sex & relationships

A guide to making it official: how to define your relationship status

For some couples, definitions come easily, it just becomes official naturally. However this doesn’t happen for everyone. For those that this doesn’t happen to, defining your relationship can be difficult, especially if you’ve not had ‘the talk’ yet. And this can be an awkward discussion to bring up and one that many people shy away from.

Equally, a relationship doesn’t have to be defined. You don’t need to know if you’re his girlfriend or if you’re her boyfriend if you’re both happy with that. There is no need to define yourself as single, in a relationship or ‘it’s complicated’ if you don’t wish to. If you are happy and comfortable outside societal definitions then I say – go you!

But for those of us who like to know what to ‘call’ your partner (which is often just to make introducing each other easier) and you’re stuck in that are-we-aren’t-we phase of a relationship, here are some hints and tips for you. These will help you figure out when your relationship has become just that, a relationship, and how to have ‘the talk’ without instantly killing all romance and affection for your partner.

Time it right

According to a 2012 survey carried out by the dating website ‘Seeking Arrangements’, most couples say ‘I love you’ after 14 dates. So although these are only averages, perhaps asking on your second date isn’t the best idea. Maybe use these dating milestones as a rough timeline for the appropriate time to start asking questions of your partner, and of yourself.

Pay attention to introductions

When your partner introduces you to people, pay attention to how they phase it. Do they say ‘partner’, ‘friend’, or ‘other-half’? Do they give any sort of indication of your status as a couple at all? This would be a good way to start as it’s subtle.

If you’re happy to be a bit more head on in your approach, the next time you introduce your partner to someone ask them to fill in the blank. “Hi guys, this is John, my …..” Hopefully they will fill in the blank for you with what they believe to be the current relationship status: “friend”, “flatmate” or best of all – “boyfriend”.

The Miracle approach: Fill in the blank tentatively

If your partner decides not to fill in the blank for you, you could always tentatively fill in the blank yourself.

This is the Miranda-Michael approach (Miracle approach). If you’ve seen the infamous episode of Miranda when she gets a boyfriend, you’ll know what I mean. When introducing your partner, just go for it. And then maybe backtrack a little. The scene went something like this:

Miranda: “This is Mike, my…”

Mike “Boyfriend? Sorry, I had a hunch and just went for it. Too soon, sorry, back-track.”

Miranda: “No, I’m also with hunch. This is Mike, my BOYFRIEND.”

Although this seems like jumping in the deep end, it could be the quickest route. Watch for your partner’s reaction, as well as their response, because if they’re not happy with this definition, it should be clear on their face. And if they’re not too happy, hopefully your friends will just laugh it off for you.

Tell your partner how you feel

Asking “where is this relationship going?” can be rather daunting, and it’ll probably just terrify your partner, and you’ll end up with a Ross-style answer that doesn’t actually answer the question: “we’re going somewhere fun.”

So instead, go for something different and tell your partner how you feel instead. Opening with your own feelings is much less threatening, puts lets pressure on your other half and therefore is more likely to get a positive, or at least helpful, response. This can then gently lead into a more indepth, but less scary conversation about your relationship.

If all else fails, ask

Face-to-face chats about relationships can be really scary, so make sure it doesn’t feel like a confrontation. Just casually slip it into conversation one night over dinner by asking something as simple as “are you happy for me to call you my boyfriend/girlfriend?” and just see what they say.

By asking a clear and simple question you are likely to get the answer you are looking for, and by ensuring that you aren’t putting any pressure on your partner you are also more likely to get a positive response.

So there we have it, my five top tips to defining your relationship. If you have any other suggestions please comment below!

If you missed our last guide, you can find Alice Wolff’s guide to messaging women on dating websites here.