Thought Catalog

How To Define Your Ambiguous Relationship

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Obsess. Worry that your relationship lacks definition because you are vastly over-invested (you are) (this is the most clarity and insight you will have throughout this whole situation). Spend more time being concerned that things aren’t going to pan out the way you want them to than actually doing anything to cause them to pan out the way you want them to. Call and seek advice from friends you haven’t spoken to in years. Ask humiliating questions on message boards. Try to convince yourself that some arbitrary non-issue is in fact the reason that your relationship is ambiguous – the reason that you don’t know if you’re “dating” or “just sleeping together” or “exclusive” or “in love” – such as the recent death of the person’s childhood dog or the fact that they’re moving six blocks farther away sometime in the next three months.

Brainstorm. Do your best to think of a sneaky way to trick your love interest into defining your relationship. Old standbys include, “So-and-so-ex-whose-name-you’ll-recognize asked me if we were dating, what should I tell him?” or “Person-of-opposite-sex asked me to hang out this weekend but I’m not sure if that’s appropriate given what’s going on between us, what should I do?” Realize that all you’ll get out of this is at best a guttural “hmmmphhh” and that you’ll have to find something more creative. Dream up bizarre, far-fetched scenarios in which you effortlessly dance from discussing the weather or where to get fast food for dinner to verbally affirming your commitment to one another.

Befriend the person’s friends. Subconsciously believe that befriending their friends will somehow obligate them to make a serious commitment to you. Realize that you are considerably more lighthearted, conversational, and fun to be around when you’re with the friends. Hope this means they’re talking you up to your love interest. Be ignorant of the fact that it likely just makes you appear clingy and obvious and the friends may not even be aware that you’re seeing each other in any meaningful capacity.

Balk. After resolving to say something, wait two to six weeks before saying it. Convince yourself (and the dozen people whose ears and inboxes you’re filling with the hourly play-by-play) that you’re simply waiting for the timing to be right, that the person is busy with work this week (and the next and the next), or that you need to gather a bit more evidence first.

Pull the trigger. Carefully isolate the appropriate time, place, and method. But blurt it out impulsively instead—likely on the verge of tears—in front of other people or at the most inopportune of times, such as while they are falling asleep or shortly before walking into their parents’ home (who am I kidding, you aren’t spending time with their parents). If at all possible, there will be alcohol involved, and you will have consumed disproportionate amounts, though it doesn’t really matter who is the drunk one. End up saying something succinct yet inarticulate such as, “Arrrrre you muh fuckin’ boyfrien’ or whaaaaaaaat, jesus.”

Backpedal. As the conversation spirals out of your control, do your best to mitigate what you’ve said. Say you were simply asking out of curiosity. Say you’re “totally chill” with how things are. Say your friends were just asking so frequently that you couldn’t help but clarify. Say you’re sorry you brought it up. Say it’s not a big deal. Say, “No really, it’s not a big deal.” Play with your sleeve. Turn your phone over and over in your hand. Look out the window and chew on your thumbnail. If they are of the sensitive variety they will say, “Are you okay?” and you will say, “Oh yeah, mhmmm” and then mumble some unintentionally-deprecating non-sequitur like, “Man, I could use a tan…”

Hang your head. Think of a story to tell your buddies that doesn’t make your love interest sound like an asshole. Tell your mom the truth. Cry. Write the person a thousand-word e-mail you’ll never send. Text them cheerful things as an attempt to establish your nonchalance while whimpering on your couch in sweats and three-days-unwashed hair.

Build resentment. Allow things to progress as they had been while slowly becoming less enamored and more resentful. Start to hate everything about them, while still being inexplicably attached. Hate their hair, hate the smell of their laundry soap, hate the way they steer their car with their knees, hate the TV shows they watch, hate their cat’s name, hate that their jeans are always a little too short.

Take another pass. Be even less subtle this time (though that seems nearly impossible). Say justified but indefensible things like, “You owe me” and “You led me on.” Give an ultimatum.

