“We Need To Talk…”

Need to broach a touchy topic that might scare your date off? Here’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up—and how to do it right.

By Evan Marc Katz

ver been afraid to bring up a topic on a date that, unlike the usual light chit chat, carries some weight and could determine the course of your budding relationship? You know, anything from the “Are you looking to get married?” or “Do you always get this blotto on a Saturday night?” Sooner or later, we all hit a sensitive area. And sure, it’s tempting to keep quiet and avoid making waves that might scare someone away. But as a dating coach who’s advised countless clients and witnessed the results, this much I know is true: Conversations don’t change someone’s feelings, they reveal them. So if you want to learn where you stand, the best way is to speak up! Keep these pointers in mind during these three pivotal scenarios and your date will hardly know you’ve just had The Talk.

Scenario #1: You want to figure if you have a future
You’ve been on a few dates and things are going great. The problem? You never know
Conversations don’t change someone’s feelings, they reveal them.
when your intended will call you again. And since you’re at the point in life where you don’t want to waste your time, you want to ask about this ASAP—without freaking this person out, of course.

When to have the talk: The next date. Preferably at the end of the evening, after you’ve had a nice time. Although the conversation isn’t going to change your date’s mind in any way, it couldn’t hurt to put your sweetie in a good mood first.

How to say it: Matter-of-factly. You’re on an information-gathering mission, not a witch hunt. So there’s no reason for a big preamble about love and marriage. There’s no reason for a cross-examination if you doubt your date’s motives. All you want to do is get clarity on whether you two have any sort of future together. Say something like, “Hey, now that we’ve been on a few dates, I realize that I really like you and could see this leading to something more serious. How do you feel about that?” Since you now know that your question won’t impact your date’s answer, you can feel quite secure in asking this person, point-blank, in the same tone you’d use to say, “Could you pass the salt?”

Key ideas: Remember, you’re not putting pressure on this person to commit to you. You’re asking simply whether a commitment between you is possible. If your date says yes, you have your answer. If your date says no, you can properly move on. If your date says maybe, you have the option of moving on or giving it another date or two before making up your mind.

Scenario #2: When you want to talk about something your date did to upset you
Maybe he spent a little too much time talking to some girl at the bar while getting you a drink. Or maybe she was texting up a storm with her girlfriend while you sat there twiddling your thumbs. If something like this is bothering you, it’s best to let your date know rather than sit there and stew.

When to have the talk: This isn’t an offense worthy of a heavy “we have to talk” intro. Then again, you shouldn’t slide it in as an afterthought or your date might not realize it’s important to you. So try to broach it when you’re already in mid-conversation, but not when you’re already conversing about anything heavy, like “Speaking of our crazy work schedules, I see you’ve been BlackBerrying like crazy tonight. I was really hoping I’d get some uninterrupted quality time with you; do you think you could turn it off for a couple hours?”

How to say it: As if it was just another thing you needed to get to, like figuring out the check or where to go for a night cap. You should treat it with a similar tone and level of urgency. You haven’t been agonizing, losing sleep or forgetting to shower because of it. You just have something on your mind that you want to get off.

Key ideas: Point out how you felt your date was inconsiderate—not that your date was inconsiderate. This is a fine distinction which doesn’t place absolute blame on your date and acknowledges his or her feelings. You should also tell your date how he or she could approach the situation differently the next time. This way, you’re a problem-solver, not a complainer, and you can rightfully drop the topic as soon as your date’s heard you out.

Scenario #3: When you want to broach an issue that’s a big red flag for you
This section isn’t to solve small annoyances, but those more weighty causes of concern:
Set aside a night to allow all of your feelings to be heard.
He goes way overboard with booze or gambling; she’s a compulsive shopper deep in credit-card debt. Maybe you’ve even alluded to this problem in the past, but your date doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it, so it’s time to draw the line.

When to have the talk: Rarely. If talks like this become too regular, they lose all potency. If you’re going have a big talk, choose your battles wisely, and set aside a night to allow all of your feelings to be heard. You do not want to bring up a potential relationship-killing topic before you head for work or sit down in a movie. Conversations like this must be treated with respect and conducted without time limits or distractions.

How to say it: Believe it or not, just because you’re making an accusation doesn’t mean it has to sound accusatory. One way to keep your date from going on the defensive is to listen to his or her side of the story. Say something like “I feel as if you are going a bit overboard with the alcohol/gambling/credit cards. How do you feel about it?” Not only will this help you understand what makes this person tick, it will make your date feel nurtured by your concern rather than attacked—especially if you pepper your conversation with positive things you like about this person.

Key ideas: While you’re ostensibly issuing an ultimatum, that should be the last thing that you get to. It’s far more important to bring up your concerns in a way that communicates that you’re really trying to understand and work with someone you care about. Demanding your date quit a behavior cold-turkey is unfair, but if you can adopt an everything-in-moderation policy, this person may be persuaded to give it a try.

The bottom line is, if you’re in the dark with the person you’re seeing, the smartest thing to do is say something in a non-accusatory way. Your date will either appreciate your candor or retreat into his or her shell. Either way, you’ve learned something valuable about the way your date communicates—and you can decide if that’s the way you’d like to communicate for the rest of your life.

Online dating coach Evan Marc Katz is the founder of profile writing service and the author of the new book Why You’re Still Single: Things Your Friends Would Tell You If You Promised Not to Get Mad. Reach him directly at
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