“The Talk” is easily the most awkward and uncomfortable part of a burgeoning relationship: You’re in those lovely, early stages and things are great but you or your lover want to know “where things are going.”
Uh, oh. According to my observations (and some actions of my own), people will do anything from self-mutilation to eating at Elder for a week to avoid pinpointing what your Facebook relationship status (if you’re man enough to have one) should say. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to have any kind of relationship if you refuse to state its parameters.
So you agree to have “The Talk.” Sadly, starting the discussion is far from the hardest part. It’s common for one party to lie, sniffle and manipulate the other into an unsuitable agreement to keep the relationship alive. Don’t let this happen. It should go without saying that the first thing to consider when defining a relationship is what you want, and you should never settle for anything that conflicts with your desires.
One rookie mistake: pre-gaming the big talk. It may work for football, but alcohol will not make your discussion easier. If anything, your brutally honest confessions will only hurt your partner and make future interactions both painful and awkward. Your best shot is going into the discussion, both partners sober, with a clear view of where each wants the relationship to go.
So, you think you’re ready? Even when you know your stance on the relationship, your lover might say things that could trip up even the most seasoned of relationship experts. Here are some unexpected things you might hear during “The Talk”, with a few tips and tricks for tackling them:
“This is just sex, right?”
Well, is it? Only you can decide if you’re okay with leaving emotions off the table. You should never agree to this if you ever want a relationship with this person. If they explicitly say that your relations are solely sexual and nothing more, it’s time to let hope take a back seat to rationality. Your lover will not change his or her mind. And neither will you. If you have feelings it’s time to let it go. It may hurt to end it now but it will hurt even more later on when your true feelings inevitably come out.
On the other hand, it’s the 21st century, and (almost) no one will judge you if you decide a purely sexual relationship is right for you. As long as no one accidentally develops residual feelings a “friends with benefits” situation can work. Just be smart, stay safe and have fun.
“I don’t want you hooking up with anyone else. But I’m not ready for a relationship.”
There’s no need to force your relationship to fit one of Facebook’s labels. There are a million random combinations of restrictions, requests and requirements that make up functional romantic partnerships. Try to reach a compromise that includes both parties’ wants and needs. But don’t agree to any conditions you can’t commit to just because you like the person. Consider this: Is there still the possibility of a traditional relationship? Will you go on dates? Can you tell friends you’re dating?
Although this approach allows for the most flexibility, it’s easy to get caught up in the details and forget to mention something you wanted. Before making a decision, make sure you’ve covered all your bases (not those ones); otherwise, prepare for a few sleepless nights pondering the specifics.
“Technically we’re dating, but no one can know!”
No offense, but this line is bullshit. Don’t fall for the hidden trap of a secret relationship. I hate to bring up He’s Just Not That Into You, but honestly, if he keeps your relationship under wraps, he’s just not that into you. Unless he has a really, really legitimate reason — and by legitimate reason, I mean he is in the Witness Protection Program — avoid this resolution at all costs. A secret relationship is a gateway drug to cheating. Truth.
Your honey just laid down a now-or-never: make it official or stop seeing them completely.
Before you freak out and dump them on the spot, take a step back and examine the relationship. If you’re having fun, you like the person and the sex is good (or the dry-humping, we’re cool with abstinence). Maybe it wouldn’t be an awful idea to try the whole “relationship” thing. Just like chicken soup, commitment can be good for the soul. If you’ve weighed the pros and cons, however, and are still convinced that monogamy won’t work, let them down gently. Understand that they may need more than a few days apart before they get their bearings back.
If you’re the one thinking about issuing an ultimatum, remember that it should be used only in extreme cases. For example, if you’re already picking out the names of your future children, it’s probably a good idea to let your significant other know you want a real relationship. Be prepared for disappointment, though. It might be a good idea to have break-up cookies baking when you leave for the chat.
“It’s not me, it’s you.”
Break-ups come out of nowhere and hit you like a pound of bricks. Don’t beg and plead. You’ll just look desperate and regret your outburst the next morning. If you need to understand their decision, feel free to discuss what went wrong. Don’t feel obligated to keep talking, though; if you need to leave, do. Take advantage of your additional free time to hit up more events around campus or finally brave the El and take a trip to Chicago. It’s true: Millennium Park smells better if you’re single. Catch up with the friends you ignored during your fling. Flirt with (classy) strangers at The Keg. New opportunities abound, so make your down time minimal and jump right back into NU’s “vibrant” social scene.