Surviving the DTRs (defining the relationship)

Though you may be hurt, it’s good to have the defining-the-relationship talk and know your partner sees things the same way. (Photo: Roxanna Salceda)

Let’s face it, having the DTR (defining the relationship) talk is painful. As a root canal. It is sometimes a necessary evil, but unlike a root canal there ain’t no novocaine to make the pain of the DTR talk go away.

For those content to just let things flow organically, I salute you. I just happen to be very into labels.

While not wanting to be a nag, I do want to know what’s going on in my own relationship — a compulsive need to define myself and my relationship at all times that occasionally drives me and those around me into a state of neurosis. I just feel more relaxed knowing my boyfriend and I are on the same page and see the relationship the same way,  and I am sure there are many people wracking their brains asking “What are we?” who would also be better off having the talk.

In my sophomore year of college, this guy (let’s call him Billy) introduced himself to me in our history class. After that we just couldn’t stop talking, not even to listen to the professor. I knew I felt some kind of a connection, so I decided to accept when Billy asked me to a party his frat was hosting.

We did not actually end up going to that party. If I were to tell you we just spent the night watching “Arrested Development,” I would be lying, even though that was also on the docket. After some activities I can only describe as non-“Arrested Development”-related, he told me he had “no time for a girlfriend” and that a “friends with benefits” relationship would be “perfect for us.” (If you read last week’s column, you know my opinion: By “us,” he meant “him.”)

After a few months of what I thought was dating (more on that later), he and I went out for dinner one night. When he asked me back to his room, I gave an excuse: I told him I had too much homework.

Two days later, walking back to our dorm from history class, I apologized for ruining his fun but explained that I did need to know where our relationship was headed. He told me he still “stood by his friends-with-benefits offer” and what we had going on was “not dating.” I told him that while I respected that he had no time for a girlfriend, he needed to respect that I only prefer to do certain things with a boyfriend. He told me he was a guy and “had needs.” After that I realized that it was not the relationship, but rather he, who was in a state of arrested development. At that point, I just walked away.

Although I was hurt, it was also enlightening to finally know the two of us did not see things the same way.

I always need to know. In a way, I strongly advise you not to behave like me, but I also think it is important to face whether you are on the same page as the person you are seeing.

And that means having the talk. It’s a little hard to figure out what someone else is thinking without actually talking to them, after all, no matter how painful it might be.

Last week: Friends with benefits doesn’t benefit friendship (or women)

Next week: The three vicious cycles of relationships

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