How To Discuss Where the Relationship Is Going

Discussing the RelationshipHow can you have “the talk” about where the relationship is going without creating a negative experience?

First of all, you should. You absolutely should talk about where the relationship is going.

People often joke that men always bolt when women try to have a talk about commitment. However, this isn’t true. The truth is that most men who are emotionally mature enough to be worth your time will be glad to share expectations and hopes about the relationship.

You will get a quality guy when you help men to self-select (or unselect themselves). You can do this by courageously pursuing interactions that work well with quality men.

In other words, if you demand quality from a guy, he will either rise to the challenge (what quality men do) or act like you are demanding something unreasonable (what emotionally immature men do). Keep this in mind before discussing the relationship.

Yes, you will likely end up sifting through more potential partners this way, but in the end you will have wasted far less time (because you avoid long relationships that are going nowhere).

For now, allow me to offer you two pieces of advice that can be quite useful if you’re going to attempt “the talk” with a guy you’ve been seeing.

1. Approach the discussion while in a positive mood state before discussing the relationship. Talk about what you do want rather than what you don’t want.discussing the relationship
2. Don’t expect him to be on the same page with you when discussing the relationship. Don’t let yourself get caught off guard by this. The simple fact is, men have a different timeline in their mind when it comes to relationships and commitment. At the point when you are thinking some sort of unspoken relationship has formed, he would be surprised to learn you already think of your interactions as “a relationship.”

Negativity and mismatched mental timelines for relationships often combine in a problematic way. The difference between your assumptions about the stage of the relationship and his assumptions about the relationship can create arguments (negativity). This creates a negative experience for men.

They walk away from the relationship because it creates a negative emotional experience. Men end up feeling blamed or disrespected for reasons they don’t understand. This can sometimes destroy a relationship before it even had a chance to get going.

So if you’re ready to talk about where things are going, let all expectations go and approach the discussion as nothing more than a short, considerate explanation of a few things you are hoping to find in a good relationship.

James Bauer

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85 thoughts on “How To Discuss Where the Relationship Is Going

  1. Chandrika Tolia said:

    The writings r very informative and interesting.

  2. John said:

    Good evening. I am a 71 widower. I have been in I hope a committed relationship with a women who is 66. She is a divorcee and also was in a long term relationship with someone 13 years younger then herself. She usually brings him up at least once a day. Usually it’s we did this we did that. She said that she wants to go slow with us but is she afraid to commit into this relationship? I would be extactic if she would just start staying over on the weekends. But early on she said it would be her decision as to when she would stay. So is she leary of committing to this or is it me ? With almost 4 months together is it rushing on my part? Thanks for any and all help and ideas. John

    • Lorna (LaLa) said:

      Hi John, I think you will find that divorcees and widows are quite different emotionally. I’ve been told this by a platonic man-friend. I am a divorcee (married almost 40 years and now 69) and must admit I was hurt very badly during my divorce, so that I am now wary about getting involved with men. I would say that four months is long enough to wait to see “where you are going”. Maybe you should try to gently bring up the subject and suggest that she stay over one week-end, but that if she wishes you could sleep in separate bedrooms. Or if it would be easier, go away and stay in a hotel in separate rooms. There has to be a time when you move the relationship forward. However, I can understand you being wary of having this conversation, because you do not want it to go badly and get the answer you do not want to hear. I would say that if she is not happy to have a more intimate relationship with you (and this could mean only having kisses and cuddles – nothing more just yet or possibly never), maybe there is no “chemistry” as far as she is concerned and she is just treating you like a friend and (dare I say it) “using” you to have a good time, in the absence of anyone else. I imagine women can be just as capable of doing this as men. And there are so few men around of our age, that some women will date just for the sake of dating, as they are lonely. However, there could be another reason. Maybe she is very religious and it goes against her morals to stay or sleep with a man outside of marriage. There are probably still a lot of people in this age-group that have these principles. I wonder what other people think. Anyway, whatever the real reason, if you are getting nowhere with her, there certainly are so very many lonely, single women of our age out there, and so very few men of the same age, that I am sure you will have absolutely no trouble at all meeting many, many more. Join some special singles clubs, go hiking or on special singles week-ends, or do some voluntary work. Look it all up on the internet. There is no need to internet-dating, which can be very scary and disappointing – it’s far better to meet people in the flesh first-off. You can still keep her as a friend, if that is what she wants. You don’t owe her any loyalty. Maybe if you let her know that you’re not sitting at home waiting for her to make her mind up, she will realise that she is risking losing you. It’s not fair of her to keep you dangling. She’s not the only fish in the sea. Find someone who WILL love you and make you happy. Happy hunting and best wishes. Lorna

