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How to go from dating to a relationship without coming off as a desperate loser
Ep. 2 Teaser: How to go from dating to a relationship without coming off as a desperate loser
So, you’ve been seeing each other for a while and you’re wondering, ‘Where is this going? Are we exclusive? Can we call each other boyfriend and girlfriend yet? What’s the deal?’
I hear ya! It’s totally reasonable to not want to date for too long without knowing where you stand. But what can you do about it, huh?
Here are the top 5 points I’m going to cover:
❤ The life-changing lesson that only took me TWO DECADES to learn ❤ The two commitments required to transition from dating to a relationship ❤ When exactly to bring up these commitments (hint: don’t leave it too long) ❤ How to discuss these commitments in a way that’s fair to both of you ❤ What to do if you want to commit and the person you’re dating doesn’t
You have two options for absorbing this juicy info:
1. Listen to it (recommended): You can listen here on this page using the player below or, even better, listen in your favourite podcast app (mine’s iTunes). Any probs, let me know.
2. Read it: As much as I love podcasts, I know not everyone’s into them. So, if that’s you, you can read the transcript of the episode below. I’ve taken the time to format it so it’s easier to read.
Either way, enjoy! And if you have any comments or questions, leave it below, email me or catch me on Facebook (at ‘Elly Klein: The Relationship Writer’) or Instagram (@relationshipwriter).
Ep. 2: How to go from dating to a relationship without coming off as a desperate loser
There’s nothing desperate about wanting a relationship
Today, I’m going to teach you how to go from dating to a relationship without coming off as a desperate loser. Of course, you’re not a desperate loser. There’s nothing desperate about wanting a partner. But that’s how we feel when we like someone and want a little more from them, isn’t it. It’s so sad. We get all tied up in knots wondering, ‘Where is this going?’ and ‘How long do I have to wait for a commitment?’ Well, I’m going to start by telling you a little story.
Do you want this or not?
I was listening to this podcast by a bit of a business guru and he was doing a Q&A and someone asked him how he got together with his current girlfriend. And he said something along the lines of, ‘We were dating casually, then eventually she asked me, ‘Do you want this or not?’, and I said, ‘Yes, I do’, and we’ve been happily together ever since.’ Now, I thought this was interesting. Did you catch the most important part of the story? It was when she said, ‘Do you want this or not?’
You’re allowed to have reasonable boundaries
I’m sure his girlfriend didn’t literally say those words. But what she did, whether she realised it or not, was set a boundary. Because newsflash: You’re allowed to have boundaries. Ta-da! How ‘bout that. If a reasonable amount of time has passed – say, 1 to 2 months – and the subject of exclusivity hasn’t come up organically, there’s nothing wrong with bringing it up, sweetly of course, and communicating your need to be exclusive, especially if you’re being intimate or want to be intimate, and finding out whether or not the person you’re dating is on the same page.
It only took me TWO DECADES (just two decades) to learn this. Prior to that, I thought the only way to go from dating to a relationship was to pretend I didn’t want a relationship. How ironic is that! I thought I had to be the ‘cool girl’ and be kept in a holding pattern against my will indefinitely. Nope, I didn’t. This was a revelation to me.
Commitment is a series of mini commitments
Okay, now that we’ve established that, yes, you are, in fact, allowed to have boundaries, there’s something you need to know about commitment. And here it is: Commitment is a series of mini commitments. Let me say that again: Commitment is a series of mini commitments. And when you want to go from dating to a relationship, there are two mini commitments you and the person you’re seeing need to agree on.
Mini commitment No. 1: The commitment to be exclusive
The first commitment is the commitment to be exclusive. And I’m going to use my own relationship as an example. David and I had been dating roughly once a week for a month. So, it was about the fourth date where we had this epic 24-hour date, and he slept over, and I just had a wonderful time. It was the first time I really thought the relationship could be going somewhere.
I woke up in the morning and started thinking about the upcoming week. My dating profile was still live. And I thought to myself, ‘I no longer want to date anyone else. And I don’t really feel comfortable with him dating anyone else.’ We’d been dating for a month, we were in touch every day… it was really starting to go to the next level.
In the past, I would have been like, ‘Oh, what do I do? I don’t know. How does he feel?’ And then I thought ‘no no’ (because I’d learned new tools by this stage). So, I said to him, ‘I’ve realised I no longer feel comfortable with us not being exclusive. I don’t really want to spend time on the dating site, I don’t want to go out with anyone else, I don’t really feel comfortable anymore with you going out with anyone else. How do you feel about us being exclusive, taking down our profiles, only seeing each other and seeing how it goes?‘ And he said, ‘Yeah, I’d like to do that.’ And I said, ‘Great!’ So, that was mini commitment No. 1: The commitment to be exclusive.
