Awkward: How to move from ‘talking’ to ‘dating’

By Summer Hoagland-Abernathy, Senior Editor

Ryan Brumback

Three weeks ago, you met your new best pal through a mutual friend of a mutual friend who met you both at a party and thought you’d really hit it off.

You’re having Devil Dawgs again because you wanted to buy them that espresso shake they like, and you have just told them a killer joke that lit up their face and almost sent the shake flying out of their nose. They are laughing so hard, they grab your thigh, and time freezes for a second.

When they calm down and remove their hand, you still feel it there for a moment, and you wonder if they ever grab anyone else’s thigh like that — or if they ever rest their head on anyone’s shoulder like they did last night when you had a Halloween movie marathon together.

You have been wondering if these hangouts are considered dates, and if you favor monogamy, you may be wondering if they are going on dates with other people. But how do you ask them about that? How do you make the jump from talking to dating?

The Chronicle spoke with communication, relationship and etiquette experts to find out.

Catalina Lawsin, Ph.D., a clinical health psychologist specializing in sex and relationships at her private practice, said sharing where you are at opens up the conversation, but have some clarity of what you want when you do this.

“If you’re not sure, that’s an opportunity for you. There is no rush to explore that further,” Lawsin said. “What do you need to do for yourself to resolve some of that ambivalence?”

When you have your thoughts sorted out, and you’re ready to talk, Sylvia Mikucki-Enyart, associate professor in the Communication Studies Department at the University of Iowa, said clear communication is best, but if fear of rejection is stifling your words, you can test the waters first.

“Bring up this pretend third person who inquired about the status of the relationship, like — ‘Yeah, my sister was wondering what our status was or what’s going on in our relationship, and I didn’t know what to tell her. What do you think?’” Mikucki-Enyart said.

If you are ready to go with a more direct route, Lawsin said give them an indication of where you’re at with phrases like, “I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with you and getting to know you better. I’d like to explore what this might be if we take this to another level,” or whatever you’d like to explore. This opens the door to talking about your feelings in the future, as well.

Mikucki-Enyart said you can pose a question as well, — “I really enjoy hanging out with you, and I’m not looking to see other people. Are you?”

Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of Beyond Etiquette, a social and business etiquette consulting agency, said eventual heartbreak is inevitable, but it allows us to create resilience and respect and kindness for ourselves, which will make putting yourself out there easier in the future.

“Just by being vulnerable and respectful and letting the other person know how you feel instead of playing games is really the etiquette to dating,” Tsai said.You’re being honest. You’re choosing to be vulnerable because it’s courageous.”