Dealing with DTR: Defining the Relationship

I will never forget my first attempt at the “DTR”(aka. Define The Relationship) talk with my girlfriend and now wife, Kara. I was feeling pretty comfortable with Kara snuggled against me, my arms around her. But we were dating long distance and Kara wanted to know “how this was all going to work”. My response? “Well, I think it’s working pretty well right now.” Not the right answer.

kara and adam honeymoon1What I didn’t understand was that, being concerned with the distance, Kara wanted to know how often we would visit each other, talk on the phone, and—ultimately—what our expectations were.

I didn’t know it then, but those conversations were the first to a whole series of DTR talks. We’d often check back in to discuss expectations, direction, and how we were both doing. We’d both initiate the conversations when we felt they were necessary. At times they were awkward, but every time they brought more clarity, helped us see where we were headed and confirmed that we were headed there together. These were some of the hardest and most important conversations in our relationship. But, the truth is the dreaded DTR talk is an important part of every relationship! With that in mind I want to share a few pointers for the DTR talk.

  • This isn’t a one-time thing! The DTR talk is like checking a car’s oil. You don’t do it once and assume everything is good for the next 100,000 miles. The DTR talk is a way to reflect on the past together and look to the future. I wouldn’t recommend it every week, but every few months might be a good suggestion.
  • It takes two! Your DTR talk is about making sure you’re on the same page, which means you both need to be involved in the conversation. At times it can be harder for guys, but if you’re both invested in the relationship, you should be open to talking about it.
  • “Let’s just enjoy ourselves” is code for “I’m not committed to you.” When a person doesn’t want to define the relationship, and instead says, “Let’s stay casual,” or “Let’s just have fun,” or any other meaningless deflection, it’s really because they want to have the pleasure without the commitment. You don’t have to worry about ending this relationship, because there isn’t one.

What about you? Do you find the DTR talk easy or difficult? Any humorous stories to tell?

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