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Ah, the infamous DTR. Men cringe at the thought of exposing their feelings during this conversation of transparency, while women delight in its clarity and direction. In a previous post, I highlighted some ways a guy can pursue a woman without sending her packing, and many comments followed involving the intricate dance that is “Define The Relationship.” So I thought I’d tackle it a little more in depth.

After our fourth date, I told my girlfriend on the drive back to her place that I didn’t want to see anyone else. If she wanted to date other guys, so be it, but I had to tell her where I stood. She quickly agreed on dating exclusively. In fact, I didn’t have a ready response in case she objected because I was pretty sure of her response, based on how the date went. “But Nathan,” you say, “That’s easy! I have no clue how the girl I’m dating will react.” Good point. That is a frustrating place to be. So let’s break it down.

First, understand the context. If you’ve had several solo dates, she already knows you’re interested, and she’s chosen to allow your advances. By action alone, a DTR has occurred; no words have been spoken, yet much has been said. Knowing this, however, it’s important you take into account the nature of your time together. Did you pick her up or meet her somewhere each time? Was it spontaneous coffee or a planned Saturday night? Did you pay for her latté or miss the opportunity because you were fiddling with your phone? These are all signals that tell her one of two things: You are confusing, or you are pursuing. Examine your context and figure out which one you are, while understanding you may be neither if you’ve not seen her enough.

If you are confusing: It’s time to clarify what direction you are steering this ship before she jumps overboard. Don’t get me wrong, spontaneity is important, but she needs a map. Enter the DTR. Don’t schedule a date completely out of the norm to have this discussion; it should be a subtle but confident step. Start with picking her up, paying for whatever you do together, and somewhere in the middle throwing in a funny but clear comment like, “Whoa, I think this is an official date. I’m suddenly nervous.” She will recognize you’re treating this as something different from before, but you’re lighthearted about it so it isn’t completely out of character. Finish the night by stating how you’d like to see her again soon, without being cryptic or wordy, then follow up. And don’t ask her where she sees this going because in her mind it’s your move.

If you are pursuing: Being intentional from the start means a DTR is unnecessary early on. Your actions speak loudly, so in this case she’s not so much anxious to know what’s going on but rather wants validation. Tell her your desire to date only her, and validate her presence in your future with statements like, “We’ll have to come back to this place sometime and take the other path” when walking along a park trail, or “Let’s go to that place for lunch after church next week.”

It’s impossible to encompass the individual nuances and pacing of every relationship. Both of these scenarios are simply meant to lay a groundwork and act as springboards into conversations of deeper substance later. The early goal of a DTR is to bring a mutual understanding for both, clearing any confusion in the air and making subsequent talks easier. As the DTR naturally progresses into topics like commitment and family over time, hints and validation give way to direct talks of a life together in marriage. And of course, seeking God’s will should be in every step. Know your motivations. If you are confusing because you’re unsure or afraid, honor her by bowing out.

What are your thoughts and experiences regarding DTR? Any further advice for men?


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