When you’ve been hanging out for a while but haven’t yet DTR’d (defined the relationship), you naturally start to wonder where this is headed. But if the thought of having a heart-to-heart convo to get clear about exactly what your relationship is makes you anxious, well, welcome to the club.
Kathleen Dahlen deVos, MA, LMFT explains, “Initiating, or even participating in a serious relationship talk can be difficult because it’s vulnerable to put your wants, needs, and emotions on display.”
So what do you do if you want to know what’s happening without talking about it? Look for these 12 signs that indicate your relationship is definitely getting serious — or not. Then you can decide if you’re ready to DTR.
1. They casually refer to a future with you in it.
Stella*, a 36-year-old woman living in Brooklyn, New York, recently suggested that her boyfriend conduct his search for a new apartment in her neighborhood. He responded negatively to living near each other — at least for another year or so. Ouch. It’s key to listen for how your S.O. talks casually about their future and whether or not you’re in it. And it’s not just about moving in together. Listen to whether they use open-ended language that includes you when they talk about other big life events like weddings, vacations, and career choices. If they’re not mentioning you as part of the package, it might be wise to put off the DTR conversation.
2. Your full name is in their phone.
If you’re still listed as “Tinder Molly” or “Lincoln Park Sam” in their phone after multiple months of hanging out, that’s a sign they’re not serious about you. Worse, you’re still just a phone number. It’s a better sign when you’re listed under contacts by your full and correctly spelled name — or a cute nickname surrounded by heart-eye emojis. A guy I dated from Tinder let me know when he changed my name in his phone from Megan with a fire emoji (his international Tinder symbol) to my proper last name. It’s a small gesture, but it’s meaningful.
3. You know their friends.
Sure, you may have introduced your new guy or girl to your friends, but has that gesture been reciprocated? If you get the heave-ho before your S.O.’s night out with friends or rushed out of their apartment before a Sunday group brunch, it’s a sure sign your S.O. is not ready to commit. Being included in their friend group is key to a future together.
Damona Hoffman, dating expert and host of The Dates & Mates Podcast agrees. “The relationship is getting serious when you start to get introduced to friends.”
4. They’ve mentioned you to their parents.
I knew a guy I was dating was serious about me when he mentioned he showed my Instagram account to his mom. (Luckily, I have very G-rated social media.) I, on the other hand, hadn’t even mentioned that I went on a date with him to my mom and dad. It was clear he and I weren’t on the same page, and I slowed things way down. If the parents are involved, your S.O.’s heart definitely is, too.
5. They memorized your Seamless order.
If your dating partner knows exactly what kind of takeout you like, and remembers you hate mayo but want double jalapenos and a lettuce wrap on your burger — this person is serious about you. Bonus points for remembering extra ranch.
6. They know how to get you off.
For the couples who have been sleeping together for a while and are still fumbling to get each other to the big O, that’s a bad o-men. Getting sexually comfortable with a new partner takes time, but they should be making your pleasure a priority and remembering how to get you there.
Not fully satisfied? Sexologist Emily Morse recommends having a sex-related chat outside of the bedroom. That way, emotions are less heightened and your partner won’t feel put on the spot. If you’ve talked about what you need sexually and bae still isn’t taking your concerns to heart (or bed), it’s probably too soon to DTR.
7. They deleted their dating profile.
A friend of mine made a very sexy and very fake dating profile so she could see if her new boyfriend matched with “her.” Um. There are less time-consuming and conniving ways to find out if someone is still active on an app.
“You can say ‘I’m going to take my profile down’ and wait to see how they react,” says Dahlen DeVos. “You might be surprised that they say they’ve been feeling the same way.”
8. They remember little things and check in consistently.
A person who is auditioning for the long-term romantic role in your life is going to go out of their way to show they remember what’s important to you. Presentation at work? Expect a text to wish you good luck. Birthday? There should be a card and a dinner reservation. Haircut? Look for a selfie request followed by lots of compliments. Someone who isn’t serious about you isn’t going to put in as much effort.
“You can also tell how someone feels about you based on how responsive they are over text,” says Hoffman. “If messages become more and more infrequent, [the relationship is] likely to be fizzling out.”
9. They assume weekend nights are date nights (with you, naturally).
Friday and Saturday nights are date nights. If your dating partner is planning every week by simply assuming you’ll be spending that time together, it’s an indication that they’re committed to you. Listen for questions like, “Are we getting a drink before or after dinner on Friday?”
10. They feature you on their IG.
Hoffman points out that it’s likely serious when someone starts featuring you on their social media channels. Following you on Instagram, “liking” or commenting on your posts, and tagging you are all modern-day ways to show you, and the serious relationship, off.
11. They introduce you with a label.
“My husband and I had an awkward pre-DTR period,” Hoffman recounts. “His birthday was about eight weeks after we started dating and he was planning a big party with all his friends. He didn’t know how to bridge the relationship conversation so in the end I was just introduced by my name without the title of girlfriend. I could tell from his friends’ reactions that they had heard of me and knew I was the woman he was dating.” Had he introduced her as “my girlfriend,” things would have been a lot clearer for everyone.
12. They tell you they want to talk about your relationship status.
Sorry, but the best way to find out where you stand in a relationship is to actually talk about it. Cringe. “I’m almost always a proponent of opting to have an honest discussion about where a relationship is headed, as scary as that might be,” says Dahlen DeVos. “I would encourage a dater to broach the topic by naming what feels most true.” It’s a healthy way to talk about the dynamics of the relationship. “Initiating a conversation this way also shows that a partner is willing to lead with vulnerability and openness,” she adds. And really, that’s the most important sign of all.
*Name has been changed to protect innocent daters.