Wifeys & Gentlemen,
Happy Friday! I’m having one of those weird weeks where the days seem to go by very quickly, but the entire week has been oddly slow. This could be because of the laundry-list of new things I’ve added to (and taken away from) my schedule, some mild anxieties about my life’s current direction, and/or the start of my wedding fitness plan (woo!). Still, I find myself teetering between moments of exquisite boredom and unnecessary pressure.
Of course, this made me begin to think a lot about pressure. The pressure we put on ourselves, the pressure we put on other people, and the pressure that those other people put on us. It seems that no matter how good or bad things are going, we are always trying to find a way to relieve the mounting, pressure filled responsibilities that make or break us. Recently, as many of my friends and coworkers have started responding to the pending ‘cuffing season’ (if you don’t know what this is by now, just google it), I have noticed that there seems to be no less than 50 ways that we each strive to avoid the pressures and responsibilities of love and dating.
Before I go in on my single ladies and bros, please do not think that those of us who are married, engaged, or significantly other’d (hehe) are exempt from this! Now that my fiancé and I (for example) have truly begun to consider our wedding plans, we both have felt the need to blow off steam in different ways. Don’t misunderstand, I know we are both so excited and happy to finally start getting ideas down on paper, sending emails, and scoping out prices, but even the things that are most exciting and most important have a way of making us feel nervous, suffocated, and like we are failing. This can apply for many milestones in well-established relationships; babies, new jobs, new houses/moving, big arguments, you name it!
When it comes to being single (& casually dating), I have come to find that the biggest fears and anxieties seem to lie in the concept of dating itself. How many times have we heard someone say “I’m just not into labels” or “he’s just someone I’m hooking up with!” This made me wonder, is there a fundamental difference between dating someone and sharing the benefits of dating without actually calling it…you know…dating?
I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who, at present, is engaging in the latter behavior. She met a guy through Tinder and they seemed to hit it off. After hanging out a time or two, and getting to know each other better, they decided to begin a primarily sexual relationship. While I am not 100% sure of the exact parameters that define how they interact, Izzy (which is not her real name) believes that their relationship is ‘exclusive’, but only in the sexual sense. In other words, while she is not sleeping with anyone else (and hopes he isn’t either), she does not consider him to be someone she is dating.
Before you get an image in your mind (because I’m sure you have one), this isn’t as “straight forward” as it might seem. Normally, when we think of ‘bang buddies’ or ‘hook ups’ we imagine… some poor girl getting a text message at 2AM saying something like “sup?”. There’s a knock on her door at 2:30 and before she knows it, her 15-60 minutes of pleasure are come to a swift and sobering end, as said guy drunkenly staggers out of her bed and back into his ripped up blue jeans. The guy leaves, after giving some vague declaration of positive affirmation ie: “you’re so great” or “that was fun!” and the girl is left in limbo until the next Friday night.
Her girlfriends tell her she’s a fool. “He’s using you” they say, as she continues to insist that he’s just a hook up. But before she knows it, feelings are there (maybe put there by her friends) and the very situation she thought she could control has become her sad, hopeless undoing.
…but I digress. In fact, this is NOT AT ALL Izzy’s experience. Izzy and her ‘exclusive sex buddy’ have gone to dinner, they text almost daily, they banter with each other and tell jokes, they go to clubs and dance together, they enjoy good sex that is mutually beneficial, and when it’s over, she sleeps in his bed next to him until the following morning. If you’re anything like me, you might be a little confused.
Wait Ms. Renai, didn’t you just describe two people who are dating?
Nope! In fact, Izzy is careful to make sure that she does not use this label when talking about her friend. “You get all the perks of dating, without the pressure and responsibility”. I asked a few follow up questions, wanting to better understand the way these ‘non-relationship’ things work. Are we really talking about an alternative to dating, or is this just a more modern definition?
