Why you shouldn’t be afraid to drop the “What Are We?” bomb

It’s just a question that you ask another person when you feel strongly enough about them to want to know.

By Hui Xin


You talk. You hang out. You’ve met some, or all, of each other’s friends. You know them better than they know themselves. You pick up enough things to know that you want to keep learning about this person.

You’re talking, you’re hanging out, you’re seeing each other. Doing everything you think you’d be doing if you were dating, except you’re not dating. You use every phrase you can think of to describe this relationship except for the word ‘relationship’.

It feels like a torture. It feels like they’re your boyfriend or girlfriend, except they’re not. Every time that you’re preparing to hang out with them and every time the butterflies in your stomach starts surfacing when you see them, you promise yourself you will bring it up this time. You will not back out. You will tell them how you’re feeling. You will ask them to tell you how they’re feeling and where they want this to go.

But when its finally time, literally nothing comes out of your mouth. Zip, zilch, zero. For some reason you’ve been conditioned to feel guilty and clingy and desperate for the mere fact that you would like to know where your romantic relationship stands with another human being.

You refer to him as the ‘guy I’m talking to’, or to her as this ‘girl I’ve been hanging out with’ because you’re not allowed to call them anything else.

The feeling sucks because you really like them. You feel something you haven’t felt in a long time. You want to give this thing the chance to unfold so that you can enjoy it even more. Or, if they’re not interested in anything more serious, you want to end it now. Because you know it’s only going to hurt more in six months or in a week or even just tomorrow. Because the longer it lasts, the stronger the feelings get.

You wait for the rules to guide you. You wait until you speak to every single person in your circle before you go any further. You need to know: “Am I asking to much of them?”; “Am I being needy?”; “What am I supposed to say?”; “What do I do if they don’t feel the same way?”… These people don’t know anything about your relationship. They know nothing about how you’re feeling, much less how that person is feeling. So stop. Follow your own heart.

Don’t think of this “What Are We” conversation as some sort of weapon that you’re unleashing. Don’t think of this as something you should apologise for. It’s not a weapon or a mistake or a sign to show that you are a crazy. It’s just a question. It’s a question that you ask another person when you feel strongly enough about them to want to know.

There are no guidelines. No rules. There’s no right or wrong time. All I’m saying is that when you really, really like someone, when you feel like they’re the only person you want to see at the end of a long day, when you’ve really gotten to know them and you feel like you want to keep knowing more, ask them. When you’re no longer interested in pursuing other relationships and other people, or when you’re ready to focus your attention on that one person, or when you feel like you can’t stop smiling because this person sparked something within you… Then ask. It’s not going to be any more nerve-wrecking than a popping the question during a proposal.

Stop being afraid about this person not reciprocating your feelings. Be the bold one. Acknowledge to yourself that you are tired of feeling confused and unsure, and let this person know that.

And when you’ve picked up enough pieces of them – enough to know that they might be the right person for you – then ask. It’s not a bomb, it’s just a question. And you have the right to know the answer.