Clarify the path of your relationship with a question that not everyone dares to ask.
At some point during a relationship, we have feared a question very few dare to ask: “What are we?” Sure enough, this has turned into a deal breaker for many couples, because the very nature of this question makes us think of a future that hasn’t arrived yet, or a future that we’re not even sure about. It can also turn out to be the best thing to do. Clearing things up with our partner can bring peace and open the possibility to build the relationship in a new and better way.
I consider myself a person that can’t leave important things unsaid, so I’ve made this question before, more than once. In some cases, it's brought discomfort on my former partners, since they felt I “came on too strong” with the truth, but that’s just me. I’m stubborn, so I couldn’t leave this question unanswered, and I’m also very straightforward, so I didn’t know another way to address the situation. This has led to very different outcomes in the past, some of them more cheerful than others, but in the end, they were all very satisfying.
No matter what happened next, I got to know how my partner felt, and they got to understand how I felt too. We both gave each other the opportunity to share our point of view regarding “us” and decided together where to go from there. Sometimes, it hurts so much to answer the question because deep inside we know it can end in a sad goodbye. In the end, even farewells are part of this. This question can feel as uncomfortable as you want, but it’s necessary to do so at some point.
This doesn’t mean we have to feel hopeless or anxious about the outcome. On the contrary, we must feel free to walk wherever the road takes us, with or without our loved one. Not all paths are meant to last forever, this is why we need to stop holding people against their will just because we think we ought to be together. If it’s not meant to happen at the moment, we have to let go with the same love we first received them. And, eventually, move on. If the answer opens the possibility to build up a better relationship, then get to work! But if the outcome makes us take separate ways, we have to keep walking and learning until a new story crosses our path.
This is why asking “What are we?” is so scary. We are afraid to be left alone, to end something we enjoy so much. But we can’t retain anyone from their own path. The time will come when the right person already knows the answer to our question, and they will respond to it naturally, while spending time with you. It’s just how this is. From the multiple times I have asked someone this, and when someone else asked me the same thing, this is what I learned to get through these conversations with my heart whole:
Before asking them, ask the same thing to yourself.
Work on some alone time with this question. Put into perspective how you are perceiving the relationship and where you want it to be. That can be a great start to a healthy and clarifying conversation in the future.
Ask when you actually want to know the answer.
As I stated before, the answer to this question may not be so pretty. If we really want to know what’s going on, we have to be open to any kind of answer.
Ask only when things are confusing, not when you’re feeling insecure.
Low self-esteem and insecurity can question a relationship even when the answers are evident. Ask your partner about your situation when it’s actually confusing and not just because you’re feeling insecure.
Be patient and stay open to your partner’s answer.
Sometimes, asking someone their point of view of the relationship can be overwhelming. Give them time to think about it and don’t rush it. Also, be respectful about their answer.
Don’t build up expectations of what they may answer you.
It’s a very hard thing to do, because we always hope to hear a particular answer. Sometimes it happens, but sometimes it doesn’t. Don’t cling to replies that haven’t arrived yet.
Be willing to move on if the answer breaks you apart from them.
Holding on can be more painful than letting go. When our partner doesn't answer the “What are we” question in the same way as us, then it’s time to rethink where the relationship’s going and be willing to change our perspective about it or move on.
They may not know the actual answer.
Sometimes, the reason behind this question comes from different personal fears and doubts, regarding their job, their life, or even themselves. This can affect the relationship directly, and should be clarified and addressed right away. If the turmoil is too big, maybe it’s time to take a break away from each other and avoid damaging the relationship.
Having these talks can be complicated and scary, but all in all, it’s worth and necessary. Having clarity in our mind and heart is the only way to grow into the best version of ourselves. This way we know who’s keeping us company while we create our path and who won’t be able to do so on the long run. We must keep ourselves whole before even starting a story with someone. This way, no matter what happens, at the end of the day we will always feel complete and resilient.
Photo Credits: India Earl