Dating has noticeably become harder than it used to be. This is mainly due to the complexity in labeling where two people are trying to define what they are to each other. Or where they stand in relation to their involvement with anyone else who may also be considered to be a potential romantic interest. The word ‘relationship’ increasingly evokes fear and panic in the mind of many daters nowadays so here are four labels for that in-between place.
1. Exclusively dating. This is where you have both agreed to only date each other romantically and to the exclusion of others. Although you may treat each other as if it is a relationship, you are still working up to it. The confusion, however, is when one party gets carried away with the idea that it is more than what it actually is without there being a clear discussion. Whilst the other simply sees it as the test-drive period that may not actually result in a full-blown relationship over time.
About five years ago, I dated a guy who I shortly fell for. I recall his best efforts to announce to me that we were ‘exclusively dating’ as if it was a good enough middle place. But he soon backed away at the first signs of trouble. He felt no commitment to work things out.
2. Openly dating. Usually very early stages of meeting each other and have yet to even consider the potential of what they could become. Daters in this position have free rein to date as many people as possible without feeling guilty. This is a preferred option for those who want to keep their options open in case someone better comes along. In the age of online dating, there is a growing expendable mentality as surely one is only a click away from another potential match. #FOMO
3. Casually dating. You have both been on a handful of successful dates together but still too early to have ‘the conversation’. In the ideal situation both parties are on the same page and happy to go at the same pace. But how likely is that to be the case? This label is akin to ‘let’s meet up when we are both available but there is no real obligation to do so’.
I was talking to one of my friends who recently starting dating a new guy who she has been on four dates with. In her excitement to become official, she asked him where he saw their relationship going. He admitted that he was also seeing someone else albeit wanting a committed relationship in the long term. She is now in a state of confusion as to whether she may be focusing on someone who only considers her as an option.
4. Like a boyfriend and girlfriend but not actually bf/gf. The most confusing of all labels and can be similar to number one. This is when you are proactively dating each other regularly as if in a relationship (emotional, physical and sexual connection) but one person is explicitly avoiding the label. They shut down if you ever try to have a conversation about where this is going or simply tell you that they are not looking for any level of commitment right now.
This works but only when both parties are in sync with their expectations from the relationship are clear on boundaries and appreciate that labels are not a reflection of true commitment.
5. Officially in a relationship. This is where you explicitly or non-explicitly agree to be monotonous and commit to each other, to the exclusion of others. For some, it is an opportunity to love and create a life with someone. However, it is not to be seen as the answer to loneliness, low self-worth and a savior in waiting. A healthy relationship requires two fully functioning individuals and not a half waiting for another half to complete them.
Dating is complicated enough without the use of labels. And even more so when daters fail to communicate their intentions or are unclear about what they are looking for. Or who they are.
The best relationships and dating experiences often disregard the need for labels; they are built on the intentions and actions of both parties. Treating each other with kindness, respect and being responsible for their own emotional stability. Acknowledging that they are enough as an individual and yet recognizing the power of two.
Surely emotions and relationships are much more fluid than labels can fully accommodate?