How Many Dates? Before Relationships Are Defined, Ask These Five Questions

Updated August 11, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Trying to figure out how many dates before “exclusive talk” arises can be tricky. Each person in a couple will move at their own speeds, and what might seem like a great idea to one of you might seem like an utter nightmare to the other. Despite the awkward nature of relationship-defining conversations, they are an important part of seeing a fledgling relationship reach maturity (or not). Their importance cannot be overlooked nor underestimated.

However, there are things to consider before leaping into the “exclusive” question; most of them focused on you, your relationship, and your experiences with your partner. Before you have your next “define the relationship” discussion (or DTR), consider the following points:

1) What Do You Want From The Relationship?

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Get To Know Yourself, Your Needs, And Your Boundaries

All too often, people go into relationship conversations with the intent of finding out what their significant other wants from the relationship without having conducted a thorough investigation of what they want. Make sure you have identified what you want from your relationship, your partner, and yourself before you go into a conversation about what the two of you are, what you mean to one another, and whether you can call yourselves a couple.

To determine what you want from your relationship, think about how the two of you work together, how you interact, and whether you can see your relationship standing the test of time, struggle, and conflict. No matter how sanguine initially, relationships will have to be able to stand up under family deaths, personal tragedies, and intense losses if they are going to last years and years. If you want a long-term relationship, can you see all of that happening with the person you are dating?

Conversely, if you are only looking for a short-term relationship, a fling, or an open-ended connection, you might be tempted to withhold this information from the people you are dating for fear of missing out on dating opportunities. Not letting your dating partner know, though, before you have the “are we exclusive” talk, or in the midst of it, will cause more problems for you and your partner.

2) How Do You Feel When You Are Together?

Before you get wrapped up in the romance of being in a new relationship or deciding to forge ahead with someone, take some time to reflect on how you feel when the two of you are together. Do you feel strong, supported, and cared for? Do you feel like you are a priority in their life-not the only priority, certainly, but a priority? Do you feel free to be yourself? If the answer to any of these is “no,” you may want to take additional time to ask yourself why you are eager to further a relationship where you do not feel free and accepted.

You can also use this question as a means of discerning how the person you are dating feels about you during your relationship-defining talk. If your partner does not feel supported and cared for by you, that is significant and worth investigating.

3) What Does Your Intuition Tell You?

Perhaps the person you are dating seems like the type of person you could spend your life with-or at least the next few months, and you feel great when you are with him or her, but what does your gut tell you? Is there something that doesn’t sit quite right with you? Did you see him kick a pigeon walking too slowly while you were on an evening stroll, or see him laugh at something that felt cruel or offensive? If you notice small things like this and they set you on edge, even briefly, it could be an indication that your body is reacting to other behaviors and reactions that make you deeply uncomfortable and set you on edge.

Intuition does not always have to have the last say; you may be on edge because of a previous relationship, previous trauma, or other factors. Feeling your intuition spike is still important, though, because it could reveal similarities between a previous abusive partner, unhealthy relationship traits, and unhealthy behavior patterns. When beginning “the talk,” you can bring up any concerns you might have and make further determinations from there.

4) What Is Important To You?

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This is a question you should ask of yourself and your potential partner. What is important to you? In life and a relationship, knowing what is important to you can seriously impact your prospective partnerships. If your sole desire is to settle down and have a family, for instance, the type of relationship you are searching for will differ greatly from someone who wants their sole focus to be on their career. When the person you are dating wants to live in a big city and you are far more in favor of living in a small country house with the possibility of a garden; the two of you might find yourselves enmeshed in plenty of issues down the road.

Again, this is something that might take a while to determine. Journaling, speaking with loved ones, and taking note of your relationship can all help you determine what you find most important to your life, relationships, and the future you hope to cultivate. These are things you should go into your discussion with your potential partner, knowing and sharing as much as you feel comfortable.

5) How Do You Handle Conflict?

When stepping into a relationship discussion, you are stepping into the distinct possibility of having painful disagreements. You might want to take your relationship further, while the person you are dating might want to keep things where they are, move slow, or continue seeing other people. Knowing how you handle conflict can point to a potentially painful and volatile situation. For example, if you know that you are prone to bursts of anger and outrage, consider entering the conversation with the stipulation that you might need to stop at any time to take some space to breathe and calm down.

It is also good to know if you are prone to bowing down and agreeing with the other party in a conflict. You can write out what you want and hand it to your potential partner at the start of your conversation to keep yourself accountable. Whatever your conflict reaction style is, being aware of it and taking steps to work within your limits can greatly inform and assist you and your partner during your relationship talk.

Relationship Timelines And Reflection

Anyone going into a “define the relationship” discussion is bound to be nervous, unsure, and even a little bit scared. These types of conversations are difficult to have, as they may precede heartache, pain, or rejection, all of which can feel unbearable. Questions about when you should talk, the average number of dates before sleeping together, and how long you date before becoming boyfriend and girlfriend are certainly important when you are in a relationship. Nonetheless, these answers are almost impossible to nail down due to the unique nature of each romantic relationship that comes to pass.

Instead of focusing on the potential outcomes of the relationship, though, it is better to focus on yourself: your needs, your wants, your behaviors, and your reactions. These are the things that you can measure, control, and act on; you can never truly measure, control, or act on other people’s behaviors, wants, and needs.

The best source of strength in this type of relationship discussion is simple self-reflection and understanding. When you are unable to understand and communicate your needs, you may enter the conversation with your feet on an uneven, slippery metaphorical ground. Whereas if you go into the conversation with plenty of self-discovery, intent, and purpose, you are more likely to state your piece clearly, and ultimately get your needs met.

Dating Relationships And You

Get To Know Yourself, Your Needs, And Your Boundaries

Getting Professional Advice

It is crucial to have clear communication with the person you are dating about what you are looking for and how you are feeling. Be clear about your intentions of wanting a relationship and seeing them as someone you would like to be with exclusively or casually dating. Defining the relationship can be uncomfortable to bring up, but it establishes clarity on both sides about where the relationship stands and where it is headed.

If you feel unnerved or unsure at the prospect of having this conversation about your relationship with your partner, consider reaching out to a therapist to develop stronger communication skills and more effective self-reflection skills, as both of these are paramount in upholding a mature dating relationship. Research supports online therapy with studies reporting it to be just as effective as in-person therapy for decreasing stress and anxiety between the couples along with increased levels of happiness and less depressive symptoms.

Regain is an online counseling platform that connects you with a therapist that fits your needs, whether it be a relationship therapist, licensed clinical social worker, clinical psychologist, or licensed professional counselor. No matter your choice, they will be able to help you as an individual or a couple when it is convenient for you. You and your partner can participate in couples therapy remotely, via phone/video call, text, or chat.


Knowing what you want is often not a simple task. Many people see dating to discover what you want in a partner and step into dating roles with great enthusiasm and gusto. Others see dating as the first step to a life of love and happiness. Regardless of your exact philosophy regarding dating, there are some questions you should ask yourself before you engage in a “DTR” discussion, as these questions can inform your questions and responses with your partner and will equip you to deliver a better-articulated reason to move forward, stay where you are or terminate your relationship.

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