How Do We Define A Relationship?
August 1, 2012
By: Caitlin Ripley
Long gone are the days when one simply had to throw a note across the class and receive a shrugged response to become ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’, and luckily with that went the endless teasing and painstaking ‘love tests’ that had to be endured.
Things aren’t so simple now. Now we have a dating vocabulary where relationships range from one-night-stands to marriage, with any number of complex in-between stages. So how do you define what you’re doing? When do you stop becoming single and can you ever be that ambiguous orange-wearer at a traffic light party?
I broke up with my long term boyfriend at the end of my second term at Uni. I say I broke up, it was more, I tore it apart and he finished it, but still we get to the same place: I arrived at Southampton University for my summer term free and single. And it wasn’t until then that I realised how difficult relationships had become.
Everyone understands the concept of a one night stand, but now with films like ‘Friends With Benefits’ there was this new a-little-bit-more-than-friends-option. How on earth are you meant to approach a friend with that idea? I picture the scene: me and Joe are having a brew back at the flat; he says something along the lines of there being not much to do about, I reply ‘fancy a shag then?’. You might be able to tell I was not used approaching guys.
Then there’s the slightly different ‘no strings attached’ sex or a several night stand as I like to think of it. When someone you pulled once becomes a randomer who you can booty call. Fair enough it’s an ego boost, but you’ve got to keep your feelings aside as you’re technically still single and free to do as you please. But how is that different from the ever mysterious status of ‘seeing someone’?
I was shocked to find just before I left that this was exactly what I was doing. I’d met Dave on a night out, he was a friend of a friend and we chatted a bit and slept together a couple of times and apparently that was us seeing each other; well I was seeing rather a lot of him. Once we both left for the summer we weren’t literally seeing each other anymore, so it turned out we weren’t ‘seeing’ each other either.
Now I was always told that ‘seeing someone’ was the person who wore orange at a traffic light party- neither single nor taken, so still free to do as they pleased, but with that added warning of their affections being split. No offence to happily orange folk out there, but my quick translation was always: slags and man whores. Polygamists who you should avoid at all costs if you didn’t want your head messed with and your heart broken.
However, a week after first sleeping with Dave (it was amazing just so you know) I was asked out by another chap Mark. Now, he’s a guy who I’d liked for a while and very much given up on, so it came as quite a surprise, not half because I was in bed with Dave when I got the message. I called up an emergency friends meeting and proposed the question: Would it be okay to go on the date with Mark, whilst I continued things with Dave? Was I allowed to have a look at both options and then choose? The straight answer I got: no. That wasn’t fair on Dave, even if we were only seeing each other, it was still basically cheating.
Now here comes the hardest definition of all. When does something become a relationship? When are you a couple? There is of course the legend that no relationship is true until it is Facebook official, which to be honest is lies, but even if it was true, do you sit down one day and ask him ‘so I’m going to relationship request you on Facebook, okay?’ If someone jumped that one on me I’d run a mile!
From my first few months into student singledom, I’ve discovered that I just need to go with the flow, enjoy myself and stop labelling things. I’m also hoping not to be invited to a traffic light party any time in the near future as I have no idea if I’m green, orange or even red. I have my fingers crossed that come September I’ll see and ‘see’ Dave again, and you never know, maybe one day we’ll have that conversation about Facebook, but for now let’s just wait and see.