The DTR Talk: How and When to Define the Relationship

Chloe MullinerChloe Mulliner
Chloe Mulliner
7 min read
Published in Dating 

The early stages of a blossoming relationship can be fun, flirty, and, let’s face it, a little confusing. After all, you’re having a blast spending time together and doing the things couples do, but you haven’t exactly put a label on your relationship. In other words, you’ve landed yourself in a situationship.

A situationship is a romantic relationship that lacks any clear boundaries or definitions. And sooner or later, you’re going to want to determine what this situation is and where it’s going, and that’s when the defining the relationship or DTR talk comes into play. 

In our guide below, we lay out everything you need to know about how to define your relationship, when to have that discussion, and how to have it. Follow our tips to help make more sense of your relationship! 

What is DTR?

What is the meaning of DTR? DTR stands for “define the relationship,” which refers to when two people who are dating have a conversation around the boundaries and expectations of their commitment to one another.

What is the meaning of DTR? DTR stands for “define the relationship,” which refers to when two people who are dating have a conversation around the boundaries and expectations of their commitment to one another. 

For some people, defining the relationship might involve mutually deciding to date exclusively, but for others, it could mean agreeing to an open relationship. This discussion may also entail defining certain factors, like what commitment means to you or what you classify as cheating. 

There is no right or wrong way of defining your relationship as long as you’re both on the same page and agree on the terms of your relationship. The key is to come to an agreement that makes you both feel confident and secure moving forward without any lingering questions or confusion about where you stand as a couple. 

When to Define the Relationship

How do you know when to define the relationship?

If you’re currently in a situationship, then you might be craving some boundaries or labels. After all, when you haven’t defined your relationship, it can feel a bit like wandering around no man’s land without any direction. 

So, how do you know when to define the relationship? The following are a few signs you might be ready to breach this topic with your partner:

You’ve Gotten to Know Each Other

Many people suggest having the DTR chat once your relationship has reached the three-month mark, but we don’t believe that’s a hard and fast rule. You see, some couples hit it off right away and find themselves mutually wanting to commit to a serious relationship after just a few dates, while others casually date for months before feeling the need to define their situation. 

If you ask us when to define the relationship, we recommend doing so after you’ve had time to get to know each other, regardless of whether that’s after three weeks or three months. 

You’ve Had Time to Reflect on Your Feelings

Once you’ve gotten to know each other, give yourself space to think about how you feel about this person and what you want from this relationship. Consider your relationship goals as a whole and the kind of partner you see yourself with, and then reflect on how this person aligns with all of that. 

Is this someone with whom you could see yourself in a serious relationship? Or are you more just focused on having fun and enjoying a fling with them? Furthermore, are you willing to date exclusively, or are you adamant about keeping it casual? 

Make a pros and cons list, journal, or do whatever you need to sort out your feelings, but just be sure to do so before coming to the table to define your relationship.

You Don’t Want to Mislead Each Other

You won’t find much fulfillment in your current relationship if you want to build a future together while your partner still thinks dating others is fair game. And the same goes for if they’re ready to walk down the aisle while you’re still swiping on the dating apps. See where it can get misleading? 

Everyone has different relationship expectations. It’s nothing personal if you don’t want the same things, but it is something you ought to sort out before you string each other along. 

If you and the person you are dating have gotten to the point where you’re worried about misleading or hurting each other’s feelings, then it might be time to define your relationship to get to the bottom of things.  

You Want to Limit Confusion

Dating is exciting, but it can also be confusing. How do you know if this person really likes you? And are they interested in dating exclusively? Or are they just looking for a fling? And if they are serious about dating you, what is their definition of commitment, and what do they constitute as cheating? When you find that all those questions are beginning to drive you crazy, you might want to consider having the DTR talk. 

Having this discussion and answering these questions can help calm your fears, solidify your relationship status, or maybe even urge you to find someone else who aligns more with your expectations. 

So, if you feel like you’re ready to sort things out and stop feeling so confused, then you may be ready for the talk.

How to Have the DTR Talk

How to Have the DTR Talk

Now that you’ve decided when to define your relationship, here are a few tips on how to have the talk:

Do It in Person

It’s easy for your wires to get crossed when having conversations over text. For this discussion, plan on having it in person so you both have an opportunity to discuss your relationship outside the confines of your phone screens. Be sure to practice good communication by listening, maintaining eye contact, and avoiding interrupting so you can both say your peace. 

Be Open and Honest About What You Want

When it comes to having the DTR talk, try not to beat around the bush. If you want to be exclusive, say it. And if you really like this person, say it. But if you’re not ready for a relationship, be open and honest about that, too. It’s totally okay if you’ve come to the conclusion that you don’t want to move forward with this person or have a serious relationship with them, but the whole point of this chat is to convey that to them.

Remember, this discussion is your chance to get everything out on the table, meaning don’t hold back when explaining your wants and needs. 

Realize It Might Involve a Series of Conversations

Do realize that the DTR talk can be a lot, and you both may need some space to process what was said. Because of this, don’t assume this will be a one-and-done conversation. Instead, allow yourselves to keep the topic open for further discussion so you can revisit it after you’ve both had some time to reflect.

Accept Their Response Regardless of Whether It’s in Your Favor

And finally, it’s important to understand that you may not be on the same page after all, so you need to be prepared to accept their standpoint, even if it’s not in your favor. Maybe the timing is off for your relationship, or maybe this person doesn’t feel the same way as you do. Whatever it is, remain calm and collected and avoid pressuring them to see it your way.

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