This story appears in the January/February 2017 issue of Playboy. Subscribe

Q:I’ve been dating someone for more than a month, and I’m crazy about her. We see each other a few times a week, and she usually spends the night. I’ve hung out with her friends and even baby-sat her dog when she was out of town. I assumed we were exclusive—until a friend saw her on Tinder. Was I wrong to think we were officially dating? How do I bring up the subject without looking like a fool?

A:Ah yes, new love in the modern era. Navigating the transition from dating to coupledom isn’t as easy as it was when a gal wore your letterman jacket to signify you were going steady. Nowadays it’s much harder to know when you’re officially “official.”

First of all, if you baby-sat my dog while I was out of town, not only would I assume we were exclusive, but I’d be expecting a ring on Valentine’s Day. Just kidding! You’re obviously a keeper, and hopefully she knows that. Does she?

Start by asking yourself a hard question: Is the relationship reciprocal? Does she do thoughtful things for you as well? Actions speak louder than words, so look for small signs. Is she generous and giving, or is she a taker? Would she watch your dog? Don’t be a sucker who invests time, money and effort into someone who never returns the investment. No matter your gender, red flags are easiest to ignore in a relationship’s early stages. It can be tough to look truth head-on, but better to face it now than when you’re living together and suddenly wake up to realize you’re sleeping next to a succubus.

But let’s give your maybe-girlfriend the benefit of the doubt. There’s a chance she legitimately forgot about her Tinder account. I use dating apps sporadically—when I’m bored, when I need an ego boost, when I’m lonely—but I don’t get e-mails or notifications from them. At times I don’t log in for months. I could be dating the man of my dreams for weeks before remembering to deactivate my Bumble account. If I were really smitten, it wouldn’t occur to me to check my dating apps, let alone remember to delete them. It’s what happens to women in the throes of fresh-love feels! The good news: Her still-active account could be a sign she’s not thinking of anyone but you.

Ultimately, the ability to openly communicate is the foundation of every good relationship. If you can’t have an honest conversation about where a relationship is heading, you won’t be able to talk about it once you get there. Just tell the truth: Your friend saw her on Tinder, and you want to make sure you’re on the same page. Get the facts first, and don’t be aggressive. Ask her if you should be taking this as seriously as you are. 

Finally, does she know you’re crazy about her? For all you know, she may be having similar doubts. We humans do weird things when we start dating, and hiding our true feelings out of insecurity is one of them. Perhaps she’s not sure you’ve deleted your apps yet. Maybe she hasn’t asked because she’s afraid of the answer. 

We’re long past the days of letterman jackets, but the digital era doesn’t preclude making a ceremony of becoming exclusive. Next time, try this: Cook her a nice dinner, light some candles, cue up your Spotify “Sexy Time” playlist and delete your dating apps together.

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