Friendly but no-nonsense relationship and dating advice for women in their 20s and 30s, from the guy perspective. Come back for biweekly posts and "tips of the week." Skip to the advice...
A female friend of mine, Megan, has been dating the same guy for a couple months now. At a party recently she was talking to me and one of her girlfriends, Karen, about a conversation she wanted to initiate with this guy. The two of them were already spending multiple nights a week together and had decided to be exclusive, but she wasn't sure about their "status" – were they boyfriend and girlfriend? – and this was bothering Megan. Although she used different words, she basically wanted to have what I call the "what are we, exactly?" conversation.
But Karen and I were shaking our heads before Megan even finished describing the talk. Karen's obviously not a guy, but she is recently married and known for telling it like it is, and if anything, her reaction was more negative than mine.
So what, you might ask, is wrong with a conversation that begins with some version of "what are we, exactly?" Really, Megan just wanted to know if Mark thought of her as his girlfriend. Yes, they were exclusive, but she wanted some other reassurance from him, even though she knew the terms "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" were basically meaningless. Still, seems fair, right? So why not?
For starters, it's really hard to initiate this kind of conversation without at least seeming to come from a place of fear or insecurity. You can act as flippant and carefree as you want, but the subtext is: it's early but I already don't feel secure about our relationship. From the guy perspective, this conversation feels almost instinctively like a trap. Not only do we hear insecurity, but rightly or wrongly, we hear that we're supposed to take responsibility for it. To a guy the beginning of this conversations sounds something like: "not only do I need this relationship to be more defined, but I need you to define it so that I can feel good about myself." And even if that's not what's intended, it never really feels fair.
It's not smart, either, not if your relationship is in its early stages and you're truly interested in developing it further. One very simple way to understand the guy perspective on this (and on many things) is to try to imagine the other side. Are you attracted to guys who convey a sense of insecurity early in the relationship? Say you're cruising along in an exclusive dating relationship with a guy who you like and haven't ruled out for the long term, and then one day he says: "are you my girlfriend?" How do you respond? "I don't know, am I?" It's just not a fair question.
But wait, you might say: isn't clarity a fair thing to ask for in a relationship? Sure. There are situations when it's important to have a defining conversation, and the right guy will understand that. For instance, when you're deciding to be exclusive, or when you're using the "L" word for the first time, or when you've gotten really serious and you're talking about moving in together. But the difference with these conversations is that something concrete can actually be expressed or decided. Although these talks can still be delicate, they are legitimate and important. When brought up at an appropriate time, guys are more likely to respect a conversation with a goal or a decision to be made, even if it makes them uncomfortable. And if this conversation does scare the guy away, you were ready, he wasn't, and it wasn't meant to be. But stay away from the wishy-washy, high school-era "what are we?" conversation. It's not likely to change anything, except for the worse.
Karen went even further than I did in response to Megan. "Don't ever try to have that conversation. It just sounds whiny and sad." But she added an important qualifier. "Maybe, if you're really just having the conversation out of the blue, when you're loose and feeling good with him and it just comes up, that might be ok. But as soon as you spend more than two seconds thinking about it, don't do it. The slightest bit of planning will telegraph that what you're really talking about is your own insecurity."
Confidence – why it matters, how to grow and maintain it, and how to recognize it in a guy – will be a major theme of this blog. Stay tuned for the next post from The Guy Perspective on how guys recognize and respond to true confidence in a woman.