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McKay Coppins: How to have a good DTR

"What are we?"

It's a question that has been asked by men and women in budding romances since the dawn of courtship. In fact, the very first couple in recorded history had something resembling "the talk." Although, in their case, the Almighty was commanding them to multiply and replenish the earth, so I guess that made things less complicated.

But ever since Adam declared Eve "the mother of all living," thus ensuring a long and fruitful relationship together — Adam didn't exactly have a lot of competition — couples throughout history have made it a point to discuss and define their feelings for each other so as to eliminate ambiguity.

And in this celestial marriage "meet" market that defines the young LDS dating scene, these talks have become especially vital — if only to manage expectations.There are few things more disappointing than thinking you're on your way to eternal bliss only to find out that all your date wanted was some cuddle action during your Thursday night viewing of The Office.

Not that I would know...The "what are we?" talk has become such a staple of Mormon courtship that we have followed the example of generations of latter-day saints before us and assigned it an acronym. In most LDS dating circles, it is referred to as a DTR — Define the Relationship.

Stereotypically, girls are the ones who initiate the DTRs. Guys, of course, would rather embrace ambiguity and stay out ridin' fences, desperado-style. (Ten points for anyone who caught that Eagles reference.)

But no matter who brings it up, it's easy for these conversations to end in hurt feelings, further confusion and long, self-pitying blog posts or angsty Facebook status updates.

There are steps to be taken, however, in avoiding such unpleasant outcomes. And so, here I would like to offer Three Tips for Having an Effective DTR:1. Know what you want before DTRing: Going into a DTR without a clear idea of what you want can be dangerous. You should resolve in your mind whether you want to begin dating this person or not. Otherwise, it becomes easy to justify doing whatever seems easiest in the moment.

"I'm really not sure if this relationship could work out," you will think. "But what if she starts crying? And what if she's wearing mascara and it gets all over her cheeks and then she wipes it on her sleeve? I would be obligated to buy her a new sweater, which I definitely can't afford! I guess I'll just have to start calling her my girlfriend..."2. Let the person who instigates the DTR talk first: Sometimes you won't have time to figure out what you want before the topic comes up. In these cases, it's best to let the instigator do most of the talking at first. This can be easily accomplished. If a girl asks, "What are we?" simply turn the question around on her: "What do you think?" She clearly has something to say, so let her say it. And while she's talking, quickly formulate your position. Or, on second thought, eliminate the word "quickly" from that last sentence. She will be rambling for a while...

3. Be clear, direct and avoid making dumb excuses: If you're going to go through the awkwardness of a DTR, you might as well say everything there is to say. When the discussion ends, you should both know exactly where you stand.

And please, for the love of all that is good and holy, do not make stupid excuses to justify your decision. We all know that busy work schedules and lots of homework are not real reasons for rejecting a relationship. And on the flip side, don't fall victim to celestial sign-seeking ("I know it's right because every time I'm thinking about you, you text me!")

No matter how natural your relationship seems, a DTR always becomes necessary at some point. But of course, ideally, you won't need any of the tips I've offered above. If both of you seem to be moving in the same direction, and you have the right chemistry, "the talk" can actually be boiled down to a sentence or two.

For example, a DTR I might have been involved in a couple nights ago went something like this:

Her: Well, I guess I'm going to have to take "single" off my Facebook profile.

Me: Yep.

DTR — check!