Don’t Panic: The Title Actually Means Something Good!


Talking about the future can indeed be scary. And talking about the future of a relationship is even more so, mainly because your feelings are not the only ones involved.

When my friend Steff started dating Brian, right away, he was deemed amazing. Things got serious fast, and she could just tell from the way he acted and what he said that he felt exactly the same way. When Steff told him she didn't want to see anyone else, Brian began calling her his girlfriend. Unfortunately, it's not always this easy for all of us.

Another friend of mine dated someone for more than a year before he asked the dreaded question, "Where is this going?"

It's the question many men and women fear or put off until "the time is right." How is it that it's so easy to talk about your relationship with a friend, but when you're talking to the person you want to be with, it suddenly becomes paralyzing?

I was told never to ask "the question." My guy friends noted that they fear being asked, but I don't know too many women who look forward to the talk either. If only we could go back to middle-school-style dating – when you told your best friend you had a crush on Zach and she would pass on the message, and by the end of the day he asked you to be his girlfriend.

Wedding Bells? Kids?

What is so daunting about learning where your relationship stands? Even if you're not voicing the question out loud, some version of "where is this going" has already formed in your head. So why not ask? A big part of it is because it eliminates the fantasy. Until the two of you talk about your relationship, it can go anywhere in your head.

You could hear wedding bells, you could see children; you could sense it all ending before the next date. What is it preventing you from moving forward? Are you that scared about the possibilities of a lifetime with this person?

Why does it often become a turn-off when your significant other shows so much interest in you? You might be thinking you can do better – or is it more that we doubt ourselves, and lack some of the confidence we need to move forward?

If you are concerned that you can do better or that you think there is someone else out there, end your relationship now, and stop wasting his or her time!

It's so easy to shut down when someone is interested in you. But I say turn off your defense mechanism. Why is it that the minute the other person shows they care, you get disinterested?

It's almost like you're shocked that he actually likes you. Isn't that what you wanted all along? In no way should you be with someone just to be with someone, but if you don't open up to the possibility of being liked back, you will miss out.

One of the scariest – but also exciting – words to come out of your mouth should be, "This is my girlfriend/boyfriend or fiance/fiancée." But why does it have to be so downright frightening? If you already know you don't want to date other people, why not just use the term? Does the title really change the dynamic?

Being an official "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" doesn't mean that you're married. It just means that you are exclusive, and that you don't want to date other people. It helps determine what behavior is appropriate outside of the relationship.

Can you have the exclusiveness without the title? You can, but that usually only works for one of the people involved. One party typically needs more clarity (and not always the woman). If you care about the other person, why not give them the title?

A title does change the dynamic, and it does carry a lot of weight, but it also gives you a softer cushion on which to open your heart and fall. That should be the best part. Once you accept that, then you can't do all the things you were doing before. Not only can you not date other people, but everything changes. The relationship affects your entire balance and timetable.

You do your best to keep up with your friends and family, but you wind up spending less one-on-one time with others. Starting a new relationship can even affect your sleeping and eating patterns. A guy friend said to me that you know you're in deep when "you'd rather talk to her on the phone than go out with your friends."

So why would you want to be the one to bring it up when it leads to such emotional chaos? Who wants to get hurt again? Who wants to give up that much of themselves?

We all do – because it's not about relinquishing your identity. Instead, it's about opening up the potential happiness you might share, and it's well worth the risk.

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