There are few things worse than finding out that your significant other is not actually your significant other. In the age of label-free relations, many find themselves treading the murky waters of what is undefined interaction. When there are no clearly defined boundaries, how does one know when an action counts as cheating—and whether or not they have the right to be upset about it?
Many relationships today take the “no pressure” approach. Two individuals casually see one another for a period of time without any real level of commitment. After a handful of dates and or hookups, the relationship typically either dissolves or continues at its own rate. Unfortunately, when this continues, the overall risk factor increases. You must both know if you are on the same page, and be prepared to head in the direction of a relationship.
There is, however, such thing as dating around without any intention of becoming exclusive whatsoever. Though I previously believed this to be illogical, I have recently learned why this lifestyle is the most suitable option for some. For example, college ends—and you and your partner may not end up in the same place after you’re finished walking across the stage. When working with your romantic life on a deadline filled with uncertainty, it makes sense to keep it casual. In an effort to prevent the heartbreak associated with severing deep emotional ties, it is best to refrain from becoming too close altogether. Many may think that if this is the case, it is best to avoid any type of romantic interaction at all—but this is even less logical, because humans have the need for companionship (and sex).
Because there are people who are looking to date without commitment, make sure that you are both in the same boat—otherwise you will be left drowning in your own sorrows. When an individual states that they are not looking for a relationship, it is because they are not looking for a relationship. Do not use this as a challenge—if you are looking for a relationship and your person of interest is not, then it is best to find a new target and to spare your heart the trouble.
Most importantly, do not ever assume that you and your partner are on the same page. This thought process is a cop-out for confronting legitimate issues that may or may not cause you to lose the set-up with your friends with benefits. During the stage of free-flowing relations, it is easy for you and your partner to develop your own meanings without consulting the other person—which can lead to chaos.
“It’s not how long you’ve been with someone, but how deep you’re getting with them,” said McKenna Lupica, a freshman blank major. “If it becomes a one-sided, label free relationship, then you need to have the talk.”
It is easy to measure each party’s level of effort in a relationship. When there are no clearly defined boundaries, each individual involved can find themselves on completely opposite ends of the field from one another. For example, one may believe that they are sitting comfortably in unlabeled exclusivity, whereas the other may believe that they are both openly seeing other people. While it may seem that the two of you have an understanding, the interpretations of that “understanding” can shift in an instant.
One misreading of an action or comment can take you from casual to committed in your eyes or in the eyes of your partner. When the conversation is not had, then each individual is keeping the other in the dark. Honesty truly is the best policy, and when you develop the sense that you are headed in two different directions, it is best to lay it all out.
To put it in layman’s terms, if you are looking for a relationship, be clear. Hoping the other person will catch on and playing emotional games with one another is both exhausting and a waste of time. Though it may not be the most appealing to be straightforward, it is easily the most beneficial way to ensure you are investing your time and efforts properly. Despite what popular television and movies may suggest, nobody is a mind reader, and not everyone interprets your actions the way you intend. If you are looking for something specific, then let the other person know.
The defining talk is avoided because it is a make or break situation every time. When approaching the topic, be sure that you are mentally and emotionally prepared, because it has the potential to preserve what you have, take it to the next level, or end in heartbreak for one. However, this is the risk we take—because that’s what happens when you play the game of hearts. You either win—or you cry.
Terry Preston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org