      • John said:

        LaLa: First of thank you for your reply. I was married for 48 years and 4 months. This dating thing is really out of my knowlege. We were separated twice in the first half of our marriage but worked it out both times. I can truthfully say that I never went out on my wife in ou marriage. The women that I am seeing and myself have both discussed marriage down the road and this coming Holiday season I am seriously thinking of giving her an engagement ring. But that will depend on how things have progressed as it will be 9 months we have been seeing each other that is unless everything would all apart before them. I have very strongly hinted that she is more then welcome to spend the night here and as you suggested in separate rooms but alas to no avail. Is it out of the ordinary to just ask her if there is any chemistry on her side? I have started to tell her that I love her and always just get a smile from her. Perhaps she is just not ready to say that to me or like you said just wants a close friend. I will say that we do see each very often at my home if just for a cup of coffe. I will say that I consider myself a gentlemen and I do treat her with kindness, decency and respect. Perhaps I need to be a bit more aggressive with her rather then just good bye and hello kisses. Sorry for going on for this long. John

      • Lorna (LaLa) said:

        Hi John, It’s good to hear back from you and I am sorry that you are feeling so unhappy, anxious and confused about this relationship. Relationships are never easy, and seem to get harder as we get older. I honestly don’t know what to say, as everyone is so different – there could be so many different reasons why she acts the way she does. James would probably say that you really, really need to be honest and open and talk things through with her. It is absolutely no good second-guessing what is in her mind. I don’t think you should be thinking in terms of engagement rings at this stage, as you obviously do not have a strong understanding between you as to where you stand. I think you should continue to see each other, as you are, be patient and see how it pans out. However, as I said in my last reply, I absolutely think you should also be putting yourself in the position of meeting other women, and getting to know them – even just as friends. Do not put all your eggs in one basket with this woman, if she is not showing any interest. Maybe she only wants you as a friend, but you are reading more into it. It is absolutely OK for you to ask how she feels about you – but be prepared for her to say that all she wants is a friend. Maybe you are reading more into your relationship than is actually there, as it is something you really, really want. Be sure that you are not living in a fantasy world – easily done when you feel lonely. I certainly know how that feels!! I still say the best thing is to get out and do more stuff where you are meeting other people, both men and women. That way, you will have a different perspective on your situation with this woman. Best of luck. Lorna

  3. C said:

    Hi James
    I met a guy online 3months ago and he is a wonderful 39year old. I am 35. we live at opposite ends of the country and have just met each other once in person. We had a nice date however I was extremely nervous and could hardly keep eye contact. But it was ok and we continued talking and texting daily as normal. He always initiated contact which I loved. He is a very busy farmer and is also shy and quiet. I just noticed in the last week or two that contact has ceased a little and it is me making the initial contact. If I text though, he would ring back etc but he doesnt initiate it anymore. I know he has some family stuff going on and has used the word ‘depressing’ at times too. I don’t want to make excuses for him but i know he wants to take things slow as he said to me a few times ‘we are just still getting to know each other’. I asked him to visit me at this side of the country as it would be more informal and easier than meeting half way again and while he didnt seem scared, perhaps he bawked a little.
    Any advice or comments would be much appreciated.
    C

    • James Bauer said:

      Good question. It sounds like you already have discussed where the relationship is going in a roundabout way. His answer is that he wants to take things slow and discover where it might lead. And that’s okay as long as you’re okay with that.

      I understand why you might want to push the relationship along a little faster. But you’re likely to do the opposite if you actually do try to push things faster. The best way to encourage a relationship like this is to respect the timing of the other person involved. As long as his timing is still within the bounds of an acceptable timeframe for you, everything should work out fine in the end.

      If you feel I’m wrong about this (because you believe he has not actually stated any kind of intention for the relationship), then open the discussion. But just discuss the smallest next step he feels would be right for the two of you. Don’t press to understand his full plan for future events neither of you can fully anticipate at this early stage.

      James

      • C said:

        Hi James

        Thanks so much for the speedy response. You are right, I must respect his timing of things. I will do that. I just hope it is not too late and he doesnt feel i was forceful, as I have not heard from him in 3days now which is quite unusual for him. As I am so busy as well with my thesis I dont have a lot of free time either, so taking our time is fine with me too. I suppose I was so happy to hear from him daily and now that has changed. I will give him space. Thanks so much. I will let you know how/if things pan out 🙂 Much appreciated. C

  4. tina said:

    There is this guy I was dating. We met in November 2014. Around May 2015 I asked that our relationship be defined but he said time will tell so I stopped seeing him but we continued communicating through social media and text messages. Somehow we started seeing each other but not regularly. In October 2015 he invited me to his house after a period of not seeing each other and I honoured it. February 2016, he asked that we get more intimate sexually but instead I asked that the relationship be defined. He said we are just friends so I stopped seeing him, calling or texting. When he saw I’ve stopped communicating, he called, texted, chatted and I always replied but not telling him why I left. After a period I told him and now he has requested to see me in his house. I have told him I can’t come to his house except he sees me maybe at an eatery or restaurant. What do you think?

