As dating has evolved to a much more digital landscape, a slew of new words and trends have emerged, requiring singles to brush up on their knowledge before diving in. To ensure you’re up to date and ready to tackle the ever-changing vocabulary, reference Datezie’s Dating Glossary. Our collection defines, explains—and offers humor and strategy—to the new ABC’s of falling in love.
TLDR: DTR is the discussion two people have when they want to decide if they are in a relationship—or not.
In a relationship, there are four words that every man fears: We need to talk. And before two people have made their love connection officiated and sanctioned by the powers that be on Facebook, there’s another term that’s slightly terrifying: DTR. Standing for ‘define the relationship’, this is one of the most difficult topics to bring up with someone you’re sort-of-maybe-totally falling for, for fear they don’t feel the same way. It also can be pretty pressure-inducing, since it upgrades your casual dates (and romps) to a committed, sexual level, that your could-be partner might not be ready for. If you’ve ever been on the initiating end of the DTR chit-chat, your palms are likely sweaty just thinking about it. Before you pass out though bro, get your facts straight about this modern dating term. Here, what you need to know.
What is DTR?
This abbreviation is a faster way to ask ‘So, what are we?’ As executive editor and founder of CupidsPulse.com, Lori Bizzoco shares when two people discuss their relationship and come to a mutual understanding of what they want out of it, they are engaging in DTR. Not to freak you out even more, but Bizzoco also adds DTR can make or break the future of a relationship—especially if one person is not prepared to DTR. “However, it is better to know early on if you are in an exclusive relationship or if it’s just a casual thing,” she continues. “DTR’ing can create a very stressful situation if you and your partner are not on the same page but the benefit is that it allows you to decide if you should wait to see how the relationship progresses or if you need to leave because you are not getting what you need and want.”
Where Did ‘DTR’ Come From?
Putting a label on something is a task that’s always been part of the dating process. However, if you talk to your parents about what it was like back in their days—or discuss the concept with non-Americans—they might raise an eyebrow about DTR. In fact, dating expert Chris Vitale blames the prevalence of texting, swiping apps and social media for a more relaxed approach to modern love. Since there are often thousands of options a thumb’s reach away, DTR becomes a necessary evil, since you can’t be so sure someone is with you—and only you. He suggests the term became more popular in the early 2000s, as the internet really started to boom. Though it’s easy enough to type away, it’s also becoming a common verbal conversation, too.
Bizzoco shares as this term is more accepted and becomes the norm, it helps twosomes get out of limbo. “While finding someone to date has become easier with technology, it’s often times harder to find a long term partner. Many couples stood in limbo not knowing the status of their relationship together and didn’t know how to bring up the conversation,” she adds.
It was often defined as “The Talk” and this term sometimes had one of the partner’s fleeing if they were not ready. Overall, it is difficult to put a label on a relationship in the beginning. Since there was never an activity solely set aside for defining a relationship, there’s no better time than now to have an acronym coined to make it easier for couples to take part in defining their relationship together.
Why DTR Matters
To put it bluntly: ain’t nobody got time for that! And by that, we mean anyone who treats you like you’re dating, but isn’t willing to shout it from the rooftops. Even though monogamy isn’t for everyone, if that’s what you’re after and the page you’re on, ignoring the DTR discussion allows the other person to explore other options. This could be tricky territory since you are investing your time, energy, finances and of course, your heart, into another human who might not feel the same way. “If it turns out that the partners want very different things or are very incompatible with how they feel about each other, DTR is important in identifying these problems and making the couple aware that they should not continue their relationship if they are not aligned enough,” explains psychologist Dr. Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D.
When you really, really, really like someone and you aren’t sure how they feel, Dr. Thomas says it’s normal to feel distress, confusion, instability and can even create a riff within your connection. Ironically enough, she notes that when couples avoid this conversation for too long, it could have the opposite impact of tearing them apart, instead of bringing them together. Though you may have to work up courage to bring up the chat, if you really want to know if you’re on the same page, the possible reward vastly outweighs the risk.
As Vitale puts it, “Every strong and long-lasting relationship requires discussions of exclusivity, goals, needs, and wants. DTRs are important because this is your chance to determine if you and your partner share the same vision and whether or not you will need to compromise. Gone are the days of relationship worries and doubts, DTRs open a channel of communication and put a label on your relationship for you in the world to see.”
Where You Might Hear DTR
From that person you’ve been going on constant dates with for a month. Or from your friend who really wants to be exclusive with his girl, but is worried about bringing up the topic. “A person who is falling in love with his or her significant other may tell him or her that they should DTR so both parties can candidly admit how they feel about each other instead of assuming such important things,” Dr. Thomas shares. In casual group discussions, DTR might also come up, as one pal recommends another DTRs before they get their heart broken—and their expectations up far too high.
How to Use DTR In a Conversation
DTR can be used as a verb or a noun. On one hand, the DTR conversation is a tangible chat you have with someone you want to be with. But while you’re discussing, you can begin the tension-heavy chat by saying you want to ‘DTR’, which is a verb. Vitale offers a few examples of how this might go down: “Last night my girlfriend and I DTR’ed.” Or, “We are DTR’ing next week.” Or, “Time for a DTR talk.”
Notable DTR Quotes
“This questioning often takes place after about a month or two of regular dating, but it depends on the frequency and intensity of your time together. Some relationships move at lightning speed. If you’ve been spending large chunks of time together for a couple of weeks, that might be the time to DTR and confirm how things are progressing with you two.” —Lisa Petsinis
“A simple, “Want to be my girlfriend?” may be the only DTR talk you need to say. Then, some of the bigger details can be figured out later. Defining the relationship might happen in a series of short conversations that’ll likely be easier to digest than one big talk. If the two of you are more of a personable, open book couple, this may be a much easier approach that’ll get you all the answers you need.” —Karen Belz
“Having the DTR talk is a bit like pulling off a Band-Aid — starting the conversation is the toughest part.” —Lea Rose Emery