. “My heart dropped. We were having fun doing whatever this was and really because he wasn’t saying what I wanted to hear I kept pressing the issue. Which got responds from him like “Well I like you, I like hanging out with you but having said that if you were to chill with another guy (casually date) then we will stop this”

    I was left scratching my head like ” huh?” So let me get this right…. You don’t want a GF, you don’t really want to commit to me but the moment I try to casually date someone else its a wrap. Sounds like a classic case of “trying to have your cake and eat it too.” I also felt like because I never left after this convo that I unwillingly agreed to his terms and conditions and if I ever got mad I can’t complain. :/

    So here I am a year later and We haven’t had that talk again.. I honestly do not want to. My friends ask ask all the time and I think as long as I’m happy with things for now Its ok. Does that mean I’m settling? We basically do the gf/bf things, he met my parents at my graduation, we both cook dinner for the other, go on dates without calling them that,and gifts have been exchanged.

    and more importantly I still get the butterflies and week knees for him. We still have as much fun as we did in the beginning as well.

    • terri
      terri12-11-2013

      Don’t fall for the trap of NEVER asking for what you want. My point is not that you should never have The Talk–it’s just that far too many people have the talk way too soon. As in, a few weeks in, maybe even a month or two. It’s a momentum killer, for sure. But you also can’t sit there in quiet desperation, especially since he put you in a weird spot–he doesn’t want a GF but he doesn’t want you to date other people? Sorry, that isn’t how it works. You’re only settling if you’re not getting what you want. A year in and you’re not seeing anyone else and you’re not sure he is? Do you even know? If you want committed and you’re not getting that, you’re settling. How long can you just hang in there? Forever? If you want committed you have to ask for what you want and be willing to stop seeing him if you don’t get it. Check out this piece in Shape that I was interviewed for. And stay tuned b/c I will address this in a future post. http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/sex-and-love/8-secret-tips-go-casual-couple

  18. Diane
    Diane10-15-2013

    So what about the man who buys you an engagement ring, but never gets round to discussing marriage and when you do, he puts barriers in the way andhe walks. This is a three year relationship btw and we’ve split up three times after The Talk.

  19. Mo
    Mo10-24-2013

    This article is a game changer for me, thank you! I wish I had read this a week ago before I initiated “the talk”. Bad move, obviously. Been dating a guy for a couple of months, always have the best times but when we were at an event where we had ran into a friend of his, he introduced me as a “friend”. So of course I felt insecure and needed some sort of definition as to what we are and long story short, he doesn’t want a relationship. So what do I do now? Since the talk we have seen each other a couple of times and continue to talk everyday like our talk never even happened. I want to continue seeing him but would it be a waste of my time?

  20. C dawg
    C dawg12-08-2013

    Thanks for the informative article. Are there ways to bounce back from asking this too often from the guy I’m dating. I did feel like I lost because everything was all good until I kept asking what we were like where we both stand. Ugh. He told me about his ex and like you said that really shouldn’t be my problem because we were having fun regardless, but I just had to ask about it. Please help ):

