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When to Define the Relationship: 20 Signs It Might Be Right Now!

If only there was a rule book that came with every new relationship! There is no set time to define the relationship, only when it feels right to you. 

when to define the relationship

When you’re dating someone, there comes the point when you start wondering when to define the relationship. If it is something more than a one-night stand, then it is necessary to figure out where everyone stands so that you aren’t stepping on toes. If you don’t define what a relationship is, it is difficult to know where you are going, or if you are going anywhere at all.

Of course, this can be a difficult thing to do. You don’t want to jump in and want to put a label on the relationship too soon. If you do that, you run the risk of freaking out your partner and them running away. But at the same time, you deserve to know whether you should remain in the relationship or whether you’re wasting your time. If you don’t want the same things, what’s the point in being together? [Read: What are we? Get your crush to label your relationship]

What does it mean to define the relationship?

When you define a relationship, you basically put a label on it. It means you’re telling the world you’re a couple and you’re exclusive. However, it’s important to remember that everyone has a different definition of the word ‘relationship’, so you need to be clear when you have this conversation.

For instance, some couples have an open relationship and it works very well for them. Yet for other people, that type of relationship would destroy them. Defining the relationship sets out the label for what you are and how your relationship is going to work. If you’re going to be open, you talk about it there and then and set your boundaries before going official. If you’re going to be exclusive, you go official in the way that suits you. [Read: Types of relationships – 26 ways to define your love life]

Not everyone feels the need to put a label on what they are as a couple. Yet, for most people, it’s something they need to feel secure and safe in the knowledge that the relationship is going somewhere – wherever that is. There is no right and wrong answer here, but both partners have to feel comfortable with whatever the relationship is.

20 Tips to help you know when to define the relationship

Knowing when you have to define a relationship is easier said than done. Do you have to define it if it becomes more than just a one-night stand, or if you have been going out for years?

If you want to know when to define the relationship, the only good answer is when you start to question things in your life that can only be answered by the definition of what someone is to you. [Read: Dating exclusively but not in a relationship? The grey area dilemma]

For instance…

1. If you’ve had talks about the future, but they are vague

There is nothing worse than always feeling on shaky ground. If you are always trying to gauge your responses and your plans for the future based on nothing but vague assumptions, that makes for a very stressful life.

If you are tired of not having the “talk” to figure out where things are and where they are going, and it is driving you nuts, it is time to sit them down and have a plan for your own sanity. [Read: Dating vs. relationship – 14 signs to know your status]

2. You wonder if you can hook up with someone else, or you don’t even want to

Whether you want to hook up with someone or you don’t, knowing what the rules are before you get yourself into trouble is imperative.

Or worse yet, you don’t want to waste your time to find that your “significant other” hasn’t been as faithful as you. Defining how monogamous you are supposed to be is important when you care about someone. [Read: What is cheating in a relationship? The truth most people ignore]

3. You wonder if they will ever call you before 2am and drunk

There is nothing worse than wondering if you are ever going to be someone they want to see before 2am, when they’re drunk.

Maybe you’re tired of getting the “booty call” and want something a little more substantial, like God forbid a date. Then, you should consider talking to the person you are having relations with so that you know where you stand. You don’t want to waste your time if it is never going to be what you want. [Read: 17 sordid signs you’re just a hookup and nothing more]

4. You aren’t sure if you’re wasting years of your life

If you know what you want and aren’t sure what they do, then you can’t be afraid to set the record straight.

The truth is that most people fear having the talk because they are afraid that they are going to scare the other person off. If someone wants to have a relationship with you *or not*, you should know.

Don’t waste your time thinking you can turn a non-committal person into someone who can’t live without you. The chances are if they don’t want a relationship, you aren’t going to change their mind. You are only going to waste your precious time. [Read: Selfish people – 15 ways to spot them and stop them from hurting you]

5. You have a key to their place and use it

If you are opening their door or vice versa at will but still haven’t defined who and what you are to one another, that has to be confusing. Humans aren’t meant to stand in limbo and not know what comes next.

Sometimes we all need definitions just to know where we stand. Otherwise, it can feel like standing in quicksand.

6. Everyone calls you their partner, but you

How can you introduce someone if you don’t even know who they are to you? If you are in a place where you are going out together, at some point, you are going to have to define what you are introducing each other as. When it becomes awkward, that is when to define the relationship. [Read: How to grow a new long-distance relationship when you’re far apart]

7. It’s awkward when people ask, “what are you two doing?”

It is awkward enough once you have defined a relationship and the questions about “when are you getting married?” or “when are you two having kids?” come along.

If people have already begun asking you what you two are planning on doing, then it might be time to undo the awkwardness and just figure it out in concrete definitions. And so NOW is when to define the relationship. [Read: 19 sure signs you’re in an exclusive relationship already]

8. You are well past the third date

The third date is like making it to third base, shit is getting serious. If you are on the third date, or even past it, then stop wondering when to define the relationship and just do it.

It isn’t always about counting dates. But, if you are past the second one and contemplating another, it might be time to think about what you do or don’t want from the relationship. [Read: How many dates before sex? The complete guide to help you decide]

9. You want to say “I love you”, but aren’t sure if they will return it

Ugh, is there anything more anxiety-provoking than the fear of rejection of saying “I love you” and not having it returned?

