The one thing I really loathed about singledom was the whole “in-between” stage of casual dating. You know, the swampy ground that begins after the third date and haunts you until you’re forced to have an uncomfortable conversation that usually begins with “So…what are we?” The relationship pre-ejaculate, if you will. It’s not as exciting as the real thing, but still a necessary stepping stone…
I remember in high school, my classmates called that stage “talking.” That used to drive me nuts. What a ridiculous term! “We’re talking.” No shit you’re talking. I guess it makes sense though, because dating at that time just meant making out in the back of the movie theatre, and “talking” sounds a lot more respectable than “tonguing during School of Rock.”
Talking and tonguing aside, the in-between stage is an important one, and it can be an exhilarating one. I’m pretty sure that’s what Madonna was singing about when she wrote Like a Virgin. Things are new, your stomach hightails it into your throat whenever they text, serotonin is raging, your entire body feels like a clitoris…something like that.
In reality, many relationships don’t ever make it out of this stage. I’m no stranger to the six week fling. We’ve all had a couple of dead-enders terminated promptly after they show you the tarantula hatching station in their basement, right? Right.
It’s during this time that you really get to try a person on for size, and so rushing it, or jamming a label on it, or trying to fit it into a box (“together” or “not together”) will only be detrimental in the long run. If you rush right on into something, there’s a good chance that when you sober up from your pheromone-induced coma you will realize you didn’t really like them that much in the first place…
So, the in-between stage of a relationship is important. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I find that type of uncertainty excruciating. I’m the type of person who works best off a series of to-do lists. I like structure. So non-structured relationships make me a little batty. My brain gets all hyped up like I’ve had four shots of espresso. I over-think everything. This tendency gets pinned on women all the time, but I know my fair share of men who do the same, so I think it has more to do with maintaining a well-balanced sense of self than sex or gender. I’m working on it.
If you’re struggling to relax and enjoy the early stages, remind yourself that a label is not what constitutes a relationship. You have a relationship with your boss, with your dog, with your lover. A relationship is what IS, the connection that exists, the way you are with one another.
Try not to over-analyze, or get prematurely cold feet. Focus on yourself, and if you’re wondering where you’re at, just go ahead and ask. If you know what you want (to stay casual, or to become monogamous) then ask for it, and don’t settle. Practice open and honest communication. Even when it’s awkward. Because it’s almost always awkward.
*I originally wrote this post for www.ieatgrass.com.