According to Izzy, there are no formal rules. Most of their situation is implied through conversation and commentary. There is an understanding between them that is trusting and, in my opinion, hopeful. Izzy has stated many times that she would not mind if he were to start sleeping with someone else, but she trusts and hopes that he is respectful enough to let her know if and when he were to make that decision. With some exceptions, she believes the feeling is mutual and has chosen to refrain from engaging in other hook ups with strangers or other long-term friends.
When it comes down to it, what some of us find most confusing (yet intriguing) is the “why” factor. Why do we opt to have these types of healthy interactions with the men and women we are attracted to but still run from the label or more serious approach to conventional dating?
As I mentioned before, there must be 50+ reasons why some of us resist, but Izzy pointed out some of them for me, both rational and superficial. For some, it has to do with external factors; the person they are ‘chillin’ with is, in some way, not good enough to be a boyfriend or girlfriend. This could be because of looks, job or financial status, family situation, education level, or personal habits (to name a few). Izzy noted, for example, that while she had no problems feeling attracted to her friend, she questioned how the rest of the world would perceive them as a couple. She also mentioned some hesitation based on some of his opinions about sexuality, race, and child-rearing.
While every case is different and unique, from an alternative perspective (read: from my perspective), I still have a hard time seeing the true distinction. As Dr. Phil would say it’s a distinction without a difference. But perhaps I’m wrong?
Izzy does admit that there is a possibility that one day, her feelings about her friend could change. She also hopes that one day, the “right guy” will come along and make her want to feel like adding a label to her behavior. Right now, she believes that she isn’t in any rush, doesn’t want to make the time, and most importantly, does not want to inherit the responsibility that comes with having to answer to a relationship.
The kicker? Izzy is not unique.
More and more people in her age group (and older and younger) feel ‘safer’ having relationships that begin (and end) in this way. Psychology suggest that when we practice this behavior, we are creating an illusion of distance in our minds. If we don’t admit we are dating, we don’t get sucked into a relationship. If we aren’t in relationships, we cannot fall in love. If we do not fall in love, we can’t get our hearts broken; we believe that we are impervious to being hurt and convince ourselves that we are not hurting others.
For some wifeys & gents like Izzy, you might actually even still believe in the whole package; a spouse, kids, a house…etc. I challenge you to ask yourself this; if everything we’ve discussed today is true, if your hookup isn’t quit up to standard, if he/she isn’t into labels, if you aren’t sure about where things are going or how they will develop, what is it that keeps you coming back? Is there any possibility that, in the end, you are wasting your time? Is there any possibility that you are wasting someone else’s?
Unfortunately (read: thank God), I don’t actually have the answers to any of these questions and, for once, I’m okay with that. Though some of my readers might find it annoying, there are mysteries in dating and relationships that even the BEST therapists will not be able to help you find. Some social trends must simply, run their course. However, I feel like (or at least I will feel like in the future) I’ve done my job if at least ask the questions that made us all think differently or re-examine something previously unknown.
Sometimes, I think my fiancé and I might just be lucky. While that might be (somewhat) true, I also know that he and I were once single and unsure. We’ve had our share of crappy relationships and good ones. We’ve had our share of ‘bang buddies’ and beneficial friends. And when we met, somehow, without being limited by fears (and trust me, there were a lot of them) we decided that our relationship was important enough to take the risks.
I guess that leads me to this conclusion: Wifeys, there will always be risk involved when we chose to ‘date’ (or not date?) someone new. From what I can gather, no matter what you decide to call it, each time you connect with someone, you give them a piece of yourself. Some of us are happy to leave scores of those pieces with dozens and dozens of people, and that’s fine! At the bottom of it all, being alive and forming relationships (of any kind) involves questioning and introspection. I don’t know where Izzy’s story ends, but I am certainly glad that she (and others like her) at least take the time to ask themselves what they want and what’s best for them.
In the meantime, I think I am comfortable saying that anti-dating is the new dating.
Deal with it! 😉
Until Next Week,
Carry on Wifeys.
Ms. (soon to Mrs.) Renai
*See what I did there…how I still managed to mention my engagement in a post that has little to do with it (or me). You sick of me yet? Hehe.