    • James Bauer said:

      Good job, Tina. You have done well so far. However, things typically go better in relationships when you are more clear about why you are pulling away, instead of leaving him guessing. Clear boundaries are good. Clear boundaries that are communicated clearly are even better.

      James

  5. k.kim said:

    I don’t really think you can categorize this subject as what a male does and what a female does. I am a female and the comment, “At the point when you are thinking some sort of unspoken relationship has formed, he would be surprised to learn you already think of your interactions as “a relationship” ” rang true for me but ME being the surprised one that the guy I’m seeing already thinks I am his girlfriend, whereas for me he is a guy I am dating, not a boyfriend. All guys are different and you can’t say that they all act and react the same.

    • James Bauer said:

      That’s right, Kim. These insights are based on what’s most common. But as you correctly point out, there are many exceptions.

  6. Teresa said:

    I been with a guy on and off for the last 7 years! He gets rid of a ex girlfriend then he comes calling and saying he loves me wants to Merry me but then the ex acts like they are still a couple so I walked away cause he wouldn’t give up on talking with her. He got in a new relationship and we ran into each other I love him and he says he loves me and don’t want me to move on that he is gonna get rid of her after the holidays then it’s he is just getting to no her so I’m trying to walk away again but I keep falling for what he tells me. I know he loves me but not sure if I should let him go and move on! I need some advice!

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Teresa. Your heart tells you he loves you. I don’t want to dispute what your intuition tells you. Yet his actions tell another story.

      How could he love you, and yet want to be with other women, constantly exploring other relationships?

      I think the answer is that he likes you a lot. But he does not like you more than he likes the freedom of his current lifestyle. He does not love the idea of an exclusive committed relationship with you. His actions have made that clear.

      So unless you also love his current lifestyle, you are likely to find more happiness in the arms of another man.

      James

  7. Nzukie said:

    Hi James I am a widow of about 38 years old, I met a guy last year July and it was wonderful I could feel that he loves me and care about me, I also love him and I enjoy spending time with him. I was irresistible to him, but not any more. Now things are not well and I’m not sure what’s wrong because if I call or text him now he does not answer sometimes, I can feel there is something wrong although when I asked him he said nothing he will just say he was very busy at work. He used to call me almost everyday or make sure that he calls me on the second day but now a week can pass by without a call. please advise me because I still love him how do I approach him so that he can talk, I feel like he does not care about my feelings

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Nzukie. That’s a difficult question to answer without more background information. I would advise you to seek the consultation of one of our relationship coaches so they can get more background information that will be critical to giving you insights regarding possible next steps.

      • Nzukie said:

        Thanks James for your advise I will consult.

  8. marge said:

    Hi James: I am a widow for five yrs. and was going with a great christian guy for the last year. He told me that he was still talking to his ex girlfriend that had lived with him until they split up. he started talking about me becoming his girlfriend-=-then his ex found out that things were getting that way, and got his best friend to come my me and ask me what he was doing with me and then went back and told ex and they both sat down with him to persuade him to leave me which he did. She seems to be jealous, needy and controlling and is divorced with one child.he seems to be so unsure of himself. He told me on Easter that he loved me and I had given him cards for special occasions and he said that what was written in them that he felt the same way about me. He already has called me twice and I truly know I do love him. I wd. love to have him back. What can I do? I am trying to stay away for abt. two months –I was bringing him dinners that I cooked for him once a week and was helping him at his store.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Marge. Relationships do happen in a social context, which means we cannot totally disregard the opinion of his close friends or even his ex if she is still a significant part of his social sphere. Nonetheless, it seems supremely unfair that you were completely left out of the discussion process when he made a decision to end what seemed like a good relationship.

      While demanding an explanation would not be the right approach, I wonder if you could expressing this line of reasoning so he can see that he owes you an explanation and an opportunity to voice your own opinions since the relationship involves you more than it does his ex or his best friend who both got a say in the matter.

  9. Trisha Charles said:

    I was married in 2012 and my husband was left me when I was 2months pregnancy.So now I have 1 child which he is now 1year and 3motnhs.So I decided to get a new husband to help and support me to look after my son..