  21. Lynn
    Lynn12-10-2013

    Ah! I wish I had seen this article about a week ago. I recently asked the man I am seeing if he’s seeing other people… He said he is “still meeting people” (we met online) but that he’s not seeing anyone in the way that he’s seeing me (by which, I think he means, we go on Prime-Time-Date-Night dates, like Saturdays, we have slept with each other – yes, I know, big mistake on my part! – we have daytime dates, we have both met some of the other’s friends). I responded with something about how I was sorta thinkin that maybe I’d stop seeing other people and just see him (I was trying to state my desires while sounding non-pressuring). Did I mention I had had a few drinks before casually bringing this up? Oh yeah, I’m brilliant. Anyway, I therefore kind of don’t remember the way the conversation ended, but I know that he asked me if I was seeing others and I said that I was, but also not in the way that I’m seeing him. I also recall saying something about how I “know myself and can’t do this” and by that, I’d meant continue to see him while we’re seeing other people. He’d said several times that’s not AT ALL what he wants, that he wants to keep seeing me. Soon after this, we (or I) must’ve fallen asleep. The next morning, he asked me if I’d want to hang out later this week and I said yeah, I’d like that and he said “I’d like that, too.” So, uh…did I make a royal screw up? Does any of this matter? Should I just pretend that night never happened and NEVER bring it up again? My goal is to be in an exclusive, committed relationship with this man – I really like him and we’ve told each other that we like each other so I know the feeling at least SEEMS mutual – and I fear that I messed up by 1) sleeping with him after only a few dates and 2) bringing up the wanting to stop seeing other people issue. I also know that he is looking to be married in the near-ish future and he knows I am too (we are in our mid 30s) and while I’m not trying to say I’m ready to marry him, I definitely want to continue going in a positive direction with him because of the feelings I have for him. We have fun together, make each other laugh, gross other people out in public by being super affection, you know, all that cheesy stuff. ANYWAY How do I undo this and get things back on the right track where I’m rocking his world and making him earn it? (I read that article just now, too! Awesome article but another one I’d wish I’d read just a wee earlier!) Thank you, Terri.

    • terri
      terri12-11-2013

      Oh boy–a lot to talk about here. I want to respond in a bigger way, but suffice it to say: Yes, you showed your cards a bit soonish, but why would you say it’s a mistake to sleep with someone you’re into? Only a mistake if you are thinking sex with him will “make” him not want to date other people, etc, or if you’re unwilling to sleep with a man who’s also meeting with and potentially sleeping with other people. Yes, you made a common slip-up, but all is not lost. See my other post on commitment and stay tuned. You’re not alone–this post is by far my most read, and that’s saying something!

  22. juliete
    juliete01-02-2014

    OMG this post is GOLD ! Wish I had seen this loooong time ago…

  23. Julie
    Julie01-03-2014

    Hi Terri,

    I like your articles. They are to the point.

    I agree about not having ‘the talk’ and that it usually just comes from a place of insecurity not matter how much you ‘rationalize’ it to yourself.

    I would add that for me it is fine to say what I DO want. I will not tip-toe around the issue of commitment to try and keep a man interested and it was the same when I was dating. Much to the horror of some relationship experts I would share early on that I wanted to be married. However it was never about wanting to be married to that particular man, it was always about my own personal desire, and that comes across completely differently from ‘where is this going?’. It never scared anyone away and I am now married.

    However I would also always be the one who was being pursued, rather than the other way round. I preferred to be in my feminine energy in dating and relationships, so it was never me bringing up the topic of commitment anyway. If he wasn’t asking me for commitment then I would be out dating others… Until my husband took me off the market! :-)

    This is now what I teach my clients to do also.

    Julie.

    • terri
      terri01-05-2014

      Good for you! Being in your power is key. I don’t know if it’s a horror to say you want to be married; if it’s what you want, you want. But talking about hypothetically to a new date (“I would ultimately like to be married”) is different than the context of “Are we going to get married?” one month in. Big difference. Sounds like you know what you want–and you got it. People get into trouble when they lie to themselves or others about what it is they do want, and go pleasing someone thinking it will get them closer to an unstated want. Very true.

  24. Cinnamon Girl
    Cinnamon Girl02-10-2014

    My problem is I don’t have the initial screening talk.. because I am busy having fun. So… I want to know…
    how do you have that initial info talk without making a guy feel like he is on a job interview?
    I was dating a guy all of last year and he finally comes out with the “i don’t see spending the next few years …when I retire with a woman that has kids at home” What? I had the kids in April they were in elementary school then and still are..7 months later in November I find out that he is never going to be serious about me because I have kids too young for his travel plans with his imaginary girlfriend he hopes to have when he retires.

    I would love to have screened this out…. avoid a year of heartbreak. I would like to find a guy who is so pleased to have me that he is totally enthusiastic about being a step dad.
    How do I talk about that before any sex etc.?

