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How to Turn an Almost-Relationship Into the Real Deal

You exchange regular texts, spend a couple of nights a week together, and know all of each other's friends. Everything is great except for one problem: He's not officially your boyfriend.

Recently, Cathy, 27, was out to dinner with Paul, the guy she had been seeing for the last few months. “When we left, I overheard the server say to Paul, ‘You and your girlfriend have a good night,’” she recalls. “I am not Paul’s girlfriend, and it was definitely an aha moment. We were regulars at this restaurant, so of course the staff assumed we were in a relationship. That exchange made me finally realize how much it bothered me that we still weren’t a real couple after spending so much time together.”

According to experts, an arrangement like this—going through all the relationship motions without an actual commitment—is becoming increasingly common. “I see a lot of women who stagnate between the casually dating stage and the exclusively dating stage, and they don’t know how to get out of it,” says Jenn Berman, PhD, therapist on VH1’s Couples Therapy and host of Cosmo US Radio’s “Love and Sex Show With Dr. Jenn.” You could call it an almost-relationship, and there are two subtypes—the one where you want to upgrade the guy to boyfriend status and the one where you’re just biding your time until someone better comes along. Regardless of which boat you’re in, our advice has you covered.

Make it Legit
In a case like Cathy’s, where you’re itching to lock it down, it can be hard to speak up and ask for what you really want, especially when you’ve been carrying on under these together-but-not-together terms for a few months. “A lot of women are afraid that they’ll come across as demanding if they say they want more from the relationship,” says Berman. “But you just have to feel the fear and go for it anyway.” You’ll get a better response if you come from a positive place, e.g., “What we have is awesome and I’m enjoying myself, but in order to continue, I need to get a sense of where you are. Usually at this stage in the game, I like for there to be a commitment.” Let him know that you don’t need a response right then and there, and then drop it. When a guy is really into you, he’ll clearly respond by saying that he wants you to be his girlfriend. “If he’s the right guy, your request is not going to scare him off,” says Berman. “And if he’s the wrong guy, you want to scare him off.”

Ditch the Crutch
The other end of the spectrum is the almost-relationship that you’re using as a placeholder. “You know the guy isn’t the greatest fit for you, but you’re getting some emotional benefits from being with him,” says Debbie Magids, PhD, coauthor of All the Good Ones Aren’t Taken. “You assume it’s no big deal to hang on to him until someone better comes along, but when you’re wrapped up in something like that, you’re closing yourself off to more suitable options.” Think about it—you head out to prowl with a friend, but after one drink, you decide the bar is full of grenades and call it a night. And what does it matter? You have someone you can go out to dinner with the next night. But who knows who you would have met and what would have transpired had you not had that guy to fall back on? “You need to cut the cord, which will force you to be open to other opportunities,” advises Magids.

Skip the Almost Stage
Deny him the perks of having a real GF (like access to you 24/7) and he’ll be more motivated to make it official.

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