When a “talking” couple decides to go exclusive, they have a conversation affectionately known as the “DTR” (“Define The Relationship).

It’s an important step. Because romantic relationships, in order to level-up, require exclusivity. The commitment to not date other people removes the fear of competition. This allows each person to move freely into a more authentic version of themselves–one that is less interested in presenting a shiny persona and more interested in deeper sharing–including our struggles, our fears, our scars.

It’s a risk. One that can paralyze us into never having the DTR. We wonder if it’s better not to lose a valued friend than risk leveling up and breaking up.

It’s a risk worth taking.

This applies more broadly than romances–having a DTR in other relationships can be deeply meaningful. When you officially become a member of a group you’re committing yourself to a deeper kind of relationship. If you pledge your loyalty to a country, a club, a community, a church, you’ll find the commitment enhances friendship and intimacy. You may count on others because they know that they can count on you.

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

C.S. Lewis