New readers, welcome to Dear Wendy, a relationship advice blog. If you don’t find the info you need in this column, please visit the Dear Wendy archives or the forums (you can even start your own thread), or submit a question for advice.
JMAGIC: Before I answer your main question, I need you to realize something… don’t ever and I mean ever try to use sex as a bargaining chip. Well… I guess if you’re dating the kind of person whose actions are based solely on the amount of physical intimacy he does or doesn’t get, your strategy might work. But I have a feeling that it’ll get pretty old pretty quick having to keep everything ‘locked up’ just to get him to cut the grass or take out the garbage. Or tell you that your eyes are pretty. See where I’m going here?
Back to the issue at hand — how to initiate “the talk.” I’d say just do it. You like to be pursued, but I think you should know that we, as guys, aren’t always in touch with those things called “feelings” so while we may be on the same page, we (guys) really don’t know how to bring this up besides agreeing with every single word you say when YOU bring it up. Signs that he’s not into it? You’ve never met his friends. He doesn’t respond to your calls/texts/e-mails with as much enthusiasm as you respond to his. The more you push to spend time with him, the more he has to ‘work’ or responds with “ummm” or “ohh, uhhh”… which translates into “I thought we were just hanging out?”
As for my personal experience? It all just kinda worked out.
BITTER GAY MARK: Eh, I think far too many women out there try to define their relationships far too early. (How long have you been dating? Gee, that would sure be helpful to know…) My gut reaction is that if you are worrying it might be too early to have this conversation — then it probably is. I would also hazard a guess that no, he is NOT just waiting for you to initiate this. While it may be true that women DO tend to bring this up first, all too often it’s simply because they are jumping the gun. Unless you’ve been seeing each other a ridiculously long time, like several months, my suggestion is to sit back and wait. But whatever you do, be sure you approach this in a non-confrontational way. Think “I really, really like you” versus “So, do you like me or what?”
As far as withholding sex — newsflash, it would seem to me that a guy could then just as easily lie to you — to make it “official” solely to get what he wants. Besides, do you really want to become somebody’s “official” girlfriend because you twisted his arm? Talk about a hollow victory. Look, if a guy hasn’t already made it official — that’s a pretty good sign that he isn’t ready to make it official. Or maybe he simply feels that the relationship isn’t ready to be made official. These things should naturally happen. My suggestion? Let it.
JOE: Every decent relationship I’ve been in or known of that has become exclusive has done so regardless of when, where, how, or even if there was a talk about it. If the two of you are a good match, if the chemistry and interest are there, and if you’re both at a point in your lives where you want a relationship, then things will naturally move to exclusivity fairly quickly. I think it’s a good idea (but not absolutely necessary) to confirm it, but I think such a talk will occur naturally when it “feels right” – if you’re having the discussion with someone with whom you really should be exclusive. If you find yourself anxious and worried about whether to discuss it, and if there’s any resistance at all to the idea once it’s discussed, then it’s either not the right person or not the right time.
Withholding sex isn’t going to make someone decide to commit… or, rather, it shouldn’t. If that’s all that would cause them to tell you you’re exclusive, then there’s not enough to keep them around once sex starts, and it’s more than likely they’ll agree to be exclusive purely to have sex with you… but such an agreement isn’t one I’d have high hopes for being kept. If you ever need to convince someone to be only with you, then you absolutely should not want to be only with them.
JAREK: Defining the relationship is not a calculated talk as if it is straight from a handbook. You’re going to have to use a little discretion based on your actual relationship with the guy. Guys tend to speak a lot louder with actions rather than words, so how he treats you should be pretty indicative of what he won’t mind calling you. If he treats you like a girlfriend, he probably won’t mind referring to you as his girlfriend. If he treats you like a booty call, chances are he refers to you as “some chick.” In my relationships, it was never up in the air on what we were. We connected to the point that eventually it was just assumed. The whole label thing is just so others can gauge your commitment to each other, not yourselves. Don’t play games like withholding sex just because you don’t have the will power or self-respect to bring up this issue on your own. That is quite possibly the worst way to go about it, next to kidnapping his puppy and using your “official status” as ransom. Also, and I’ve mentioned this before, it is 2011. The whole delegation of responsibilities between genders no longer exists, so if you want something go after it. It is no one person’s “job” to bring up issues. But you’ll both know when you two are there; it will just come down to a matter of confirming with each other.
ART: If you read nothing else in this response, read this: there is only one rule in dating, and that’s when something about the relationship is on your mind, you talk about it out loud with your partner. How should you time the DTR talk? When you decide you want to date the guy exclusively, bring it up. If he doesn’t want to be exclusive at that point — at one week, two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, three months, whatever — that isn’t a dealbreaker. Ask again later. There is no magic time when a man decides he’s going to be exclusive; we are all dealing with our own baggage, and therefore we all have our own timelines. Respect that. But respect yourself as well and don’t wait longer than you care to.
And don’t bullshit around with withholding sex as a strategy. If you’re not comfortable having sex with a guy unless he calls himself your boyfriend (which seems very arbitrary, but whatever gives you your jollies, I guess), then respect that about yourself. You don’t owe him sex and he doesn’t owe you sex, so this whole “withholding” idea is a nonstarter. Have all the sex you want. How he reacts to it — or the lack of it — will tell you about the kind of man he is and whether he’s worth keeping around.
And as for the sign he’s ready to make it official: it’s when he says he is. Goddamnit, just ask him already. Look, the one thing I see over and over again on this site and in life is women trying to find a secret, nonverbal code to understand men. Yes, there is a code for each person — like when my fiancee found out I will be way more likely to eat fruits and vegetables as a snack out of the refrigerator if she cuts them up as opposed to leaving them whole — but that takes months and years to decipher, and is unique to each person, which makes it a pretty shitty code. The code you’re looking for is called the English language, and it works on just about every guy.
* If you’d like to ask the guys a question, simply email me at email@example.com with “His Take” in the subject line and I’ll pass your question along to them.