What “I Don’t Know” Usually Means:

Okay, let’s give a shout out to the universal DRT conversation. “Define the Relationship”, those times we either dread having, dread inititating, or dread…avoiding. We’ve all had them. And, like it or not, they are at least partially responsible for the advancement of most relationships.

But how to know if what you’re having is indeed a DTR, and not just another random fight about something that happened, or an excuse to ETR? (End the Relationship) Usually, these types of phrases are included in the prototype DTR, and don’t merely occur in other everyday conversational types.

“Where do you see us going?”

“What are we?” (This is NOT referring to whether we are people, vegetables, or minutae…)

“I don’t want to date other people”

“I was thinking we could be more”

(Or, very sneakily,)

“What do you call me when you talk about me to your friends?”

Something like that. Sometimes girls are the one to broach the subject, but in my experience it’s mostly been the guys that have done so. With motivations ranging from insecurity because of a possible rival, or some innate male need to stake a claim on perceived territory, to simple curiousity about what the other person feels… there are many reasons to instigate a DTR. But that’s not what this particular post is about. This post is about once again deciphering what is going on in the female noggin, when one thing is coming out of our mouths… and 9/10 times, something completely different is going on upstairs.

This particular brain-to-mouth phenomenon that I wish to take note of is the oversimplification designed to elicit a specific response: “I don’t know”. Unlike the intention that normally precludes this phrase, to explain a lack of knowledge or otherwise indicate ignorance of fact pertaining to the matter at hand, this phrase, when spoken by a girl in response to a DTR-like question, does NOT (contrary to popular belief) mean she is ignorant. Instead, an “I don’t know” springing from the “How do you feel about us?” query means a solid one or two things:

One. She is waiting for you to declare your intentions FIRST, before she gives up any of what she’s thinking. After all, how does she know why you were asking that question? Particularly if you just slipped it in between a “how was your day?” and “would you prefer a breast or a thigh?” question set. Anyway, as I was saying, in this situation, you need to ask yourself whether you’ve made it clear (at least in general, for those of you who are faint of heart; i.e. pansies) which direction you’re heading. What is it you want her to say? Because honestly, we all know that if you’re stupid enough to ask this question, you’ve got to be a) totally prepared for whatever response she’s going to give, b) hoping to move the relationship into a higher plane, or ready to move on, but have definitely been giving subtle signals in said direction –Or, HELLO, you might end up with an “I love you” when you were wanting more of a “Let’s see other people” chat, my friend– and finally, you must also be c) NOT just trying to punk out on making a decision because you want her to do it for you. (If you have done this before, or are planning on doing this again, I swear on behalf of every girl anywhere that I will hunt you to the ends of the earth, and I will make it hurt when I find you. Ahem.)

Two. She does know, but she wants you to say it first. This is a variation of Reason One, except there are some slight differences. She’s probably at least 50% sure that this is one of those “good” talks, but just in case she’s not going to let you off the hook. Plus, it’s good for you to sweat once in a while. Therefore, when you ask, she will say “I don’t know”, possibly with a coy look and a “go ahead and convince me” type of smile. This is your cue to NOT be a moron, and to tell her exactly what you have in mind as far as the future of the relationship goes.

Three. She knows, but she was really, REALLY hoping you wouldn’t ask. The answer is not good, and you’ve been totally oblivious up until this point. Usually this type of response will be precluded by some pretty obvious avoidance, and occasionally a few “missed calls”. If you’ve noticed this kind of behavior and you ask anyway, well you’ve got huevos my friend. Only once in my life have I seen this all-out approach work, but it’s worth trying if you’re crazy about the girl. Basically, you ignore the signals, get her alone, and go all cards on the table with how you feel. She will at this point say something like “I don’t know” (which really means “oh crap I don’t feel the same way because I haven’t thought about you like that or I just can’t see us –fill in the blank–“), and this is your cue to start convincing big time. It’s probably your last chance to do so, too, because this is going to be super awkward.

Now that we’ve defined the three major possible reasons for the use of “I don’t know” in a DTR, let’s review just a few key things.

Girls think way ahead in relationships. Even if they haven’t looked months or years into the future, they’re weighing and measuring how things will last at least into the weeks. Those who claim that they haven’t thought about “where it’s going”, are either lying, or they’ve been very successfully forcing themselves NOT to. Therefore, an “I don’t know” is rarely caused by a lack of thought on the matter, but instead means that something is in the way of her expressing her thoughts.

Fear, insecurity, doubt, discomfort, or chewing are some of the more popular preventatives to DTR free speech. Making sure a girl is comfortable and unthreatened is a good way to start a conversation of this type, but you should always be careful anyway. And don’t, for the love of God, go to KFC.

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