Defining your relationship or having the “what are we” talk can feel totally nerve-wracking, and while some feelings of stress and anxiety around such a conversation are totally normal and natural (after all, you probably really like this person), you can make it seem a lot less scary be focusing on the fact that ultimately you're both being clear and open about what you're looking for and, regardless of the outcome, you'll emerge with a better understanding of what page you're on. That said, with a few expert tips on how to talk about the future with your significant other it can feel like even less of an intimidating endeavor — for both of you.
There are so many exciting aspects of a budding relationship: Your first date, your first kiss, and all the little butterflies-in-your-stomach moments in between. And having a conversation about your future can be one, too. No matter if your long-term goals for the two of you involve marriage, moving in together, or just having a lasting commitment to each other, this conversation will help you each realize what you want from each other — and that's a good thing.
So if you've been dreading the DTR moment, pause, breathe, and take in the advice from dating coach, author, and ambassador of sexual wellness brand TENGA, Shan Boodram, who has five key suggestions for making this convo go so much more smoothly (and, hopefully, as lot less scary).
Make Sure The Setting Is Free Of Distractions
“Find a time when you can talk without distractions or interruptions, without any screens or devices, and a place that feels comfortable and cozy,” says Dr. Sarah Rattray, couples psychologist, and founder and CEO of the Couples Communication Institute. She adds that it’s also best not to spring the subject matter on your partner. “It's reassuring to know the subject of a conversation beforehand so you feel prepared and not surprised or startled.”
Avoid Walking Into The Discussion With Expectations
“I always tell my clients that you can have the exact same conversation from a very different energy and get a very different result,” says love and life coach Melissa Snow. “For example, if you approach a conversation about the future from a place of insecurity and needing validation, you are going to get one result. If you approach the exact same conversation from a place of confidence and curiosity you are going to get a very different result. So try not to go into the conversation feeling too attached to the outcome. This is what makes you come across needy. If you can come into the conversation from a neutral place, just wanting to share your own thoughts about the future and being curious about his, things are going to go a lot better for you.”
Start An Open & Honest Dialogue Early On
"Communication should be a culture not an incident, meaning if you're finding it difficult to bring up an important topic, you may have to start making an effort to talk about the future in general," Boodram says. "Goals, dream places to live, retirement, etc., you'll find the conversation of romance and the future flows easier when you're naturally on topic."
Ease Into It
Boodram notes that because your partner may not already know this is a topic you've been stressing over, go into the conversation with as much ease and grace as you can — since they might not see it coming. "Seeding the conversation verses springing it on someone may be in your best interest, as a lot of people's first reaction to anything foreign is to say no," she explains. "So instead of saying 'I wanna talk about us,' say, 'I've been putting a lot of thought into my future and I want to share that with you and hear what your thoughts are, do you think we could make some time this week?'"
Keep An Open, Curious Ear
Instead of asking clear yes or no questions, open a dialogue that allows them to elaborate on their feelings — and be sure you're listening as much as talking. "Make sure your questions are worded in a way that makes it clear you're curious about their response verses funneling them towards a specific one," explains Boodram. "Try something completely open like, 'When you think about our connection and the future, what comes to mind for you?'"
Focus On The Very Next Step, Not The End Goal
Obviously some people have certain relationship deal breakers, like wanting to have children verses not wanting to have them. That said, depending on how new your relationship is, it might be helpful to focus on the steps that are right in front of you, not far down the line. "If you think the next step is meeting each other's families, focus on that and save the marriage talk for another day," the expert says. "Remember it's about creating a culture of communication, meaning, you'll have more talks like this so no need to cram everything into one." This way, it feels more digestible for the both of you.
Don't Make Them Feel Attacked
Neither of you wants to feel backed in to a corner with this conversation. That said, it's okay to laugh, be vulnerable, and make each other feel like this isn't the end of the world. "Try to make it fun and despite what they do, try to make them feel good about what they contributed," Boodram explains. "People don't like to do things they aren't good at (Remember how you felt in math class after you got an F?), so help build the person's confidence in having this kind of conversation by making them feel good about their contributions." Remember, their opinion is just as relevant and valid as yours — even if it's not exactly what you want to hear.
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