    I want you to give me more information on how to manage my family to become a good and happy family ever after..

    Much regards…

    Trisha Charles

  10. jo said:

    met my best friend online abour 2 yrs ago, chatted for a yr before even meeting. We ticked every box imaginable for each other but we never crossed any lines until about 6 mths ago. Intimacy happened a few times but i freaked out after a few weeks and said couldnt see him til we got over the need to sleep together. This was because neither of us were in a position mentally to be in a relationship. After a few months we were both at a party and after that back in touch again. Long story short…..few weekends having drinks and then back to the sexual relationship, he then tells me he loves me. I ignore ir because he was drunk. Few days later irs his turn to put the running shoes on again. Anyway last month the cycle began again with a difference….he actually asked if i wld take the risk and go slow and see where things go. due to his past relationships his biggest worry has always been hurting me. Now im back to square one, as again he put his running shoes on and ran for the hills lol. This was down to someone making some kind of comment. He took on board the comment and made the decision to end things completly before he makes a fool of me and hurts me. no contact what so ever. Have no idea how to talk to him as he is being stupid but cant say that as it is how he is feeling. No idea if things should just be left as they are or give him space. The silence and confusion is killin me. It took a lot for both of us to come to the decision of tryn things out due to our pasts. Guess the upshot is i really dont want to lose him, wish he could see what i see in him

  11. ANNALIE HOLMES said:

    Hi James. I’ve got a very difficult but serious question for you. November 2013 my partner found out that he’s in the early stages of lung cancer and had 6 radiation and 2 massive chemo treatments. By grace he is now in remission and all is well except that his libido or sexual drive basically disappeared. In the last 6 months we had sex once! We love each other and the sex was always excellent. He assures me that he loves me but he doesn’t like to discuss the issue and while I do understand that this is an after effect of the chemo, feel so alone and do not know how to handle this anymore. Please give me some advise!!!

    • James Bauer said:

      A drop in libido can take the fun out of sex, but it can’t prevent you from working at meeting your partner’s needs if you are both willing to be creative and adjust to the fact that things are physically different for him right now. He has been through a lot, and that deserves sensitivity, but you are a part of this relationship too so you have a right to openly discuss ways to meet your needs regardless of whether sexuality is also currently one of his needs. It goes the same way regardless of gender. If you are going to ask someone to be 100% exclusive with you in meeting sexual drive needs, then if one partner has a lower libdo, he or she needs to reach for a compromise in order to be more sexually active than they feel like being.

      Also, there are things his physician may be able to suggest for the two of you (or even just give you a sense of what the timeline and adjustment after chemo has been like for others). Sometimes simple changes like eating more saturated fat can dramatically increase a man’s libido within a few days. I don’t know all the effects of chemo and how extensive, but it’s something you should continue to discuss with your partner.

      James

  12. Joanie said:

    Is there still hope if your guy is in a new relationship with some one else? We weren’t officially together but it was going to be official. We were together for about 7 months. Love at first sight. We talked about getting married & know were mend to be together for the rest of our lives. I know some people made trouble (one of them was his mother & friends). They brain washed him about me. My heart is now broken for almost 2 years. I try my very best to get over him each day but without success. 🙁

    Thank you
    Joánie

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Joanie. It’s clear from your question that your heart is really hurting, and I just want to acknowledge that, and say I wish it wasn’t so. When you ask if there is still hope, you are really asking, “should I allow my heart to continue longing for the possibility of reuniting with him?”

      No, you should not. If by some chance he can throw off the influence of family and friends who dissuaded him from continuing his relationship with you, you might have an opportunity to interact with him again someday. But wishing for that to happen will not change the odds in your favor. It will only make it more likely that you miss other opportunities with other men who want to join with you in creating something beautiful.

      If there are practical steps you can take to initiate interaction with him again, do that so that propinquity is on your side. But either way, I recommend against chasing a man who has willingly walked the other direction.

  13. Presh said:

    Hi James. I love this blog and the information shared. I have been with this guy for 6 months and see each other when we can but he has not shown me any signs of commitment yet he always makes time to see me. When we meet we discuss what we been doing in the days we haven’t seen each other and he always tells me about these girls he went out to dinner with or kissed. How will I know what his agenda actually is?

    • James Bauer said:

      Hey Presh. It sounds like you could use some help with organizing your approach to this man and dating in general. You say he always makes time to see you, yet you believe he has shown you no sign of commitment. I think what you mean is he has not shown interest in an exclusive relationship. In fact, it sounds to me like he is rubbing that fact in your face by telling you about kissing other girls. Do you know what you want? Start there. That’s your foundation. What he wants should not be the foundation of your dating approach. To get more specific advice, send a question to one of our professional dating coaches.

