Has this ever happened to you?
You start dating someone new. Things are going great. You’ve met some of their friends and vice versa. You begin to get excited about the way that things are going and start to fantasize about the future with them.
Suddenly, it occurs to you that no one has mentioned exclusivity and maybe you think it’s too soon to have “the talk” so you start asking little probing questions like “how do you feel about me?” and “where do you see this going?” This puts them on the spot and maybe you get answers like “we’re having so much fun, why analyze it?” or “I like you” but no deeper information about where the relationship is going.
Then, panic sets in. Even though you’re still having fun with them, you start to freak out a little bit about whether or not they want a relationship with you. Strategy meetings begin and analysis ensues.
Then you begin perceiving that they are pulling away from you when to the naked eye, nothing has changed. Each time they return a text message later than you’re used to, it feels like rejection. Each time they don’t respond exactly the way you expect, you feel like it’s going to be over soon or feel like you have to have “The Talk” to suss out their real intentions.
So you decide to gather up your courage and sit them down to discuss things. In an attempt to avoid sounding clingy or needy, you might have prepared exactly what to say, but in spite of your careful planning, all of your messy feelings come spilling out.
You tell them all about how much you like them and your fears and.. and… and…
Unfortunately this backfires. They aren’t reassuring like you hoped they would be. They don’t take it well and maybe stonewall a little bit before shutting down the topic. Or maybe they affirm that they like you but it feels lukewarm. No big admissions of love come out. You can sense that things are now, REALLY not quite right.
Then, in the coming days and weeks, they start to pull away.
They start to decide it’s time for “a talk” of their own, but it isn’t about commitment or exclusivity. Or worse, they start not returning your calls. You used to see them all the time, but now, suddenly they seem to have other plans. Hangouts drop to once or twice a week max– and even then, it’s awkward.
Then, your fear that they were not that into you becomes self-fulfilling prophecy.
So, how do you make it known that you want a relationship without seemingly ruining everything by sitting them down and having “the talk” that actually serves to scare them off?
“The Talk” Remixed
A reframe of your mindset is in order.
Rather than being afraid that you are being rejected by them, which gives your power away and leads to cringe-worthy groveling style conversations, it’s better to come to all relationships from a greater place of power.
Here’s an example:
Which internal thought process sounds like it comes from a place of high self worth?
“I really, really want them to like me, so I don’t want to do anything to drive them away or scare them off, so rather than state my desire to have a committed relationship I will bottle everything up until it explodes. Then I will mourn their departure.”
“While I really like them, I want to make sure that they are right for me too, so I will mention that I want to invest in relationships that might yield the kind of life I’m interested in living. If they aren’t interested in that, then I will have to wish them well and go about finding someone who has the same goals as I do.”
People don’t respond to whiny, weak conversations where they feel like they’re being pandered to. That’s why the “well, where do YOU see this going” statement fails so miserably. You just gave them all of your power. With that statement, it shows who is in charge, and it sure isn’t you. They are now free to take a “wait-and-see” approach with the relationship, since you have showed your hand and they are in control.
If your intention is to not casually date forever, you have to let the other person know that early on. It sets the stage for the whole relationship. It’s not that you should march into the first date and announce that you want marriage and 3 kids, just that holding a mindset of “if this doesn’t work for me, I’m willing to find someone else” is a valuable asset.
The best statements are about your own standards.
Casually saying “I’m interested in a relationship that progresses toward a commitment at some point.” Is a statement of what you want your life to look like. You aren’t saying “YOU MUST GIVE ME A COMMITMENT” or giving them an ultimatum. You are discussing your standards. Discussing your standards is great. Whining about what is happening or what they are/aren’t giving you is a recipe for causing someone to pull away.
If you set it up so that everyone is on the same page, later on they can’t feel bait-and-switched. After all, you were clear about what you are interested in. Then the ball is in their court to either commit or not, but you have retained the right to depart if you aren’t getting your needs met.