The dos and don'ts of having the 'what are we?' talk
DON'T feel like you have to have the talk if you're happy with the way things are
Everyone has a different "right" time to have the "what are we?" talk. "It's easy to think, Well, we've been hooking up for three months, so we should talk about what we're doing," says Scott Alden, creative strategist for the dating site HowAboutWe.com. "It is possible, however, that you are currently in a mutually beneficial, casual hook-up situation. They do exist. Spend some time thinking about whether or not the relationship is just fine for you as it is. After that, if it feels like some more clarity would be helpful, have the talk."
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DO look for signs he's ready too
"Men generally communicate through their actions more than their words, so to gauge his interest, look at what he's doing, or not doing, to show he's interested in a relationship," says Andrea Syrtash, author of He's Just Not Your Type (and That's a Good Thing). "Is he making regular plans? Has he introduced you to people important to him? It doesn't matter if he talks to you about taking you to Paris this summer if he's not calling you this week."
DON'T let a few drinks initiate the conversation
"If you don't make a point of having the conversation when you're both sober, it will end up happening when you're both drunk, and you'll probably end up more confused in the morning than you were the night before," says Alden.
DO have the conversation face-to-face
"As tempting as it might be to have difficult conversations by phone or text, make sure you talk about this in person," says Chiara Atik, a blogger for HowAboutWe's the Date Report. "Texting is far too ambiguous for this type of conversation, and phone conversations just aren't the same as meeting face-to-face. If you do want to have a relationship, then maturely discussing things in person is the absolute best way to start things off."
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DO hold out until midafternoon to chat
Did you know that men have an ideal attention-span time? We didn't either, but according to Diana Kirschner, Ph.D., author of Sealing the Deal: the Love Mentor's Guide to Lasting Love, men's testosterone levels drop between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., which may make it easier for them to listen. "Obviously, if they're just coming home from some horrible work crisis, you might want to take that into consideration," she adds.
Bing: Initiate conversation
DON'T freak him out when you broach the subject
"Don't ever say to somebody 'we need to talk' because that will immediately throw him into a panic," says Lisa Shield, author of Naked Dating (due out in August 2012).
DO sit next to him
"Men listen more easily when you're side by side with them, rather than facing them," says Kirschner. "Subconsciously, it's almost like a confrontation when you're facing them eye-to-eye."
DO establish what's been happening so far before you launch into more
"The best way to agree on what your expectations for each other will be moving forward is to agree first about what's been happening between you," says Alden. "Saying something like 'I feel like we've been getting closer in the last week or so, do you know what I mean?' or 'This is starting to feel like more than just hooking up to me,' is better than 'I'm ready to be more serious about this.'"
DO tell him that you're feeling nervous
You're allowed to have butterflies about both the talk and also what it means. It's normal, and he'll appreciate knowing you're in the same boat. "Guys are more afraid of committing to the wrong person than they are of commitment itself," says Alden. "Let him know that you're not sure he's the one either, but you think it's worth finding out."
DON'T feel like the conversation has to be serious just because the topic is
"The talk shouldn't be heavy and pressure-filled," says Syrtash. "If you want to tell him you see more potential, you can let him know in a fun and upbeat way. You can say something like, 'I'm no longer surfing around to find dates. Happily took my profile down today.' That may open up the conversation. If he responds, 'Why would you do that? Don't do that!' that's probably a sign he's not ready. If he smiles and says he's done the same, the conversation will be much easier."