You can put it off as long as possible. You can try to dance around it. You can pretend to ignore completely. But at some point, it’s going to happen — the “Where is this going?” conversation. Bringing it up can be really tricky. At best, it can make you feel awkward and vulnerable. At worst, you suspect that you might not hear the response that you want to, but you feel the need to ask anyway.
Even if you have a feeling that the other person wants what you want, it can be tough to bring that up. But, it’s so important to ask the question — especially if you feel yourself getting attached. If you have real feelings for this person, then asking is almost always the right answer — a little clarity now can save you a lot of hurt feelings later. At least if they don’t want something as serious as you, you can get out of it before your feelings are hurt too badly.
“I am actually a big believer in having this talk,” relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Bustle. “I know that many people, particularly women, shy away from it because they think that it’s too pushy or forward… My feeling is that if you are looking or a relationship, it would be good for you to know (sooner rather than later) that this person is just looking to have some casual fun.”
But how do you ask someone about where they see this heading? It’s important to remember that you have every right to ask that question. Here are some tips to help the conversation go more smoothly, according to experts.
1. Don’t Go In Too Seriously
If you’re feeling nervous about having the talk, it’s easy to just blurt out what’s on your mind, but try to take a deep breath first. “There are few sentences that come with as much baggage as ‘we need to talk’ in modern dating,” Demetrius Figueroa, founder of the dating blog and podcast Tao of Indifference, tells Bustle. “If they’re already a bit gun-shy about defining the relationship, hearing that will only make them more anxious. You’ll get better results by saying something like ‘Hey, can we talk about where we see things going between us?’” Having a gentle start to the conversation can help ensure that you’re both in a good frame of mind to talk about the serious stuff.
2. Be Clear About Your Feelings
If you’re trying to figure out where this is going, it’s not the time to downplay how you feel about this person. “I always recommend that you give to get,” dating, relationship and lifestyle expert Steven Ward tells Bustle. “Be vulnerable to see vulnerable. Be open to see open. If you want to get closer to someone tell them something that very few, if any, other people know.” That means sharing how you feel about this person, even if it’s hard to admit how much you like them. Be clear about what they mean to you, because it’s important to find out if you’re on the same page.
3. Be Direct And Don’t Bail Out
If someone you’re seeing tries to avoid this conversation, make it clear that you want to get at least a sense of what they’re looking for — and don’t let them brush you off or make you feel like you’re being pushy. “My main tip is to keep it casual and keep it direct,” Hartstein says. “Don’t be afraid to ask.” And, if they’re avoidant, either gently push for an answer — or take their avoidance as the answer. If they can’t have the conversation, then they’re almost certainly not looking for anything serious.
4. Look For Their Gut Reponse
If when you ask they get cagey or you see a flash of panic, pay attention to those signs. “Frankly, people know in the first few months if they see a future with you, so typically what rolls off their tongue right away is how they feel,” matchmaker and dating coach Karenna Alexander tells Bustle. Though some people might be taken aback and just need some time, often you can learn a lot from their knee-jerk reaction.
5. Try To Make It A Back-And-Forth Conversation
You don’t need to set everything in stone right away — see if you can start having a back-and-forth conversation. “The quickest way to push somebody to one side of the fence is to force them to choose,” Figueroa says. “If you start the conversation by making the ‘talk’ a list of demands, you might very well force them to make the easiest decision — to leave. The focus should be on sharing your thoughts, wants, and needs, listening to theirs, and determining how to move forward in a way that you’re both happy with.” If you can open up a conversation, there’s more of a chance you’ll find common ground.
6. Have A Plan If It Doesn’t Go The Way You Want
When you get into this conversation, you need to be prepared for the fact that you might not get the answer you want — and then you’ll have to respond accordingly. “When you get a less than stellar response, I advise clients to basically tell the them, ‘If you see a future call me, it not, no worries, I’ll be moving on,” Alexander says. “‘And, I would seriously move on fast, unless someone totally does a 360 like immediately and apologizes for being so callous and says, ‘You caught me off guard and I really do see a future with you. You mean a lot to me.'”
7. Remember That It’s Better To Know Where They’re At
Finally, remember that it’s better to have this conversation and move on if you have to than avoid it and waste your time. Ultimately, the conversation will go better if you can have a “que sera, sera” attitude, so try to take a deep breath and remember it’s for the best. “It’s much better to know the answer directly than beat around the bush and end up misled, confused, and hurt,” Hartsein says. Amen to that. If it wasn’t meant to be, that’s OK.
Initiating the, “Where is this going?” conversation isn’t easy — and it’s tempting to bail out halfway through, especially if the other person acts like you’re being unreasonable. But stay strong and know that you’re asking the right question — and you deserve an answer.
Originally posted on Bustle