  25. kaidence
    kaidence02-18-2014

    Well I meet this guy back in December we only talked on the phone for a few weeks then in early January we went out on a date. We have only been on 3 dates since our work schedules have been difficult lately and we both attend school as well. We use to talk everyday but not now. He said he has been busy helping his brother that no longer is employed and that he is also dealing with financial issues which is what had his focus in and that he was sorry if he had not paid much attention to me as of lately. We have hung out after this convo. Hate to admit it but we did end up having sex twice before. We still talk every now and then. Problem is I ended up really liking him but I’m not sure if he feels the same way. Being that he pursued me and said he wanted to get to know me and see where things go with us, I fig he would ultimately like to be in a relationship down the line. We have been casually seeing one another, hanging out and getting to know each other, we have had some in depth convo and shared some things about our family lives and past as a whole, since mid December we have been at this, but I don’t want to pressure him or come off as that crazy needy woman, lol. What should I do? Should I give it another month or so and see how he acts and if he willingly comes to me regarding his feelings or should I just sit him down and gradually ask him? He was with a woman for a few months that he said he loved before we even meet and I was in a relationship for 3 years before meeting him but we both have been out of those relationships for a while now.

    • terri
      terri02-18-2014

      Ah–you’re in the throes of getting to know. Doesn’t matter whom he loved or said he loved before. YOu’re not them; you’re you. You’re trying to figure out what your chances are, and you can’t. YOu can only get to know, and get as close as you are willing. That’s the risk here. No one owes anyone anything. There is no “gradual” asking…once you bring up that topic, it’s up. Period. I’d ask you what YOU want out of this right now. What would it serve to bring it up? If you’re anxious to secure a real long-term thing and don’t want to waste your time, then yes, maybe you should say something…but honestly, it’s only been three months. How would anyone know what’s up exactly? Make sure that you’re willing to act on what you want. If you don’t want to waste a second more of your time with a waxer/waner, then you have to say so, but then PULL AWAY. You can’t bring up the talk, hang around and wait on him to decide to choose you. You have to be willing to walk. If you’re not sure, either, then why not get to know him? Sure, have sex–do what you’re inclined to do. But know that this is what it means to take a risk. Let him come to you a bit. Don’t chase too hard or he’ll run.

  26. Claire Herr
    Claire Herr02-19-2014

    I LOVED your article! I will definitely be reading more tonight!

    I have been dating a guy for close to 7 months but only see each other once a week (I wish we saw each other more). We’ve kept the dating very light hearted and fun, filled with lots of great dates, and a weekend away. I have met all of his friends and he has expressed opennes to meeting my parents. I am worried about bringing up even a light hearted talk about if he is seeing anyone else/ what hes looking for because he also just moved to our city the same week we started dating and he is in the middle of looking for a new job. Should I hold out on a convo for another few months?

    • terri
      terri02-19-2014

      Thank you! This requires a longer answer…so I’m writing it up as a post! Stay tuned :)

  27. THB
    THB02-25-2014

    Hello!

    Lots of good points in this article and thread. However, having read it while currently stuck in the “oops” post-Talk ether cloud, I thought I’d inquire about how to handle subsequent actions with the individual with whom I jumped the gun.

    Context: Casually dated “Mike” for a few months. Was dating other people as well. Another guy stuck for a little while, which reduced Mike to friendzone for a month or two. When I saw him for the first time in a while, he became interrogative about “what happened” with us a few drinks in. I was fairly nonchalant, but I did bring up the fact that, ultimately, I was looking to eventually get married, have kids, etc., and that didn’t seem to mesh with his current interests. It was said in a matter-of-fact, “I dig you, but I know what I want” kind of way. Much to my surprise, though, I got a much more open, in-depth response than I had been expecting. Basically, he confessed that he doesn’t usually have girlfriends because of trust and insecurity issues (particularly with his work schedule), that he has always really wanted to be a father sooner rather than later, that he would never in a million years tell his guy friends all this stuff, and that he really, really wanted to take me out on a proper date and try to date me (rather than ‘hang out’). “Wow,” I thought, and I gave him a chance.

