Invariably if the person I’m speaking to has been single at any point in the last decade, then yes, they know exactly what I mean, because if there’s one scenario that’s become endemic amongst myself and my peers, it’s our inability to define a relationship after the first five or six dates. Is it too soon to refer to someone as your boyfriend? If you’ve been on 12 dates with someone, you really don’t still want to be seeing other people do you?
But if you’re not seeing anyone else, and you’re seeing a lot of each other what on earth is it if it’s not a relationship?
One friend (who wishes to remain anonymous lest her non-boyfriend reads this) explains: “I’ve been seeing this guy for four months now – we’re dating and see each other a couple of times a week.
When I asked him if we were going out properly he just said he ‘wasn’t there yet, and wasn’t even sure if he wanted a serious relationship.’ “I don’t want to push it as I have a really nice time with him.
I don’t want to come across as some relationship-obsessed harpy and I’m sure once we’ve been seeing each other for long enough he’ll come round – we’re in a relationship in all but name anyway.” I slightly want to bang my head against the keyboard now, not least because I’ve said the same thing more than once in the past.
I’m not judging – I can see how easy it is to get into that situation.
Earlier this year, The New York Times published an article called “The End of Courtship?
” explaining how proper dating has been replaced with casual hook ups and ill-defined relationships. And when I say I’ve learnt this the hard way, I mean it.
Online dating, and our ability to be in constant contact with everyone we know via text, email or social media make us unwilling to commit to one person, and more likely to want to hedge our bets. In an article I wrote earlier this year about modern dating, I used the example of a man I’d been sleeping with for over a year, who got cross when I referred to him as my boyfriend.So, let me help you out with some suggestions next time you’re asked to define your non-relationship: “Well Gran, it’s funny you should ask, there is someone on the scene, we’re: sleeping together/seeing each other/dating/friends with benefits/friends (apparently the same as friends with benefits, but twice as infuriating) /having an affair (it’s unfortunate when, after 12 dates you discover that his reticence to define your relationship is down to his previously unmentioned wife) or wasting each other’s time until something better comes along.” I agree that technology – evil, brain-sapping technology – might play its part here. When I asked for further clarification as to what we were doing he said “We’re friends - you’re my friend.” Hilariously, when the article in question came out, a couple of my other exes read the piece and took credit for that particular quote (hint: it was none of them), which is a sorry example of quite how often I've gone down that particular road. My new rule is, eight weeks – if someone won’t call it after eight weeks, then I’m out of there.We can be in touch with our potential paramours all the time – via texts, on Facebook, on email – and this constant contact can be misleading – giving us the impression that we’re embroiled in something much more meaningful than we really are. My reasoning being that if someone doesn’t feel strongly enough about me after a couple of months, then they’re never going to feel strongly enough for me to spend time and energy on them.But the fact is – and this is something I’ve had to learn the hard way – if one of you isn’t calling it a relationship, Then. Yes, I could hang around, try and coax them into it, or just generally refuse to go away until it becomes easier for them to give in – but who wants to do that?That’s like being awarded a relationship through squatter’s rights.And if you land a boyfriend that way and then ‘win’ (and by ‘win,’ I mean you get the ultimate prize – marriage) then can you ever really relax, knowing they were so blasé about you when you first met that it took them six months, nine months, a year to refer to you as their girlfriend?