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Dear MJ: When do you have the "Define the Relationship" discussion?

Dear MJ,

In college, “Define The Relationship” conversations were all the rage in how 2 people decided to start dating. We could always spot them—a guy and girl, standing outside the girl’s dorm late at night, not in any embrace, but deep in conversation that you could tell wasn’t upsetting or heated just by catching a glimpse of their faces.

But I’m wondering now if that’s how it really works outside of my small, private college experience. I’m beginning to think that, if a guy likes a girl, or vice versa, they ask the other to spend time with them, go out on dates, hang out, etc. And, if it’s serious…it’ll get there on its own. Am I right about this?

And if I’m wrong, and DTRs are still necessary…when they should come up? And who should initiate? I’ve been on 2 dates recently with a guy, and maybe I’m just more anxious to get things rolling than he is. But I don’t want to waste my time if he’s changed his mind/decided he doesn’t have time for dating (which seems to be the case since, on the last date, he wanted to get together again right away, but then emailed me, told me he was busy, and we haven’t been out since).

I guess I’m just looking for a little guidance on where to go from here. Thanks.


Hi A,

Ahhh…The Relationship Discussion. It is a discussion that requires care and tact. On the one hand, you want the man to know your feelings – especially before you begin a physical relationship – and on the other hand, you don’t want to scare him off.

As far as “this” particular man goes – yes, you’re right. It doesn’t sound as if he’s too interested. He may have met someone else, or just decided that you’re not the right person for him. However, it has only been 2 dates, so you may not want to totally give up. My advice is to just not make any contact and see what he does – if he does anything at all. If he wants to see you, he will make the effort.

Advice for the future: in order for the relationship discussion to be successful, you have to make sure that you’re having it with the right person at the right time.

Person: Make sure that the guy you’re talking to is genuinely interested in you. How do you know this? He goes out of his way to contact you – email, text, phone – takes the initiative to make the plans and actually keeps them. This guy confides in you – showing a certain level of trust and friendship. (If he’s wishy-washy, or you find yourself chasing him or being canceled on, then suffice it to say that he’s not ready for a relationship and may very well be dating other people).

Time: 2 dates is definitely too soon to have the discussion. 5 or 6 may be more appropriate since by then, you’ve established a friendship and a trust. Then when you do have the discussion, try not to make it so serious. Just straight out say, “Hey, I really like you and I would like if we could be exclusive. What do you think?” If you’re sleeping with him, then you have every right to know where he stands. If nothing else, it’s a safe-sex issue.

If you’re lucky, he’ll just do it himself. For example, after two weeks, I met the friends of the guy I am currently dating. When he introduced me to his friends, he said, “This is my girlfriend, MJ.” I got lucky and bypassed the whole conversation altogether. Sure that took some assuming on his part, but in this particular situation, I was so glad that for once, I was with someone who knew what he wanted. And he wanted me.

So in summary – don’t contact that boy, make sure you have the talk with the right person, and make sure you do it after an appropriate amount of time has passed. If you’re sleeping with a guy (or about to sleep with him) then it’s more than acceptable to ask if you’re exclusive. In the meanwhile, take the time to get to know the guys you’re dating, watch out for those that play games, and be careful that the person you give your heart to is not only kind, but trustworthy and reliable.



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