She has a toothbrush at your place, you hang out four times a week and you’ve even considered shuttering your OKCupid account. Unfortunately, the same old rule about assumptions still applies, and it’s best to have a conversation about where your relationship is headed. Here’s how you and her can get on the same page dating-wise—if only so you can stop awkwardly introducing her as “your friend” at functions.
What’s the best time?
No two relationships are alike, but the best time to start talking about this issue is when you’re totally, completely and utterly confused about what “this” is. People give off a lot of mixed signals when they like somebody, but don’t want to seem overly invested. On the other hand, it’s still a good idea to make sure you’re both on the same page even when it’s particularly obvious that you’re a couple.
Set a time aside for ‘the talk’
Know how you dread her bringing up this exact conversation when you’re unprepared during a date or right after sex? Well, the feeling’s mutual. It may seem a bit formal, but rather than springing a potentially life-altering question on your maybe-girlfriend, tell her that you’d like to discuss your relationship status—at a later time. That way, she can do some thinking of her own as to what she’s looking for. When the time rolls around, be direct and as open as possible to any outcome.
Be honest with her (and yourself)
Focusing less on labels, do some soul-searching and figure out exactly what it is you want. This will make the whole conversation go smoothly because you’ll be able to articulate your goals and values to her, making it easier to compromise when she lists her own (and yes, there will be some middle ground). However, when it comes to things you can’t settle on, it will also help avoid the common pitfall of agreeing with her for the sake of sticking together. If she wants a relationship and you’re looking for a friend with benefits, there’s no sense in feeling pressured into accepting her terms just because you want to continue seeing her. You won’t be doing yourself any favours in the long run, and you may break her heart if you don’t end it there.
Be prepared for what might happen
Go into the conversation hoping for the best, but you should still be prepared for the worst. If you’re looking for something she can’t offer, it may be a painful (but opportune) moment to break it off before either of you needlessly waste any more emotion. You may also find out that you really like each other, but that one of you wants to put on the brakes. That’s a good thing. It’s healthy to set boundaries and limits, such as those on premarital sex, early on so both parties know what to expect and if they want to tough it out—as a couple.
Redefine as necessary
A good relationship is one that evolves over time and adjusts to the crazy things life throws at us. The status of said relationship is no different. After you come to an agreement about what your new relationship means to you, feel free to revisit your status as necessary. Perhaps you’ll be comfortable altering boundaries you’ve agreed upon or you’ll want to take that next big step. This also means being comfortable defining the end of a relationship, which may become necessary should things go sour.