    It’s been about 10 weeks since we picked back up, and we have developed a sort of implied days together consistent schedule. He invites me to things with his friends, pats my leg under tables at restaurants, and so on — you know, affectionate, boyfriendy gestures . I recently brought up “other people.” Didn’t go well. He admitted that he had not been sleeping with other people and didn’t have much interest in it. When I asked if it bothered him if I saw others, he admitted that it did/would. “So, if neither of us is seeing or sleeping with other people,” I inquired, “Are we trying this out?” I suppose that, given his uber confession and his behavior toward me, I thought it would be a pretty solid “sure” in response. Nope. Instead, I got cop-out central: “I’m just not a very good boyfriend,” “I’m not great at this stuff,” “I really like where things are.” I told him that, while that was fine and I respected it, I didn’t think it was fair for him to have a problem with me dating other people, and I had to make decisions that were good for me. The next week was radio silence. We finally got together yesterday night, and everything felt pretty normal. However, several of my guy friends have made the point that – if he’s not “ready to commit” – I need to just nip it in the bud and move on.

    So: We think it’s too late to make him earn it slash rock his world? Should I care about his response to The Talk now that it has happened? I don’t want to undervalue myself, and a number of my friends seem to think that in sticking around after that convo I’m telling him he can control the relationship. However, I do like him, and stuff was (and potentially still is?) positive overall. Finally, I have no clue how to interpret the mix-signal issue with “Date me, I want all this stuff too!” and “I’m not good at being a boyfriend” — those approaches seem inherently contradictory. Is there the possibility of post-Talk damage control!? Or upward and onward? Any thoughts in general appreciated.

  28. S
    S03-07-2014

    Great article! Definitely provides some insight…..

    I have been talking to a guy I met online since mid-November (about 3 1/2 months) and we hit it off right away, an amazing connection, and so much in common its crazy. A couple weeks later we went on our first date- which was the best date I have ever been on. We have opposite work schedules so seeing each other isnt easy, but we went on another date, hung out a couple times, and did some sexual things—not all the way to home base yet if you know what I mean. Anyways, he is a shy, sensitive, somewhat passive guy which is what NONE of my exes were like. I have heard great things about him from other people, he is very close with his family, and he is just an all around amazing guy–not a bad boy like I usually go for. So, we were moving a bit fast at first, at least verbally (things we would talk about), so I tried speeding it up by pressuring him to meet my friends and for him that was too fast…he pulled away a little, wasn’t talking all mushy/love dovey anymore–but we were still talking constantly–and so I decided to have a “talk”. I asked him about it and yes it was too fast for him and he also said his ex texted him on christmas and she unintentionally messed with his head. So we decided to slow down and just keep getting to know each other. His last relationship ended around 6 months ago, and it was serious, but she cheated on him. His ex before that, who he was with for 3 and a half years, cheated on him for the whole last year of their relationship. He also told me that since he’s a nice guy he has been taken advantage of alot, and girls he has talked to in the past usually stop talking to him. He is very attractive, at least I think he is. The problem is we haven’t seen each other since December! We talk every single day–I always know what hes doing, he NEVER talks about other girls, and I drop “hints” to see how he reacts–and it seems like I am the only one he is seeing. As I said above, we do have opposite work schedules, and he works alot, so that doesn’t help. I feel like he is scared to get into a new relationship or not ready because of how he has been treated, and when me and him dove in “head first” in the beginning, it is like he realized it and “pumped the brakes” in some ways (not seeing each other in a while)—but he definitely hasnt “turned the car off” lol he is perfect for me, when we talk it all feels so right and easy it is hard to explain it. So what should I do? do I need to have another “talk” with him in this case or let it flow?

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