How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Human beings are social animals, and most of us yearn for close relationships with other people. Relationships require a lot of work and a lot of communication, but it can still be hard to understand what the other person is thinking. This article can help you figure out where you stand in a romantic relationship with another person. It can also help you understand the types of relationships as well as help you know the signs of a healthy relationship of any kind.

Steps

Part 1 of 3: Defining a Romantic Relationship Download Article

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Decide when it is time to talk. If you’ve been spending a lot of time with someone and you think you might be developing romantic feelings for them, but you’re not sure if they feel the same way, it may be time to have the “define the relationship” talk (which some people refer to as the DTR). This is that big milestone talk when both people decide if they are just friends or if they are more than friends–and if they’re more, what they are exactly.

  • It’s often impossible to understand where you stand in a romantic relationship unless you talk it through. A DTR gets your feelings out in the open and takes you from “just friends” to “dating” or an official “couple.”
  • It might be time to have a DTR if you are considering dating other people or if you are considering getting physical (or already have).

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Talk to your friend in private. Having a conversation about the state of your relationship is not something to do in text messages or in a group setting. It’s best to have important conversations in person so you can gauge the other person’s reactions.

  • Sometimes it is ok to have a conversation in writing, for instance if you are very shy or afraid of putting the other person on the spot. In these situations, write out your feelings in a long-hand letter instead of typing or texting it. It will allow you to really convey your feelings in a personal way while still having the advantage of being able to edit your words before you send or deliver your letter.

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Get your feelings out in the open. Tell the person how you feel about them, and ask them how they feel about you. It is not necessary to ask for a commitment. You can simply ask the person how they are feeling about the time you spend together, and find out if they are interested in you as more than friends.

  • Avoid being overly dramatic or trying to be especially romantic when you tell someone how you feel for the first time. While it might be cute in a movie, it really puts someone on the spot to have you declare undying love when they thought you were just friends. It’s better to be honest but a bit reserved if you think you’re falling in love with them.
  • Try saying something like, “I love how much time we spend together. Is it just me, or are there some confusing feelings going on here? I think I’m starting to like you as more than just a friend. What about you?”

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Give your friend time to think. If your friend was not aware that you have feelings for him or her, your DTR conversation may have come as a surprise. Give your friend time to process this information and consider their own feelings instead of making them tell you how they feel in the moment.

  • In some situations, for instance if you’ve been physically affectionate with this person, it might be ok to ask them to tell you what their intentions are if things are going to continue. But if you’ve only been friends to this point, they will most likely need some processing time.

Part 2 of 3: Recognizing a Healthy Relationship Download Article

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Get to know everyone’s expectations. In any relationship, every participant should know what the expectations are in order to avoid feelings of being used or neglected.

  • If you’re dating someone, it is important that both partners are on the same page when it comes to issues like how often you will see each other, how often you’ll talk or text, how physically intimate you will be, and whether or not you will date other people.
  • In marriage and work relationships, it is important to understand each person’s role and responsibilities to avoid feelings of resentment or confusion.

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Communicate effectively and openly. Every relationship can be improved just by improving communication. Unfortunately, most people don’t learn how to communicate effectively as they grow up, so it can be difficult to have important conversations or stand up for yourself if you don’t make a concerted effort to learn the basics of effective communication.

  • In a relationship, you should approach conflict and disagreement with the perspective that you are a team. Instead of viewing a disagreement as your chance to prove a point or win an argument, try to think of it as a challenge to come up with a mutually-beneficial solution.
  • Don’t sit on negative feelings for too long without expressing them to your partner. Otherwise, you could become resentful. If you find yourself angry or sad about the relationship, think about why you’re feeling that way and then talk to your partner about it. Let them know how you feel and what you think could help.

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Balance your needs and your partner’s needs. We are often taught to put other people before our own needs, and being selfless in a relationship can be a great feature. However, you should not sacrifice your own needs or happiness to satisfy someone else. You’ll end up burned out and disappointed.

  • Take time for yourself to recharge when you need to. It’s ok to have a night out with just your friends, or take an evening to read by yourself when you want to.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell your partner what your needs are.

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Watch for signs of dysfunction. Relationships of all kinds should make you feel good about yourself and happy that you know the other person. Sometimes, though, relationships become a burden and can even affect your state of mind. If your relationship is dysfunctional, it may be time to sever ties or seek counseling. Watch for these warning signs in any relationship:

  • One person has more power or control than the other, and demands that the other person does what he or she says or wants. This can include limiting who the other person can spend time with, how they spend money, or how physically affectionate they are.
  • One person (or both) becomes emotionally manipulative and tries to get the other to respond by creating feelings of guilt, pity, or jealousy.
  • One person is a giver and the other person is just a taker. For example, a friend may always expect you to drop your plans for them, get them out of a bind, or be physically affectionate with no commitment.

