Please note: Entries within this blog may contain references to instances of domestic abuse, dating abuse, sexual assault, abuse or harassment. At all times, Break the Cycle encourages readers to take whatever precautions necessary to protect themselves emotionally and psychologically.  If you would like to speak with an advocate, please contact a 24/7 peer advocate at 866-331-9474  or text “loveis” to 22522.

From Friends to More: Leveling Up a Relationship

When talking with young people, one of the questions that Break the Cycle often gets is how to take your relationship to the next level. Many of these questions are about how to let a friend know that you want to be more than friends, letting a partner know that you are ready for the next stage of physical intimacy, or telling a friends with benefits that you are ready for a committed relationship. To all of these questions, the answer is simple: open communication with the other person is key for a successful conversation. But what does open communication look like in that setting? Keep reading to see how you can use open communication to have a conversation where both people are respected and heard.

Own Your Feelings

Think about why you want to move to the next step of your relationship. Is it because it seems like the expected thing to do or because it is something you really want? Before talking with the other person, be honest wiht yourself about your feelings. If you aren’t confident in your feelings, that’s okay! Take more time to reflect and figure out if you are truly comfortable with your choice before communicating with your partner or friend.

Be Clear About What You Want

As nice as it would be, no one is a mind reader. The only way the other person will know how you truly feel or what you want is by communicating it. It is never easy to be vulnerable and express how you feel, but it is always worth it to be clear and open.

Ask Questions and Don’t Assume

Just like we need to be clear about what we want, we also need to make space for the other person to share what they want. Even though we may think that we know what our partner or friend wants, we may be wrong. The only way to know how the other person feels is to ask questions and really listen to their answers. Assuming you know what someone wants or how they feel can put both of you in an uncomfortable or hurtful situation.

Respect Their Choices

We may not always be on the same page as our partners. Even if your feelings or thoughts are different, it’s important to respect their decisions – you would want that if the situation was reversed! If you need more clarity, it’s okay to ask more questions, but be sure you are using good communication skills so your partner or friend doesn’t feel pressured or attacked.

Prepare Yourself for Either Outcome

Putting yourself out there can be scary; it’s important to take care of your feelings no matter what the other person decides. If they say okay to taking it to the next level, make sure you aready for the new responsibilities. If they say no, think about how you will react. Rejection isn’t fun, but responding with kindness and understanding can help you both build your relationship in a different way.

Open communication is a valuable skill you can use in all aspects of your life, including with your friends, family, and partner. Remembering these steps when leveling up your relationship will help you stay true to yourself, while treating the other person with respect. Every time you do this, it will get easier – so don’t be afraid to express your feelings!