Now, just because you’ve reached mini commitment No. 1 and agreed to be exclusive doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in a relationship yet. And I’ll explain what I mean. I actually have a client who’s in this stage at the moment. They’re very much exclusive, but they’re not calling each other ‘boyfriend/ girlfriend’ yet. They haven’t gone public with their relationship yet. So, we’ll get to that in a moment.
Mini commitment No. 2: The commitment to being ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ both privately and publicly
So, mini commitment No. 2 is agreeing you’re in a relationship and agreeing to call each other ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’. And it also means agreeing to go public with your relationship in some way. And you can go in little stages. You can start by meeting some of each other’s friends, or meeting each other’s family. Then in this day and age, you might pop a picture of the two of you on social media or change your relationship status or something. So, that’s the second commitment. And that’s when you’re officially in a relationship.
So, here’s how it happened with me and David. We were about two months into our relationship and David invited me away for the weekend to meet his family. David’s family live in a small town a few hours’ drive out of Sydney. So, we were going away for the weekend. And we were driving along and chatting and listening to music and having a wonderful time. And as we were getting close to our destination, something dawned on me…
> I asked him, ‘Hey, when you introduce me to your family, what are you going to introduce me as?’ > He said, ‘I don’t know. I hadn’t really thought about it. A friend?’ > I said, ‘Well, I’m not really a friend. We’ve been exclusive for a couple of months. We’re in touch every evening for hours on end. And you’ve invited me away for the weekend to meet your family. I think it’s probably time you called me your girlfriend.’ > He said, ‘I’m not sure if I’m ready for that word.’ > I said, ‘If that’s the way you feel, that’s fine. But I have to be honest and say I’m not really comfortable with you referring to me as a friend considering the nature of our relationship. So, if you’re not ready to call me your girlfriend, maybe we should take a step back after this weekend.’ > He said, ‘Give me a little time to think about it and I’ll let you know.’ > I said, ‘Okay, no worries.’
And I was happy to give him, like, a week or two.
But that evening, we were out to dinner and he started saying ‘my girlfriend’ this and ‘my girlfriend’ that. It was his very cute way of telling me he’d thought about it and he was officially on board with the ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ title, which was awesome.
Setting a boundary Vs making demands
There was a time when I would have been terrified of making such ‘demands’. (So demanding…) That was before I learned they weren’t demands. They were boundaries. And there’s nothing wrong with having reasonable boundaries and communicating those boundaries as they arise. It’s all in the delivery!
Here’s how to communicate a boundary: Be warm. Warm, warm, warmy warm. Like a freshly toasted croissant, but without the flakiness. Be warm, assertive and understanding of the other person’s boundaries. If the two of you aren’t on the same page, you need to come up with a compromise or politely go your separate ways.
I was very lucky in that David never showed any signs of not being on the same page as me, which was really nice. But it was still important to me to check in with him and make sure, and then formally agree to certain levels of commitment.
What if your boundaries don’t align?
So, what do you do if you make your boundaries known to the person you’re dating and they’re not on board with them? Well, you have to be prepared for that and be clear on exactly what you’ll do. And for the record, this has happened to me before.
If they say they want more time and you think there might still be a chance with them, you have a few options depending on your situation:
Option 1 is you give them a little more time, but not too much. I wouldn’t give them more than another month. Option 2 is you continue to see them but pull back on the amount of time you give them, both in person and via phone and messages. Option 3 is not only do you pull back, but you stop putting all your eggs in one basket and start dating other people again or continue to date other people.
That’s if they say they want more time.
However, these conversations can sometimes lead to the revelation that the person has no intention of ever being in an exclusive relationship with you and that they’re happy to see you as long as it’s casual. In that case, again, you have three options:
Option 1 is you continue dating them casually as long as you’re completely comfortable with it. But you’re probably not because you asked them for a mini commitment, so you might want to rule out option 1. Option 2 is you agree to be just friends. Option 3 is you decide to move on entirely and have no contact.
It all depends on the situation and your own personal boundaries. It’s up to you.
I know that was probably a lot of information, so let’s go back over the key points:
❤ 1. There’s nothing desperate about wanting a relationship ❤ 2. You’re allowed to have reasonable boundaries, and wanting exclusivity and then a relationship with someone you’re dating within a few months is a reasonable boundary ❤ 3. Commitment is a series of mini commitments ❤ 4. When you want to transition from dating to a relationship, there are two mini commitments you both need to make: Mini commitment No. 1 is the commitment to be exclusive, and mini commitment No. 2 is the commitment to calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend or partners both privately and publicly ❤ 5. The best way to communicate a boundary is warmly and assertively ❤ 6. You must have respect for the other person’s boundaries and be clear on exactly how you’ll handle it if your boundaries don’t align
So, that’s how you go from dating to a relationship without coming off as a desperate loser. You do NOT have to be kept in a holding pattern against your will indefinitely. You CAN take control of the situation, and you can do it in a way that the person finds classy and delightful, whether they realise it or not.
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