Uncomfortable as it may be, save time with honest communication.

I was thrilled that he suggested dinner instead of just coffee. I hoped this meant he was more serious about actually starting a relationship—I had had too many first dates that went nowhere. Pete suggested a nice hamburger place where we grabbed a beer and dinner and started chatting. We had both traveled some and were teachers, so we had no problem keeping up a conversation. That evening went very well, and he asked for my number when we parted, since our previous contact had been over Facebook, connected by mutual friends.

We started texting frequently, chatting about everything. I knew some of his coworkers, so, of course, I started to collect information. I’ve found character checks to be invaluable when dating—it’s helpful to find something out about a man from those who know him much better than I do.

Overall, I heard positive things about Pete. One caution that I received, however, was that he could struggle with commitment. I decided to proceed, keeping my eyes open but giving him a chance. As I continued to get to know him, I suspected that this commitment problem could be due to some events in his past. But I was still cautiously optimistic, and I wanted to see where the relationship might go this time. Maybe he had changed since my friend had observed this trait. Very soon, we were texting multiple times a day, our conversations continuing to be easy.

The elusive DTR

Fast forward to our last date, several weeks later: a trip to the symphony. At this point, I could tell we were definitely into each other. He was a gentleman, we got along well, and there was (I could have sworn there was) mutual attraction. However, nothing had been said about the status of the relationship. That elusive DTR (“defining the relationship” conversation) had not happened.

We met for a drink downtown before the symphony, and it sure seemed like we both thoroughly enjoyed the evening. The performance was one that Pete had suggested. It was a bit of an unusual symphony style, and definitely new to me. This meant that he got to explain the music to me ahead of time, and we had plenty to discuss at intermission. It was a lovely evening, and I thought that maybe, finally, we could start to move forward to something more official.

The day after the symphony, I waited for his usual text in the morning. Nothing. Hours passed, accompanied only by an odd silence. I texted him late in the day to thank him for a wonderful evening at the symphony the night before. He replied, but with a much shorter response than normal. Over the next few days, it became very clear to me that something had shifted. Text messages were short, and it was impossible to carry on a conversation anymore. Between occasional short exchanges, I wondered what was up.

Stuck in the “texting zone”

Eventually, I had had enough. He was hanging on by a thread through texts, but I wanted him to either fish or cut bait. If we weren’t going to move forward with a relationship, I would certainly be disappointed. But I would much rather have clarity so both of us could move forward with our separate lives than be stuck in the “texting zone” forever with no possible progress. I suspected that what was happening was what I had been warned about before: he was pulling back when things started to get real. Prior to that final date at the symphony, our conversations had become deeper and more personal. We were connecting on a more intimate level—which, I thought, might be why he was backing away now.

So, after several weeks of this, I texted him. I told him that I had really enjoyed getting to know him so far, and I was very interested in getting to know him more in the future, but that I would appreciate a bit of clarity on where things stood and what he was thinking now. The result? Silence. Complete and total silence, even as the days and weeks passed. I took that as my answer and tried to move on.

I say “tried” to move on because it wasn’t as easy as I had expected it would be. My first reaction was anger. How dare he not respond to a simple request for clarity? That anger was mixed with disappointment. He seemed to be, overall, a very good man, and I had thought it had the possibility of working out long-term.

As time passed, however, I realized that my disappointment was misplaced. If he wasn’t capable of clear communication about the relationship, then he wasn’t someone that I wanted to be with for the rest of my life.

It’s OK to ask for clarity

I’m not suggesting that every woman has to ask for a clear definition of the relationship after the second date, but I think it is perfectly acceptable to ask for clarity at some point. What that point is will vary greatly based on relationships. I’ve had relationships where it was discussed on the second date, because it was plain to both of us that we were ready to have that conversation. I’ve also had relationships that went on for many dates before it was brought up. In my experience, the worst kind of relationships have been the ones that have lingered in the “hanging out” zone for months and months—the ones where you talk every chance you get and are both interested, but no one ever takes the initiative.

So, I learned from that experience with Pete that it’s OK to ask for clarity. It’s OK to ask a man what his thoughts are on the relationship and where he sees it headed. Being ghosted wasn’t fun. I have a lot more respect for men who have been very clear with me about their feelings and their thoughts for the future.

So, ladies, don’t be afraid to ask for the courtesy of clarity. The way a man responds to that request can tell you so much about the real status of the relationship. You’ll be glad you asked—not just because you’ll have a better sense of what the relationship means to him, but also because of the knowledge you’ll gain about his character.

Editors' Note: Dating Unscripted is a column in our Readers Write section. Submit your own story here.

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