Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Great "Relationship" Debate

I received a text message the other dear from a dear friend saying "Erin, is there a difference between Dating exclusively and being boyfriend and girlfriend?"

That question got my brain churning.

In my dating span I've heard many variations of this question -- does being exclusive mean you're in a relationship? Does exclusivity mean a commitment? When do you go from "just dating" to "in a relationship"?

To my dismay, all of the questions listed above have no real answer. I will, however, shine some light on my point of view and the point of view of others. First, let's define the word "Dating."

Of a couple, to be in the early stages of a relationship where they go out on dates to find out what each other is like, as a prelude to actually being a fully fledged couple.

I think we all agree that "Dating" is that uncertain stage where two people enjoy each other's company and try to figure out if there is potential for a relationship there. After a couple of dates, that's where the lines get blurry...When/How do you make the transition from "Dating" to "Exclusivity?"

The state of being in a relationship with someone where you are officially boyfriend and girlfriend, and there is no-one else involved. Usually attained after going on a couple of good dates with someone.

In my experience, I see many people refrain from becoming a "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" out of a fear of being locked down, instead they prefer to be "exclusively dating." This concept confuses me, however, because by becoming exclusive with someone you are in a way locking yourself down from meeting others, only there is no label attached to it.

The question really is, when do two people know if they are Boyfriend and Girlfriend - is it assumed after months of exclusive dating? Is there a talk? Again, let's see the actual definition of what it means to be a "Boyfriend" and "Girlfriend."

A male whom a female begins a relationship with. He is not essential to making the female a better person, but more so a person she can depend on for emotional support, sexual comfort, or life lessons.

The female in a male-female romantic relationship. She provides love and emotional support for her boyfriend and is loved the same way in return. The girlfriend is also a friend, and thus is loved and respected on that level of relationship.

Though I've heard variations in the past, I think that most women will agree that if you are exclusively dating a man and having sex with him on a fairly consistent basis then you are assuming that you are in a form of a relationship. Again, there are many forms of relationships - new, budding, old, committed, serious, troubled - everyone has their own definition for what their's is.

1. any type of connection that brings two individuals together for a period of time
2. something other than a friends with benefits
3. more than a mutual understanding!!

Now that we've examined about every definition associated with a relationship that I can find on I've come up with one conclusion.

People are going to do whatever they want to do.

Relationship. Dating. Fuck Buddy. Friends with Benefits. Friends. Boyfriend. Girlfriend.

There is so much gray area in dating that no one can predict what another person is thinking --- which is why every year millions of books are sold on this same topic. The only advice that I can give is use your gut - if something doesn't fee right, then it probably isn't - but make sure it's really your gut and not paranoia - those come from two different places.

To answer my friends question though, I personally believe that to be exclusive means that you're in a relationship and yes, boyfriend and girlfriend can be used. However, on the flipside, just because you're in a relationship doesn't mean it's long term - so buyer beware!


Have a Great Thanksgiving, Master Daters!


  1. I will have a response posted tonight...

  2. I love how everything has to have some sort of label. Some people need to have some nature to refer to their relationship status. Now seeing how I didn't exactly go on a dating spree in my life feel free to take my words as nothing more but filler noise, blah blah blah.

    I do think your answer in the end is basically the way of it. If someone wants to put a title on it then they should do what they think and feel like calling it. When Sean and I first got together people made fun of us because instead of the usual "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" titles we went with something else. He considered himself my "Keeper" and though I remained without title, others termed me the "Keepie" because they felt the need to ridicule Sean's and my choice. Fine whatever, people are just that way.

    Eventually as time went on we transfered the titles back to the standard and went on with life. The thing is with the way life is for us now, with everything that has happened, I think our original titles would still fit in a way.

    What I mean is though we have long since been married and so moved from the exclusive dating stage to the married stage. However, I would say today despite calling him my husband that I am also his "Keeper" in a way. He acts "Keeper" in his ways as well.

    So, really if there has to be a label for it then it should go with what that person in that relationship feels. If you don't want to put a label on it, then just enjoy what you have and see where it goes. Too bad life can't be simpler and keep their labels simple with it!

    As I said though feel free to ignore these words, just thought I'd share my two cents.

  3. I am not sure how helpful my input is but here is it anyway.
    From my personal experience, you can be in a relationship before ever going on a date, let me explain. Justin and I spent weeks talking and getting to know each other. Before we ever went out on a date he was very clear that his intention was to be in a relationship not just go out for the hell of it.
    I also don't think you need sex to be in a relationship.
    Of course, this is coming from someone who at 25 has been with the same guy for 9 years (married for 4) and believes in waiting for marriage.
    I do think that if a guy or girl can't commit or is afraid of titles, it's not worth your time. I don't know that titles are needed but both parties need to sit down and be very clear about their intents, hopes, goals.