Ready to DTR? Consider This First.

Dating is often filled with lots of hope and excitement. Young couples plan enticing dates and dream big dreams. Over licks of ice cream, picnics in the park, and strolls around the lake, we began to see a future filled with joy, one where our biggest dreams might even come true.

While trying to find the safety and love of which you’ve been dreaming, DTRing (Defining the Relationship) can leave us reeling in excitement or fear of rejection. In a relational battleground of emotions, expectations, and euphoria, how do we know when it’s the right time for commitment and labels?

Defining the relationship is a pivotal step in our dating lives — one of the many make-it-or-break-it moments. How do know you’re READY to DTR? Here are some tips for making that call:

Repair

A relationship is going to experience bumps and bruises throughout its lifespan. We have to know that when the fracture happens we are capable of repairing the relationship together. As you observe the person who has caught your eye, notice how they handle conflict with others. If they offer grace and mercy, take responsibility for their mistakes, and confidently apologize with sincerity, you may have found a true catch.

Empathy

As you prepare to dive into a deeper layer of love with your new beau or belle, be sure to take note on how receptive they are to the needs of your heart, your challenging days, moments of celebration, and the mistakes you make. If they can step outside of their needs long enough to tell you that your needs matter, their empathy might just embellish your relationship. If you’re starting to feel isolated or like you need to perform to keep the relationship in tact, you may want to hold off on DTR.  

Ambivalence

It’s common to fall in love with the fantasy of who we think our new partner can become, rather than the reality of who they are. You may find yourself rehearsing how they will take care of you and what they will say when they finally outgrow their selfishness or immaturity. The reality, however, may be that you’re dating someone who isn’t quite ready to jump into commitment. A good question to ask yourself is, “Do they leave me feeling disposable or cherished?”

Domains of Intimacy

There are five common areas of intimacy that you’ll want to assess, before you broach the DTR:

Emotional intimacy stems from one of the most rewarding yet challenging aspects of relationships: vulnerability. Can you talk openly about your past, your current fears, and your biggest dreams? Your partner should match your level of vulnerability, leaving the relationship standing on a foundation of trust, safety, and belonging.

Social intimacy deals with how the two of you interface with the world as a unit. Some couples place emphasis on matching fashion and similar circles of friends, while others prioritize types of activities or introverted energy versus extroverted. It’s important to understand if the two of you are social beings with enough similarities that you won’t become resentful or feel like you are compromising too much.

Spiritual intimacy hinges on your ability to feel respected and understood as a spiritual being. It’s not about having the same value systems or identical doctrines. Being able to talk about spirituality in a way that leaves both of you feeling respected will strengthen your relationship.

Sexual intimacy, in its clinical sense at least, has very little to do with sex. Sexual intimacy describes how we demonstrate our passions. In other words, can you enter the excitement of your date? Are their passions something you can embrace, and do they embrace yours? If so, my natural inclination is to say that you will easily follow a trajectory that will lead to great and meaningful sex when you cross that bridge.

Intellectual intimacy will tell you and your new squeeze if you can spend empty time feeling incredibly full. Intellectual intimacy doesn’t leave you only geeking out, it creates an appetite to be influenced, shaped, and refined by your soon-to-be partner’s internal creativity and brilliance, making your world feel a little larger than before.

Yearning

Yearning to see your self expand. It’s easy to let your own dreams, passions, and needs take a backseat to ensure the person you love is comfortable and happy. So as a means to protect the relationship from your own desperate hope, make sure there is enough room for both of your emotional needs. A good question to ask is, “Do I love who I am, what I experience, and how I feel when I am with this person?”

Knowing when to DTR can open the door to learning about yourself, your other, and the world, and growing in happiness. If it’s too early or a bad fit, it can lead you down a path of relationship thorns and thistles. So before you start to strategize just how to broach the conversation, make sure you’re READY.

Isaac L. Archuleta

Isaac works at the intersection where sexuality, relationships, and spirituality converge. After coming out as bisexual, Isaac spent several years researching relationships and sexuality at a conservative seminary while earning a masters degree in counseling. Isaac uses his personal background and professional insights to equip people for health- relationally, intrapersonally, and spiritually. With his home base and counseling practice located in Denver, Colorado, Isaac is often invited to speak across the US and can be heard on various podcasts and radio shows. Isaac is an avid runner and a self-proclaimed nerd. His biggest hope is to help deconstruct outdated religious and systemic barriers that keep people from understanding their true selves.