After 20 years of being married, I find myself back in the dating scene. When I was 18, relationships with men had clearcut labels: “just friends”, dating, courting, and engaged.
It seems a lot more complicated these days.
Christian Smith interviewed 18-29 year olds (emerging adults or EAs) and he’s written a book, Souls in Transition. He concludes knowing what to call relationships and knowing what kind one is in at any given time is problematic.
Smith learned that relationship phases today are a series of darkening shades of gray. The young adults offered these categories:
- Just met
- “Hanging out” (both non-romantic and romantic relationships)
- Just friends
- Something a bit more than friends
- Going out
- Being boyfriend and girlfriend
- Sleeping over
- Relating like married people
To make it even more ambiguous and vague, “hooking up” can happen at any phase. For some it means partying with a new friend or being set up on a blind date. For most, it also means some time spent in some sexual activity. This may mean heavy kissing and “messing around”, or may include having sexual intercourse. These emerging adults say that sometimes they have strong feelings for the people they “hook up” with, but not always; sometimes it “just happens.”
The “DTR” talk, or the “defining the relationship” talk was discussed. Women have more of an interest in getting clear on the nature of the relationship than men, but it doesn’t seem to happen often or effectively. Many adults suffer devastating breakups and usually, but not always, the most damaged party is the woman. In the nebulous world of romantic relationships, adults want the intimacy, loyalty, and security that only highly committed relationships can deliver, so they jump in with heart, soul, mind and body only to discover later that it was premature.
Recently a friend was furious that her date had not introduced her as his “girlfriend” at a party. They had known each other 3 weeks. I asked her exactly what it means these days to be a girlfriend, or to be “in a relationship” like I see on FACEBOOK.
I wish someone would share the secret code language that provides definitions for relationships. If the “DTR” is ineffective, how can you tell which phase you are in? Have you been hurt when you weren’t on the “same page” in a relationship? Share your stories.