How Do Relationships Become “Official” These Days?

| 06/26/2009 | Comments (0)

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Question: "How do committed dating relationships become ‘official’ these days? Do men ever ask women to ‘be my girl’ anymore? Or is it that women do the prompting/asking? Do people sit down and talk about being a couple… you know, not dating others and seeing where the two of them can go? I married really young and am just back in the dating game after a divorce. I don’t know how people just drift into a being a couple without formally acknowledging what they have or what they mean to each other!" 


The answer my dear lady is that most people are doing what I like to call “Free Styling”. They are behaving like a couple, but they never VERBALIZE together, the boundaries of the “situation”.

Sometimes, this is intentional, because where there are no established boundaries, there’s no accountability. A person in a situation like that, who believes they have been offended, really has no grounds to bitch, whine, moan and complain, because there were no standards established. 

Sometimes, these “situations” can be so lopsided, because one person may really desire to establish a true commitment, while the other likes keeping things in “limbo”, neither here nor there. Those individuals desire all the rights and privileges of a serious relationship, but none of the responsibilities.

I have a saying:

"When you are dating someone, it ain’t serious, UNTIL it is DECLARED serious. It ain’t exclusive, UNTIL it is DECLARED exclusive. And if it is VIOLATED when DECLARED serious and exclusive, IT’S OVER!!"

So, in these situations, I advocate that someone initiate the dialogue that will establish definite boundaries for the relationship. It doesn’t matter if it is the man or woman. If you have been around this person for a while and you have gotten a grasp of their character, then it is acceptable and understandable to desire to understand what the arrangement is, both verbally and in action.

dating tips relationship advice miscommunication and assumptions can lead to a broken heart in dating

Having a clear understanding of both becomes the frame of reference you two can operate from.

Finally, there are those individuals that say they “don’t believe in labels." Those people are telling you what you already need to know. They are saying that basically that what you and they have does not deserve a label! You must decide which actions to take from that point with this person. 



Personally, I’m kinda old fashioned in that respect. I prefer that a man tell me flatly that he wants to "stake a claim" so I know what page he is on!  And as long as his words match his actions, and I like him a lot (meaning no red flags), we’re good to go.   

Single men and women must never assume that they have a committed relationship or a "boyfriend/girlfriend" just because they’ve been on 5, 10 or even 500 dates, had sex, are living together, or have even had a baby. Unless the details of their association have been discussed in great detail, expectations and abilities to meet said expectations have been ironed out, and both parties sign on the dotted line, there is no "relationship."
A recent example:  I was contacted by a woman that wanted my take on her interactions with a guy she met online. He was new in her city and didn’t know anyone.  They went out on a Tuesday night date that went well, so they scheduled another for the following Sunday. He called Thursday to chat and she told him about a free outdoor concert that Saturday featuring a musician he really liked.  He suggested they go together, but she declined the invitation since she was already slated to go with a group of female friends.
Turns out he went to the concert anyway, WITH SOME OTHER WOMAN.  Girlfriend lost her mind!  She was angry as she felt since they’d gone out and had another date scheduled, he was wrong to be out with someone else. She referred to him as a jerk, a dog, a liar (since he didn’t tell her he was talking to another woman), a game player, and a host of other unsavory things. She cancelled their date for Sunday and told him to never call her again.
I had to remind her that this guy was not her boyfriend, they had no commitment, and it was totally inappropriate to label him negatively. After all, she told him about the concert! She knew she wasn’t going to be able to go with him since she was slated to go with her girls! Seems to me she set herself up for that little drama. Therefore, who he did go to the concert with was not her concern.  
This type of displaced reaction is common.
It bothers me that women accept this drift-in/drift-out type of nonsense and put a lot of importance on it… behaving like a girlfriend and providing men with all the benefits of a committed loving partner without the title and recognition.  I don’t understand why women place such low value on their bodies, hearts and spirits.  It truly bothers me Al.
Why not be clear about what you want and ask your partner if he or she is on the same page.  If they are, fine! If they aren’t as far along the "relationship track" as you are, you should ask follow up questions.  Inquire as to what it is they need to see or have happen before they ARE comfortable with commitment.  Perhaps they aren’t interested in commitment at all… with you or with anyone else.
Listen well. Once you hear their answer, you have to decide if you are going to stick around or move on. But at least you have the facts you need to make a clear determination about your course of action and can reign in your expectations accordingly.
Seems this week Al and I are in agreement that clear communication is the key to developing a successful relationship and avoiding the heartbreak of assumptionism (hey I just made that word up!).  

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Veteran social researcher, relationship advice columnist, author and radio host. Author of hundreds of articles on American and black culture, gender issues, singles, dating and relationships. Author of "Sucka Free Love!" , "The 24 Types of Suckas to Avoid," "The Black Church - Where Women Pray and Men Pray," and "Why Vegan is the New Black" all available on Amazon.Com. Her unique voice and insightful commentary have delighted fans and riled haters for 20 years. Read her stuff on SurvivingDating.Com and AskHeartBeat.Com.

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