Time To Have The Dreaded DTR Conversation? Here's How To Approach It With Confidence

We all know how important it is to be on the same page with your partner in a relationship. Though dating has changed through history, lovers of the past and present have embarked on the uneasy conversation of defining the relationship — conveniently shortened to DTR in recent years. Skipping out on this vital piece of communication is a major mistake — and definitely one of the things you should avoid doing in a new relationship – but how do you go about timing this awkward, vulnerable heart-to-heart? You don't want to scare off your new partner after the first few dates. Yet, you also want to ensure that you are getting what you want out of a relationship, whether you prefer something casual or more serious.

Having the DTR talk may seem intimidating, but you certainly won't regret being more informed about where you and your partner stand. Luckily, people have been defining their relationships practically forever, and experts have garnered some helpful tips for approaching this important conversation.

What does it mean to DTR?

Defining the relationship — or DTR — is the point where you and your partner establish what kind relationship you have. Is your relationship exclusive? Is it a fun, flirty sexual relationship? Are you both looking for long-term partners? Although these conversations can be uncomfortable, the DTR check-in is vital for having a healthy partnership. The DTR will help you determine if you have shared expectations.

"If one partner is looking for a more casual experience, while the other is looking more for a monogamous relationship, that can cause certain expectations on either partner that they may not be able to fulfill," licensed clinical social worker Matt Lundquist tells Women's Health. DTR talks are "the best way to determine whether you're on the same page as your potential partner," Lundquist says.

Taking the risk and having the DTR conversation can save you from heartbreak and miscommunication. However, asking someone to DTR right out of the blue can be awkward and uncomfortable. How should you go about defining the relationship?

How to navigate the DTR conversation

You don't have to let the difficult nature of the DTR talk stop you from figuring out where you and your new partner stand. First, you want to consider your emotions about the relationship and where you want it to go, according to MindBodyGreen. From there, let your partner know how you feel: Phrases such as "I like spending time with you" or "I really like you," can open up the conversation.

Now, it's time to hear what your partner has to say. Sometimes, the DTR may give you insight that you and your partner aren't on the same page. "[T]here may be some things you aren't ready to hear and that's okay," said relationship expert Krysta Monet (via Cosmopolitan). "Understand that everyone has the right to move at their own individual pace, including you."

If you and your partner have different expectations about where your relationship is going, think about whether this is something you're willing to compromise on. Value what your partner says, but don't forget about your wants and needs, too.

The DTR talk isn't a conversation you should only have once. Longer relationships will require multiple DTR sessions. "I think having [the DTR] conversation often would allow for the most success because you might change your mind while you're in it, or stuff might not be working the way you had envisioned," licensed clinical social worker Beth Sonnenberg tells MindBodyGreen.

When should you DTR?

With the awkwardness that comes with defining the relationship, some may wonder when they should go about it. You don't have to force the DTR talk, though. Allow for the DTR to come up organically. "There is no set time to 'have the talk.' If you reach a point where you're only comfortable continuing the relationship with a clear definition, then bring it up," said counselor David Bennett (per Insider). "If your partner is on a different time-frame, then communicate about it, and see if you can reach an understanding."

To know if you would benefit from the DTR conversation, consider whether you have started acting like this relationship is something more than a casual fling. According to Bustle, signs like not having sex with anyone else, constantly being with this person, and people always assuming you two are a couple could indicate that it is time to DTR. Once you feel that you're getting attached to your partner, consider bringing up the topic. Doing so can ensure that you don't get too invested in a relationship that was never going to go beyond something casual.

Even though it can be uncomfortable, defining the relationship has clear benefits. Reflecting on what you want out of a relationship, being open with your partner, and communicating your desires in a non-judgmental way are key for navigating the DTR. Keep in mind what you want in a relationship so that you find the person who is best for you.