Except when it’s not.
Post first-three dates and pre-relationship is the “make it or break it” time period. I refer to it as the holding period. Some call it the grey area. It’s before you have the DTR conversation (Define The Relationship, duh), but after you’ve stopped seeing other people. It’s when you aren’t really dating anyone else, but you definitely aren’t in a relationship with this person.
Or are you?
You hang out all the time. You go out to dinner. You get drinks. You sleep over. You text message each other daily, except for when you aren’t sure if you should text them because you might be texting too much. And when you aren’t texting each other, is it because you’re busy or you are texting other people? You take pictures together, but you don’t tweet them or put them on Facebook because you aren’t sure if you’re there yet and god forbid your mother sees it and comments with “Who is this?” and you don’t know what to say, so you don’t say anything and then you are avoiding your own mother instead of just fucking figuring out the status your relationship.
Are you dating or hooking up or friends with benefits or in a relationship? You certainly can’t say “Mom, that’s just a guy that I’m having sex with. We’re sort of dating, but he’s not my boyfriend. And yes, I’m using protection.”
Your Facebook relationship status says single, but you aren’t really going out on dates with anyone else. You are meeting each others friends, but you aren’t sure how to introduce each other. “This is my friend” doesn’t seem right. “This is my boyfriend” definitely isn’t right. You still have an active OkCupid account, but you haven’t replied to a message in weeks. You don’t know if it’s appropriate to assume you are invited when they have plans. Does “I’m going to happy hour tonight” mean “I’m going to happy hour to get drunk and flirt with strangers, so I don’t want you there” or “I’m going to happy hour tonight, you should come so we can get drunk and makeout in public”? Is it okay to set up plans weeks in advance? Should you be holding hands in public? What do you say to your roommates when they ask what’s going on? What if someone else asks you out? Are you supposed to be splitting tabs? Should you hang out in the morning and have breakfast or go home? Should you even stay the night? You already stayed over once that week. Is that too much? If you go out with someone else, are you cheating or exploring your options?
It’s fucking exhausting.
If you escape the holding period unscathed, you are lucky. Some couples breeze right past the grey area and into a relationship without ever having the awkward “Umm this is my friend…or I mean, my boyfriend?” moment. Others crash and burn after the first few dates. My advice is to stop overanalyzing things. Don’t spend your time wondering why he isn’t texting you back or if you should make plans for the weekend or if an invite to a party a month away is too much, too soon. If you like someone, tell them. If you don’t, bail and move on. It’s that simple.
- Suzie Robb