How To Define The Relationship You Want
Learn how to figure out what you want and advocate for your relationship needs with these DTR pro-tips.
No matter what kind of relationship you’re looking for, it’s important to be upfront about your needs, desires, and expectations. If you want to go to Paris, you’re not going to board a plane for Tokyo, right? Before you invest precious time and emotional energy in a relationship, make sure that you and your partner are looking for the same things. Whether it’s a one night stand, a casual fling, a long-term monogamous partnership, or something else entirely, you have the right to ask for what you need and want. Otherwise, you might be halfway to Tokyo before you realize you’re on the wrong plane.
Whether it’s a one night stand, a casual fling, a long-term monogamous partnership, or something else entirely, you have the right to ask for what you need and want.
Figure Out The Kind Of Relationship You Want
The first person you need to be honest with is yourself. How much time do you have to dedicate to a relationship? How much emotional energy are you willing or able to invest? What is more important to you right now: physical, emotional, or intellectual connection? How do you feel about dating multiple partners? Listen to yourself.
Try not to worry about what others—friends, family, society—expect. Our culture is full of subtle and not-so-subtle messages about what relationships should be, and what we should want. This can can make it hard to get in touch with your own true desires—but it’s totally worth it!
Once you are clear on what kind of relationship you want, you can communicate this to your partner or potential partner.
Never Assume What Other People Want In A Relationship
Some dating apps allow you to define what you’re looking for upfront, or at least check a box. This is a useful screening tool, but it’s no substitute for direct communication. Not everyone reads the fine print before swiping right! So instead of assuming that someone is looking for exactly the kind of dating arrangement you are, ask them! This is especially true if your potential partner does not disclose what they’re looking for in their profile.
Not everyone reads the fine print before swiping right! Don’t assume, ask!
If you’ve been chatting with someone on a dating app, it’s totally legit to ask for clarification before meeting offline. Depending on your situation, you may not want to spend the time sorting it out in person. Clarifying expectations beforehand can also take some of the pressure off that first meeting, so you can get down to the fun part—discovering if there’s a spark!
Or, maybe you’ve already met someone. Maybe you’ve been seeing each other for a few weeks or a few months. Things are going really well. You enjoy your time together, you might even get butterflies in your stomach when you see them. You can’t help fantasizing about a future together... New relationship energy can be intoxicating. Enjoy it, but if you want these dreams to come true, you need to get real with your partner sooner rather than later.
Don’t Wait For The Perfect Moment To Talk
There is no perfect moment to broach the subject. If you wait for the “right” time you may put off the conversation forever. Remember that it’s okay if the conversation is awkward. It’s also okay to be nervous—that just means this is important to you. And it can definitely feel scary to ask for what you need, especially if you haven’t done so in the past. However, being vulnerable now will actually protect you from future pain and disappointment.
When you do talk, make sure to use “I”statements, i.e., “I want to have multiple partners,” instead of, “You can’t satisfy all of my relationship needs.”
It’s okay if the conversation is awkward. It’s okay to be nervous, that just means this is important to you.
And remember that the label you place on a relationship isn’t as important as agreeing on mutual language for communicating your needs and desires. For one person “dating” might mean hanging out once or twice a week indefinitely, and for another it might mean the first step toward marriage. Defining terms lets you know where you stand in the relationship right now, and what to ask for going forward.
Use Common Sense
Have the conversation in a place where you feel safe. Use common sense. For example, make sure you have a way to get home and aren’t relying on your partner for a ride. Have a trusted friend or confidant on call to debrief afterward. They can also help hold you accountable for broaching the topic in the first place!
Finally, remember that even if the outcome is not what you hoped for, by voicing your needs and desires you’ve taken a giant step toward advocating for yourself and getting the relationship you want—whether it’s this one or the next one.
Myths and facts
Setting the record straight.
At O.school, we know that few things are one-size-fits-all. Read on for insights from Pleasure Professionals and other experts:
Check out what the O.school Community is buzzing about and send your questions and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sex Ed Videos
Previously recorded streams we love.
What the Hell is This Poly I Keep Hearing About!?
In this intro to Consensual Non-Monogamy, Dr. Yoni will tell you about the types of alternative relationships out there, share some concepts of how they work, and will give you some tips to take into your monogamy that would enhance your relationship.
Is It A Date Or A Friend Hangout?
Have you ever wondered: are we on a date? Did they just invite me on a date? Or are we just hanging out as friends? It’s not always clear, read on for tips to figure out where things are at.
You’ve been hanging out with someone new, someone cool, maybe even someone you have a bit of a crush on. But is your time together just a hang, or something more? Let’s discuss how to read the signs, send the right signals, and have an honest discussion about what you both need and want.
Reading The Signs And Signals
There’s no foolproof way to know if someone is interested in you as a friend or as a potential romantic or sexual partner. To make matters more complicated, feelings can change! You or your friend might be interested, but not know where you want to take things yet. As you both explore how you feel, it can be hard to ask or be asked what your feelings are.
Some signals are easier to read than others.
Some signals are easier to read than others. If your friend finds little ways to be affectionate - touching your shoulder while complimenting your jacket, a hug held a beat longer than it needs to - or if their compliments tend towards the physical, that can be a good indication they’re interested in you, physically.
But then again, touch or praise aren’t always a sign of sexual desire. Lots of signs that scream “crush!” to some people can say “considerate friend!” to others.
The best way to know if someone is giving you a signal that they’re interested in being more than friends is by getting to know them. If you haven’t known them long, observe how they spend time with you.
Is your time together different than when they hang out with other friends? Do they come up with nice activities for the two of you to do alone? Do they talk about other crushes or dates?
Still not sure? There’s only one way to find out: ask them!
Is This A Date, Or…?
Your first step is knowing what you want. Do you want it to be a date? Have an idea about what you want from the other person, even if it’s just to go slow, and about what level of clarity you need to feel comfortable hanging out with them.
Remember that you want to avoid miscommunication, so keep it short and sweet and as direct as possible: is this a date?
“Is this a date?”
You can acknowledge that the situation is a little awkward but you’re having a nice time and want to be on the same page. And if your time together is over and you’re on your way home still wondering if it was a date, now is the best time for a post-hang text: I had a great time and I’d love to go out with you again.
Setting up an actual day and time to meet up instead of a generic “let’s do it again sometime” sends the sign that you’re interested in more than a casual hang.
Bottom line: if you’re not sure whether or not you’re on a date, ask!
Have A Crush On An Old Friend?
You hang out together all the time, talk and text constantly, and feel like you ‘get’ each other. Maybe you start having feelings you never had before: romantic or sexual fantasies, pangs of jealousy if they go on a date with someone else, sudden nerves when it’s time to say good night.
As with finding out where you stand with new friends, having a clarifying conversation with an old friend about where things are going can be equally uncomfortable. Ultimately, the stress of not knowing where things stand can be worse than the stress of having the talk.
You can acknowledge that the situation is a little awkward.
Before you talk, have an idea of what you might want to try with your friend (a date? a kiss?) and how you want to proceed if they’re not interested (still be friends? take some space?)
It’s normal to start feeling like you want more, but it’s also normal if your friend wants to keep things as they are. Maybe you have a romantic future ahead of you—or maybe you’ll have something to laugh about together years down the line.
No matter what the context, it’s always a good idea to know how you’ll respond depending on what they say. Imagining their response can help clarify your own feelings, too. It never hurts to ask, so ask yourself how you feel before you ask someone else what they want.