Part 3 of 3: Understanding Types of Relationships Download Article

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Know that relationships mean different things to different people. As we go through life, we will meet a variety of people and will build complicated, personal relationships with them. There are various types of relationships such as friend, work, romantic, and family relationships.

  • It is important to remember that relationships are as individual and different as the people who are a part of them. There are different expectations in every relationship. Sometimes, these expectations are made clear by talking about them, but other times they are just unspoken rules that develop as people spend time together.

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Learn about types of friendships. Friendships are platonic, meaning there is no sexual interest involved. These relationships fulfill our needs as humans to be around other people who we feel are similar to us and feel valued, secure, and appreciated for who we are.

  • Some relationships are casual “acquaintances,” and include people you might pass in the halls and smile at or say, “Hello.” Acquaintances help you feel connected to the outside world, but they’re generally people you wouldn’t call up to hang out. The only expectation you have of your casual acquaintances is politeness.
  • Other relationships are casual friends. You may have met by chance (for instance, because you are in the same class) and you may interact on a regular basis based on your shared interest or common schedule. You may chat with these people about surface-level topics, but you probably don’t know much about them as individuals.
  • More intimate friends are the people you trust and choose to be with when you have a choice. These are the people that you feel that you can be yourself around, and you don’t have to worry about impressing them. Intimate friendships can require a lot of work to maintain, because you owe each other attention and time as part of your friendship.
  • Best friends are those intimate friends who have proven to be faithful, loyal, and trustworthy; these are often relationships that have stood the test of time. Best friends feel as if they know each other inside out. Not everybody has or needs best friends, and that’s ok too.

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Understand that good friendships are essential. Friends can range from someone you just hang out with to have fun, to someone you confide in when you’re having trouble or ask for advice when you need it. True friends are an important part of life because they help you learn more about yourself, help you make good choices, and help you connect with others.

  • True friends tell each other the truth and keep each other’s best interests in mind. You can know if someone is not really your friend if they lie to please you or to trick you, or if they undermine your efforts or don’t care about your successes.
  • Friendships can take a lot of work to maintain. Try to make time every week to call or visit your friends just to stay caught up with their lives and let them know you’re thinking about them.

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Understand that romantic relationships can be complex. Like friendships, romantic relationships can vary from casual to more intimate, depending on how well you know one another and how committed you are to one another (in other words, what expectations you have of each other).

  • Some people enjoy dating casually and spending a lot of time with lots of different people, perhaps even becoming sexually intimate with lots of casual partners. This has the advantage of allowing you to find out what traits you like in a romantic partner, and it gives you a chance to develop your communication and other relationship skills without the pressure of commitment.
  • Other people prefer to become very emotionally attached and committed to just one person. Eventually, most people hope to find someone they can commit to in a long-term relationship or marriage.

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Learn about work relationships. These are the people whom you see every day but are not necessarily close to. These relationships can be very important to your success. If you build good relationships with the people you work with or the people you’re in school with, you can show that you are a team player.

  • Try to treat everyone you work with with respect and kindness, even if they are not someone you would want to be friends with on a social basis. Your coworkers all have different life experiences that can be helpful in the workplace, so look for everyone’s strengths.
  • Sometimes work relationships overlap with romantic or friend relationships, which can often be confusing (and in the case of romantic relationships, may sometimes be against your workplace rules). Remember to stay professional whenever you are at work, and treat everyone the same.

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Familiarize yourself with romantic relationships. Whether it be dating or marriage, relationships like these can be complicated and hard to understand.

  • Romantic relationships give people a chance to open their hearts to someone else, and connect on a very intimate level. This person will see the good and bad sides of you, and love you anyway. Communication is key to keeping a romantic relationship healthy and happy.
  • Because of the intimacy of romantic relationships, they can cause a lot of pain and heartache from misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and disappointment. Choose carefully who you open your heart to, but you also have to be willing to take some risks in the name of love. Otherwise, you might miss out on a great relationship.

How to Understand What a Relationship Means

Look for quality in any relationship. Depth and sincerity should be most important. Have a few good, solid and rewarding relationships rather than focusing on too many people, who slip in and out of your life as they please.

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