I have a few tried and tested methods of negotiating that in-between stage of a relationship with minimal angst. I know that not every person or relationship needs labels or definitions, but it’s very important to those who value boundaries and security. So, without further ado, here’s how to ask a guy what he wants from you. Firstly, some preparation about the clearest signs a guy wants a serious relationship.
- Read the signs. Here’s where we channel our inner Nancy Drew and pull some of those clues together. Think about how much effort he puts into your dates. Is he a creative planner? Does he mix things up, or listen to your needs and pay attention to details. If your chap does not stray from Netflix and Chill on his parents’ sofa, for example, you might presume that long-term commitments aren’t on his radar. However, if he offers cinema dates, evening walks, mini-golf, or concerts that require him to actually carve time out of his day for you, that’s a positive sign. If he needs a nudge, that’s okay. Guys aren’t mind-readers and we all need to be told what the other is thinking sometimes, just as long as everyone is honest and willing to ask the question in the first place.
- Ask yourself: is he willing to change and respond to your needs? Take this with a pinch of salt, of course. We shouldn’t have to change to be worthy of someone else’s love, but that is not to say that we shouldn’t compromise. Relationships are all about compromise, and while you’re preparing to have The Conversation (dun dun dun) about the future, reflect on your memories and assess how much you are both putting into the relationship thus far. If it’s just you ceding to his whims and timetables without any compromise on his part, you can probably save yourself some time. You know what the answer is. He might just want a casual thing.
- Prioritize communication. The crux of this article is a simple one: the answer to demystifying your relationship status is to just ask. This sounds like a cop-out, but think about it. If you feel secure and able to express yourself and be vulnerable to ask the question in the first place, that tells you a lot from the get-go. If you can have honest conversations about your past relationships and experiences as two mature adults and still want to pursue a future, that’s another good sign. Even if it’s still casual, you have to respect each other’s boundaries. Everyone deserves to know when a relationship just isn’t working, after all.
- Take the pressure off. A relationship doesn’t look the same to everyone! You don’t need to rush into staging a big performance about asking, it can come in simple, small moments. You might be in bed together catching up on Love Island. During the commercial break, maybe the moment presents itself to you. Equally, if it makes you feel more confident, maybe dress up and plan a date night so that you can feel in more control.
- Don’t overthink it. While I definitely suggest that you assemble some thoughts beforehand, or perhaps a list of pros and cons to declutter your mind, please don’t overthink this. If you memorize a speech, your partner will be able to tell. Truthfully, your gut feeling is much more important, so stick to what feels right.
- Take it slow. Don’t be afraid to have the conversation over a couple of days, or return to your discussion when you feel able to. These can be intense feelings and might need some unpacking, so give yourself time to do so. Maybe you aren’t both in the same place just yet. That doesn’t mean you have to be hasty. If he’s wasting your time, that’s another matter, but no one wants to be pressured into a relationship. No one wants to be trapped. My key pieces of advice are: stay calm, say what you actually mean, and take a minute to reflect.
- Remember your self-worth. You are more than what you can offer someone else. The better you know yourselves, the more confident you feel, and the more you can assert what YOU want in the relationship. While you might think you know what you want, or what you are expected to want, make sure you define the relationship too. A relationship is much more complex than what they say in the movies. Intimacy isn’t the same as just sleeping in the same bed or seeing each other every second of the day. It might be, but don’t confuse dated relationship stepping-stones with a measure of the relationship’s strength. Only you know that.
- Try not to catch him unawares. Like any marriage proposal, you should never propose without having had a discussion about marriage at some point. Rom-coms will tell us that spontaneity is sexy, but so is consent, boundary-setting, and communication. Everyone deserves to be on the same page and on an equal footing in the relationship.
You don’t have to be as smooth and articulate as an ’80s era Bond villain when you’re asking the guy you’re seeing what he wants. Just be honest, and make sure you know what you want.