  14. Heather said:

    I’m not sure how to go forward after a break up that happened this weekend with my boyfriend of 9 and a half years. We still love each other, and our relationship was fun, we had lots of affection, great sex, lots of laughs, talked about everything, we were best friends. But because of the fact that he never lived out of his parents basement (until this year when they kicked him and I out…I was living on the top floor and he in the basement of his parents house after I lost my job a few years ago, up until december 2013 when we had to move out) he has never had to support himself financially, as a man in his early 30s, and it was a big wake up call for him. When we were suddenly forced to leave his parents home, he was jobless (I had since found a new job) and we thought it wouldn’t be prudent to move in together into a small apt we could barely afford. Didn’t want that to be our first living-together experience because we knew we’d be miserable living like that.

    Anyway, after 7-8 months of us living in separate apartments w/ roommates (and me and/or his family helping pay his rent bc I am more gainfully employed), he broke up with me shortly after I booked a vacation for us later this year (he offered to pay for it since we were cancelling but, thankfully I got a full refund). I think me booking the vacation maybe made him think (and he didn’t say this outright) “I should be the one paying rent, booking vacations and supporting her…I can’t even support myself”. When we broke up he told me he realized he has never had to support himself and he needs to do it for himself and needs to be single in order to do it. Because, like most Italian men, they go right from their mothers to their wives who do everything for them, then they wonder why they resent their wives 10 years later bc they (at the time) really were looking for someone to mother them, not to love and respect them and who was the right fit for them. I can understand his position, that at this point it’s hard to know if the love he has for me is due to comfort and all I do for him, or because we are right for each other.

    He said he loves me and he just can’t ignore this instinct that he has to do this now, he didn’t want to continue to “waste” my time only to figure this all out after we got married or something and hurt me even more, he has some unresolved emotional trauma too that he needs to address. I actually think it’s that he needs to feel respected, and perhaps since he hasn’t had to “be a man” and do all for himself, he can’t respect himself or believe that he’s worthy of my respect. The only way he can get that respect is by earning it for himself. Knowing all of this, I feel good about him having the courage to have that conversation with me (bc he could have stayed and said nothing, nothing was “wrong” after all), and know that this is the best thing for both of us (especially because I deserve commitment and I deserve to have the home life that I want, which is to share a space with someone I love, respect and have lots of fun with, and I don’t think I should have to wait much longer for this because I can already support myself, been doing that for years…now I want to go to the next step) and we should focus on ourselves for a while and not distract ourselves with romance…but I am having so much trouble not wishing and hoping that he quickly gets a better job/life for himself and gets on his feet and comes running back to me (because it would break my heart if someone else got to reap the benefits of his personal growth after I spent some difficult times with him). I don’t want to be disappointed if he realizes I’m not right for him. Although I also take peace in the fact that this happening either means if we get back together it will be even more amazing than before, or, we open ourselves up for a new relationship down the line that will be better suited for ourselves because we’ll have done the “work” and know what we really want. Additionally, I now have all this time and space to focus on my career and launch my own business, and make decisions without considering how he fits in, this way I know every choice I make comes from my own heart…and I know that’s the way I will be most successful and happy. And I’ve a LOT to do, so I will be busy, thankfully (or I might be crying nonstop for a year haha) So, I’m excited, because, this will bring amazing things either way, I know this, but have so much fear too!

    We text about once/day just to say hi since this just happened a few days ago, I want to give him his space…but I want to talk to him about this fear I have, but I think if I do it would just muddle his already confused heart and mind.

    James, how can I keep him interested in me, committed to me through this transition without putting pressure on him/guilting him? I want him to want to be with me because his heart is compelled to be with me, not feel obligated to be with me because of our past. And I also need to know how I can be sure that he is sure if he does decide he wants to commit to me? I resolved that I won’t “take him back” unless there are tangible changes in his life, but even if he does make those changes, is there a practical/tanglible way for me to know that he’s not succumbing to lolineness or the comforts of how I “take care” of him? Commitment (or lack of full commitment on his part) has been a recurring theme and I don’t want to enter into a relationship with him or anyone else without it at this point. Should I completely get the idea out of my mind that we could reunite or is this reasonable of me to have this hope?

    Thank you in advance for your help and advice should you share it with me.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi! This is a very in-depth question, perfect for the private consultation service available in the new members area. It’s a bit too long for me to address as a blog comment. I love your involvement with the material I post here, but to get a guaranteed response to your personal questions, please use the private consultation service. It’s better for these kinds of questions.

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