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8 Secret Tips to Go from Casual to Couple

You've been seeing this guy at least once a week for a few months now. You're both sushi aficionados, his big brown eyes make you melt, and he even laughs out loud at The Mindy Project. It's great—except that you have no idea where things stand. He has yet to introduce you as his girlfriend or bring up being exclusive, and you're craving that "couple" title and the security that comes with it. Talk about blurred lines.

"Every person and relationship is different, and there's no magic phrase or action that can 'get' someone to commit," says Terri Trespicio, a lifestyle and relationship expert based in New York City. However you can use these tips to subtly up the chances that he'll want to turn casual dating into something more.

Make Sure You Want This
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You think you desire something serious with this particular guy—but before you do anything else, be sure. Step back and ask yourself the following questions, Trespicio suggests: Do I have fun with him? Is my mood elevated when I'm with him? Do I feel good about myself after we part ways? Does he improve my life? Do I feel respected?

One thing to look out for: If he's acting extremely jealous or policing your every move, you need to really reevaluate things. And never tell yourself, "He's a nice guy and has done nothing wrong, so I guess I should be with him." "That's convincing yourself of something that's probably not right," Trespicio says. Bottom line: Be in a relationship where you feel good when you're without him, but you feel even better with him.

Avoid the "Talk"
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It seems counterintuitive, but experts' No. 1 piece of advice is to never to bring up the "What are we?" conversation. "It's like going to a party, turning off the music, turning on the lights, and asking, 'Are we all having a good time here?'" Trespicio says. "A good relationship is built on momentum, and putting a stop to the fun to 'check in' is a surefire way to kill the romance."

Let things progress naturally and look at the evidence: Does he try to see you whenever he's free? Does he seem genuinely interested in what you have to say? Does he have as much fun on dates as you do? These are likely signs he's in it for real, so enjoy being with him and relax about making things "official." "Men who are wary of commitment want to feel like they're the one choosing to be with you—they don't want to feel like they're being coaxed into a cage," Trespicio adds.

Bring It Up Lightly
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You don't have to stay in the dark forever, though. If it's been about six months and he hasn't dropped one hint about where he sees this going, casually speak up, says Jennifer Kelman, a licensed social worker and relationship expert at Pearl.com. For example, if you'd like him to meet your parents, ask if he'd be up for going out to dinner with them, but let him know there's no harm if he's not quite ready for that yet. Above all, keep the tone light and maintain open lines of communication.

If you feel confident at this point that you want things to be serious, go ahead and tell him, Trespicio says. "Explain what kind of relationship you want and why, defining what commitment means for you without giving an ultimatum." If he isn't open to a discussion, let him mull it over for a couple weeks. But if he still doesn't respond when you bring it up again, it may be time to rethink the relationship. "You have to decide which you want more: a guy who's committed or this guy, even if he won't ever be," Trespicio says.

Let Your Selfless Side Shine
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Spending Saturday morning in the soup kitchen or helping an elderly person carry his groceries may be all it takes to have him calling you girlfriend. In a recent British study, people rated potential sexual partners to be more attractive for a long-term relationship if they had altruistic qualities. "Giving back to others shows your good heart and integrity, and although they may not consciously think that far in the future, men are subconsciously assessing maternal traits in a woman to see what kind of mother she'd be," Kelman says.

No need to sign up at the homeless shelter only to impress him. Little things in your everyday life, from buying coffee for the woman in line behind you to walking your neighbor's dog, count too. Make an effort to do these things on a regular basis, but also make sure you're showing your selfless side when you're with him. When you're a kind and gracious person, men (and women) are more likely to want to be around you—both consciously and subconsciously.

Unplug to Connect
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Think beyond dinner and after-drinks for your next date. "The best type of date allows you to stop texting, put the phone down, and really foster a deep connection," Kelman says. Restaurants can be nice, but try something a little outside your comfort zone from time to time. Check out a craft beer festival, see a local band at some hole-in-the-wall, or challenge him to a mountain bike race. A new adventure can fortify your relationship since it gives you shared memories to reminiscence about later, and that stronger bond will increase the likelihood he'll want to keep seeing you, exclusively.

As a bonus, the dates he comes up with will give you some insight into how he feels. "If he suggests seeing the Georgia O'Keefe exhibit because he remembers you like her art, that's a sure sign of romance," Trespicio says.

Create a Little Mystery
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Even if you're anxiously awaiting his call, you shouldn't be available every time he wants to see you. "You want to create something worth investing in and make him realize your value," Trespicio says. "If you're always waiting around, he won't feel the need to try that hard."

Build some intrigue into your schedule that keeps him wanting more. Wait a few minutes to text back, or if he asks if you're free Tuesday, say that you have other plans but you'd love to meet up on Wednesday. This helps him to realize that your time is valuable and that he'll have to go out of his way to see you. Just remember, no one likes playing games. "Don't move dates around too much—that can get frustrating for a guy who also has a busy schedule like you," Trespicio says.

Maintain Your Autonomy—and His Too
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It's easy to let parts of yourself go when you meet someone you think is the man of your dreams. But don't. "Trying to be someone you're not is so transparent to a guy," Kelman says. If you'd rather go to the GYN than watch football, don't pretend to love the Steelers just because the guy you're seeing is a fan.

Instead have your own interests to show him how exciting your life is, with or without him. "You want to be the fast-moving car that he wants to jump into, not the one sitting in the parking lot, waiting around," Trespicio says. Keep up your long runs on the weekends even if he wants to hang out, and don't expect (or nag) him to skip his weekly basketball games in favor of seeing you. "The most appealing thing to a man is a woman who has her own autonomy and strength," Kelman says. The more he sees that you have a fantastic life of your own, the more likely he'll want to jump in and be a part of it.

Show You Care
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There's a fine line between playing a little hard to get and acting totally indifferent. When you're out to dinner, make sure not to constantly check your phone or dart your eyes around the room. It's dating 101, but show you're interested in what he has to say and ask about his life. "Men appreciate and want to be with someone who makes them feel amazing," Trespicio says. "If you rock his world and he loves being with you, why would he ever want to be with anyone else?"

Note if he's showing you the same interest and affection, though. If not, you may be dealing with a narcissist—run!