What Does DTR Mean? A Matchmaker’s How-To Guide To Defining The Relationship
Between FWB, LDR, and the many other modern-day dating acronyms, it can feel next to impossible to keep up with current terminology. At the same time, though, it’s super important to stay informed about the latest slang, especially if you’re currently single and on the dating scene. If you’ve found yourself Googling “DTR meaning” don’t worry — you’ve come to the right place. So, what does DTR mean? In this guide, I’ll not only explain the definition but also provide some helpful tips on how to DTR.
DTR stands for “defining the relationship.” The DTR is a pivotal point in any relationship, and while the timeline ranges vastly, I typically recommend tackling it between three weeks and three months in. It may feel awkward to say, “what are we?” but don’t avoid this crucial convo, because it helps you to avoid any potentially hurtful misunderstandings. Why keep investing in something if ultimately, it’s not heading anywhere? You might find that you and your new love interest aren’t on the same page about where this romance is heading. Or, you might be able to get some much-needed reassurance about your bond by adding labels or clarifying where you’re at. Regardless of how it goes, you’ll likely feel a sense of relief once you lay it all out on the table.
Every relationship is unique, and therefore, only you can decide when, where, and how to define the relationship. That said, there are some rules to live by when you DTR in order to ensure that it’s most comfortable for everyone involved, and furthermore, that you get what you want out of it.
Here are my top tips for a successful DTR discussion.
Figure out what YOU want first.
Before you DTR with someone, you should take some time to get clear on where you’re at in this relationship, reflect on what outcome you’re hoping for. Here are some key questions to ask yourself in the process:
- How do I feel about this person right now?
- Why do I feel the urge to define this relationship at the moment? As a matchmaker, I don’t think you should assume you are exclusive either.
- If they don’t want the same things I do right now, am I willing to wait and see where things go?
Maybe you’ll realize that you need more time to sort through your feelings before launching into the DTR discussion. Or, maybe you’ll get a stronger sense of why this feels like the right time to hash it out.
Plan an in-person meeting.
Although you may be eager to dodge any potential awkwardness that comes with having this convo in person, I highly advise against bringing this topic up over text or even over the phone. When it comes to sensitive subjects like these, being able to read the other person’s body language and facial expressions is key to avoiding any misunderstandings (that could cause even more trouble down the line). It’s too difficult to tell what your date is really thinking or feeling when you can’t hear their voice and see their face. So, make it a point to bring this up when you’re hanging out IRL — or, if you’re unable to see them due to dating long-distance or quarantining, then a video chat over Zoom or FaceTime is the next best thing.
As for where to DTR, the most important factors to consider are privacy and comfort — so avoid loud public places. You might find that having the talk feels most comfortable to you in your own home, or on a walk around your local neighborhood. Bringing it up while you’re playing a game could make it feel more playful and laid-back, which is always a plus.
And in terms of timing, you probably don’t want to have this conversation late at night when they’re exhausted from a long day at work.
Start by asking questions.
Rather than starting off with a demand or a potentially intimidating statement (“we need to talk”), you might put your feelers out by asking some questions.
Try easing into things by asking, “How do you feel about the time we’ve been spending together?” or “How are you feeling about the way things are going with us?” These questions offer a great transition into the conversation because they allow you a chance to see whether your date is just as excited about and invested in the relationship before you put yourself in a vulnerable position with the DTR talk.
Be forthcoming about where you’re at.
Sometimes, the best way to get someone to open up about their feelings is to share yours. So, if you’re getting vague responses or you think it might help to launch the conversation with your standpoint, you might say something along the lines of: “I’ve been having so much fun with you,” or “I’ve really been enjoying our time together so far.” You’ll be able to tell a lot about how they respond to these kinds of statements. If they enthusiastically agree, then you can start to delve into defining the relationship. If they seem to get tongue-tied, you can dig a little deeper by asking, “What about you?”
Once you’ve segued into the topic of your relationship, you can start honing in on the specific areas you’d like to clarify. For example, if you want to be exclusive with them, you can say something like, “Just so you know, I haven’t been hooking up with anyone else. What about you? Are you interested in seeing other people?” If you met online, you might ask them whether or not they’d be open to deleting their app profiles and seeing where the relationship goes. Or, if you’re trying to figure out whether or not you can label things, you might say: “Hey, I realized I wasn’t sure what to call you the other day when I was telling a story to my sister. How have you been referring to me?” Or “How would you feel about me calling you my boyfriend/girlfriend?”
Whatever it is that’s important to you, don’t hold back in the interest of making your date more comfortable. Sacrificing your own needs will likely only lead to pent up resentments down the line.
Keep the door open.
If you don’t get the response you hoped for, or if you don’t manage to get any more clarity during your conversation, don’t stress about it too much. Some people need some time and space to process their feelings before making any big decisions about a relationship (especially introverts). There’s no need to rush such an important conversation — in fact, doing so might cause them to panic and run. By not putting any pressure on, you’re showing them that you genuinely care about their happiness.
Let your date know that you’re fine with giving them some time to regroup and reflect, and then perhaps make a plan to circle back after a week or two.
Also, be prepared for the possibility that your date doesn’t know what they want. At that point, it’s up to you whether you’re willing to invest more time and energy into the relationship knowing that there’s a chance it might not meet all of your needs.
While DTR certainly isn’t easy, it certainly doesn’t have to be a painfully awkward experience. Set the scene so you’re both as relaxed and comfortable as possible, be upfront about your feelings, and make sure they feel safe sharing their perspective as well. Then, and only then can you start the exciting process of figuring out the next step in your budding relationship — no matter where it’s headed.