If you are at the point where you almost feel compelled to profess your love, then stop wondering when to define the relationship *and just do it*. Then, you can work out what’s going on and avoid getting super hurt further down the line. [Read: When should you say “I love you” for the first time?]

10. They don’t change their Facebook status after you do

It doesn’t always have to be about social media, but we live in such a digital age that it does matter. If you changed your relationship status on Facebook and other social media and they have not, then it is time to confirm if you are both on the same media page.

Don’t assume that either they forgot or that they don’t want to be in a relationship. Just ask point blank and get the answer you need. If you were ready to change your status and they weren’t, that is something to inquire about. [Read: Facebook official relationship – All the signs your partner is ready for it]

11. You would be super pissed if they hooked up with someone else

If you found out that they hooked up with someone else and you would be really pissed but haven’t even told them, then it is time to stop pondering when to define the relationship.

Putting expectations on a relationship without even giving a heads up isn’t fair. It may lead to some supreme hurt feelings without someone even knowing.

12. You want things to move forward and beyond

Stop worrying about what they want and holding your tongue. If you know what you want, then you know when to define the relationship – it is when YOU want.

There are no golden rules to a relationship, nor should there be any barriers to you knowing where you stand. Just ask when you want an answer! [Read: How to commit to a relationship and show your partner you’re serious]

13. Your biological click is ticking so loudly it’s deafening

Yes, it really is a thing. If you know that you are ready for a committed relationship, then you need to know if things are going somewhere or nowhere fast. Don’t sacrifice your own happiness – ever! [Read: DTR Talk – How many dates before it officially becomes a relationship?]

14. Your lack of definition is going to end up hurting them

When you know that you aren’t as into them as they are you, or you for sure don’t want to have a serious relationship, then you have an obligation to define your relationship and let them know. Then, you aren’t hurting them and leading them on.

15. You feel like you can’t go on the way things are

When you have hit your limit with the wishy-washy nature of your relationship, then it is the best time when to define a relationship.

You can’t stay stuck forever not knowing what the next step is, or if there even is one. If you aren’t feeling good about where you are at, it is your duty to change it. [Read: How to find the right person for you when you’ve given up hope]

16. You have been together longer than most people you know who are now getting divorced

When you are that undefined couple who has been together longer than most marriages, including those who are now divorced, then it might be time to sit down and figure shit out.

If you aren’t moving forward, it is okay, as long as you both don’t want to in tandem. [Read: The 80/20 rule in relationships and your love life]

17. You have children together

When your child is in school, there is going to be a time to fill out that awkward paperwork where you have different last names – your child has a different last name, and you are still living together.

It is okay if you want to just tell everyone you are rock stars as long as you are all comfortable with it and have explained it to your children. Then, they know what your commitment is and how stable their family life is.

18. You share expenses

If you are mixing money and finances, then it is critical for you to define the relationship. Money muddies the waters even in a committed relationship. If you aren’t even sure what type of relationship you have to begin with, that can end in financial hardship – literally. [Read: How to talk about money with your partner without fighting about it]

19. You are sick of your mom asking

If you are sick of your mother’s inquisition into where the relationship is going, or God forbid her lecture about cows and free milk, then it might be time to stop wondering when to define the relationship.

If you know what you want and you want to live on the edge not knowing, that is okay. But, if your heart sinks every time you know she is going to ask, it is probably because you aren’t okay with not having any definitions any more than she is. [Read: How to talk to your partner about your relationship – DTR made really easy]

20. It is making you feel insecure not knowing where you stand

Finally, the best time to define a relationship is when you don’t feel good about what is going on, and it is not making you happy.

Whether you haven’t asked out of fear, uncertainty on your part, or just because you don’t know how to bring it up, makes no difference. If it is consuming your time and your mental energy, then just ask, clear it up, and be okay with the answer or move on. [Read: 16 signs you’re not ready for a serious relationship]

How to have the definition conversation

So, now you’ve decided that now is the time to put a label on your relationship, how do you approach it? Basically, as long as you haven’t only been together for five minutes, there isn’t a lot you can do wrong here.

If you’ve been together a long time and your partner is still scared of commitment, that’s not your issue. It’s theirs. Wait for a suitable time, e.g. when you’re not going to be disturbed. Simply say that you want to put a label on the relationship because you’ve been together a while now and you want to know what you are and where things are going. There is nothing too heavy or too demanding about that if you have real grounds to know.

It’s easy to sit there and go with the flow because you’re terrified of scaring the other person off. But, in the meantime, you’re miserable because you don’t know what’s going on. As long as it’s not too soon, then you literally just need to pull the Band-Aid off.

[Read: Are you dating? Read these 17 signs and you WILL have your answer]

If you are asking when to define the relationship, the answer is most likely, NOW. So be brave and just find the courage to ask. Either way, you’ll feel better about it.

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Julie Keating

A writer isn’t born, but created out of experiences. No lack of subject matter, my life reads more like fiction than anything that could have been imagined...

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