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The ‘talk about us’ doesn’t have to be a buzz-kill

There comes a time in many relationships where one or both parties sense they’re standing on the precipice of a rather steep cliff with two options at their feet: jump far or go home. Alone.

The problem is, too many women are chastised for their so-called “nagging” ways when they insist on defining a relationship. Keep in mind this kind of negative talk was probably either created by men who wanted to avoid the conversation altogether — which could leave you confused and hanging by a thread a lot longer than you’re willing to be — or as a reaction to a passive aggressive way women are asking the question when they’re already annoyed enough about having to bring it up.

“My first reaction to this is: If you can’t talk to your partner about your relationship, it’s not a good sign,” says Dr. Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., (aka “Dr. Romance“) psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences and the forthcoming book How to Be a Happy Couple. “If he’s too childish to have a serious relationship talk, perhaps you’re wasting your time.”

If you do indeed have a partner who is reliable, willing to communicate, contributes to your life and wants to have sex, but spends plenty of time with you that doesn’t necessarily lead to sex, Tessina says talking to him about commitment shouldn’t be that much of a challenge. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a few suggestions to make this dialogue go as smoothly as possible.

“Instead of saying, ‘We need to talk,’ say ‘What are you thinking about the future?’” Tessina says. “Ask about the kind of lifestyle he wants, what kind of house, where he wants to live. He will probably respond by asking you what you want. As a conversation starter, watch an HGTV show like Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines (they’re great role models) or Flip or Flop with Tarek and Christina. Don’t start with what you want or [by] asking him when you’re going to get married.” She adds, “If you’ve been dating for a while, more than six months, and you’re getting along, don’t worry about losing him. If he runs because you ask about commitment, he was never the guy to share a life with.”

More: 9 reasons why time can’t help you heal a broken heart

Wondering whether you have the type of partner who is willing to take your relationship to the next level — whether that means moving in together, getting married or simply agreeing not to date other people? Before you make the effort to dig deeper and get them to open up about their intentions, take a good, hard look at your relationship and be honest with yourself about how he/she acts around you and how you spend your time together.

“If your guy never wants to make a definite date (would you like to go out Friday night?) and just wants to come over to your house on the spur of the moment, he doesn’t make an effort to keep in touch (you should not be making all the effort) and he doesn’t seem to think about the future, he’s probably just using you as ‘reserve’ and not really interested, either in you or in commitment,” Tessina says.

If you suspect you’re not on the forefront of his mind, one thing you could do is simply not run to his house to be by his side every time he calls you, Tessina says. That goes triple if you’re only fielding calls after 10 p.m. Another option? Bid him farewell and look elsewhere.

More: What I learned from a year dating outside my comfort zone

“To have a real relationship, you need a different kind of guy,” Tessina says. “Don’t look for the surface stuff. Handsome is as handsome does. Find a guy with character, which you’re more likely to find out if you are socially involved with him before you are personally involved with him. Don’t be too easily available. Your interaction should be like a tennis match. He volleys, then you do. Never send a lot of shots over the net in a row.”

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