It can sometimes feel like you’re watching an ESPN special and have no clue what sport is on, much less what all the lingo means. But that’s how some discussions about relationships with your friends can be like. You just have to hope, nod and grimace at appropriate intervals and google everything when you get back. But relationships don’t generally give you time to google things while you’re having the conversation. Tragically. So that’s where I come in!

Saddle up! Metaphorically, guys. Get your minds out of the gutter.

But first…

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, I have an axe to grind. I see it all the time around me, every day – without fail.

I know that it’s the natural self preservation instinct to protect yourself. Survival is, after all, the goal of natural selection – and scientifically speaking – life itself. It isn’t however, all that there is. 

What I’m not so transparently talking about here is the dynamic that I see in relationships and love in general where people want to have a partner and a satisfying relationship, but aren’t willing to get hurt. Or make mistakes, or be honest with each other. They expect to receive all the emotional benefits and rewards of confiding in other people, but do not reciprocate, or render themselves vulnerable. They aren’t willing to have the difficult or awkward conversations. The reality is that all relationships face two pieces of advice in response to these problems. One – you communicate honestly and talk things through. Or, somewhat sombrely, failing that – you can only break up. 

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled programs…

If you’re anything like me, it can be difficult knowing what means what in a relationship. Heck, most of the time I just turn up and jaunt along for the ride. No jokes. Little jokes?

But we’re left with the proposition of what to do when we are actually in a relationship. The question that no one wants to ask much less answer: ‘what are we’. By which the answer they’re actually looking for here is a response to whether or not you’re exclusive. That’s the gold mine of answers, really. And frankly there is only one answer you want to hear if you’re asking the question in the first place. ‘Yes, of course’.

But there are more and less obvious markers in a relationship. Some will be familiar to you, others won’t!

But that’s why I’m here!

I’m not going to lie, folks – some discussions are sort of awkward in a relationship. I know that all the life gurus tell us that communication is key and the secret to happiness, and they’re certainly not wrong. That said, no one ever said it was easy to do that and be open. 

There’s also a certain notoriety that comes with certain discussions in relationships. Particularly the agonisingly vague ‘We need to talk’. I’m sorry if you’ve just got a WNTT because they’re rarely good news. Or a sign that a relationship is thriving. However, it’s closely followed in terms of panic inducement by ‘What are we’. WAW is more positive and largely more hopeful for the future, but it has to be tempered with honesty. This is literally your point to speak your truth. To try something out or figure out whether you want commitment or long term or long distance or just something casual. 

But it can be hard. Things change.

Sometimes we’ve been burned before. However, you can’t let heartbreak prevent you from loving again. Or committing to another person. Or let that experience convince you that that’s all you will ever get, or deserve. 

Heartbreak is one of those words that everyone knows about. We all know the ways that a heart can be torn apart or stretched to within an inch of it’s existence. The real kicker though? It’s not always just a case of relationships breaking up and then having to deal with that. That’s a fairly linear form of grief to deal with. In as far as it’s linear and you know you is hurting you and who is to blame. The heartbreak that I’m here to talk to you about is all about family and identity. Specifically about what we do and do not owe one another of ourselves. And the fallout that comes with people either asking for too much.

Or of people not feeling comfortable giving anything. 

It also means that you have to think about what you owe the other person and what you’re getting out of the relationship. This is where you grab some friends to work through your gut feelings – which should always be trusted – with some external perspective too. They won’t necessarily be unbiased, but sometimes you need other people as a sounding board. 

This means getting vulnerable. Opening your heart. Accept the fact that it will probably break. 

But it will mend over time. And it’ll be stronger and more resilient and more known when going into another relationship. 

Make the grand gesture – accept that it might not work out how you think.

Ask them out, knowing full well they could say no.

Go to the singles mixer, aware that you might be disheartened. 

In short – you have to screw up to build up again. 

If you do nothing, you will end up with nothing. 

If you don’t let your heart out to play for a bit, you might forget how to use it when the time comes. 

Think on that, friends .