Cross your fingers. Probably it won’t work; they will get defensive, refuse to be backed into a corner, point out how they’ve been forthcoming since day one. But maybe they’ll see your logic and agree to be exclusive. This will last approximately five to seven hundred and thirty days, depending on their level of investment. Rest assured that whether or not you end up in an exclusive relationship, at least it’s technically defined one way or the other.

Godspeed. TC mark

image – Dragunsk Usf
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  • Guest

    This is my life right now.

    • Guest

      Mine too. It sucks.

    • Anonymous

      Oh god, this was me last year: a complete mess.

  • Guest

    Oh my goodness! This is the worst thing.
    What happened last night.
    Me: Let’s get sushi.
    Him: I hate sushi. (No he doesn’t)
    Me: What? You can’t be my friend anymore.  If we are even..friends…
    Him (at the same time): Were we ever really friends?
    Me:  You know, I don’t know. To this day, I’m still wondering
    Him: Me too. Maybe we are just two people who hate each other but still talk because we can’t not.

    … That’s it. I’m just gonna pull the trigger. In another week…or the next. Or another year. Good god. I am asking “humiliating questions on message boards.”
    Please don’t be reading this.

  • Summer

    This is also my life right now. Endlessly frustrating and somehow impossible to walk away from.

  • Guest

    feeling less alone, thnx bro

  • Guest

    feeling less alone, thnx bro

  • Oceankrystal713

    My day just got brighter because this article was posted! Thanks ^_^

  • KW

    I’m going to need you to stop writing about me without permission to my life rights… k Johanna? Thx.

  • Sean

    If someone asks me how my weekend was, I’m sending them this.

  • Star

    “Think of a story to tell your buddies that doesn’t make your love interest sound like an asshole.”

    I do this way too often.

    • Summer

      All the damn time….

  • teets

    Wow. I have to wonder if I blacked out and wrote this and then submitted it under Johanna’s name. Sheesh.

  • Guest

    Add: “Send psycho texts after finding out he slept with someone you know, causing him to go on the defensive because you two were never actually “dating””, and you’ve got my summer down pat.

  • coffeeandinternets

    Just reading this gives me phantom anxiety attacks.

  • Molly

    “Write the person a thousand-word e-mail you’ll never send. Text them cheerful things as an attempt to establish your nonchalance while whimpering on your couch in sweats and three-days-unwashed hair.”

    The last 5 months of my life. I am mentally AND physically exhausted at this point.

  • Molly

    “Write the person a thousand-word e-mail you’ll never send. Text them cheerful things as an attempt to establish your nonchalance while whimpering on your couch in sweats and three-days-unwashed hair.”

    The last 5 months of my life. I am mentally AND physically exhausted at this point.

  • Holly

    oh god, been there done that. how can I stop? 2 or 3 times is enough!

  • Elizabeth Whalley

    Oh wow, this is close to home….like, right at home. Right…there.

  • Samantha

    I’m so glad I’m not the only desperate fool around. Ugh, why do we do this? And why they heck does the other person stay around when he/she never seems to want to commit? 

  • Jennifer Schaffer

    I miss Megan Boyle.

  • Di

    Amazing how so many of us have had this unfortunate experience.  That was me over the course of two years, and now I’m sweeping up after the recent breakup. Learned a lot, that’s for sure. It’s too bad that we defend a lack of interest and dress it up in our minds as confidence, leading ourselves to think less our needs and ourselves and defer to the indecisive party.

  • Julie

    Have definitely been there and glad I got out :-).

  • Jay-Z

    In the end, I hope your ass isn’t with that boy cause he ain’t worth it if he put you through all that shit. 
    But what can you do, sometimes us females just get a little cray cray.

  • momo

    nailed it 



  • Guest

    My friend and I call defining ambiguous relationships as “ruining things with words”. I try and pretend like I’m cool with just being “whatever” and yet I spend a ridiculous amount of time obsessing over what the other person wants, regardless of if I want the same things or not! Ridiculous. 

    This article was totally spot on though, as other commentors have also said. 

  • textmebackplz

    I can not begin to describe the precise accuracy of this post. good god….

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