It’s a tale as old as time: boy and girl meet, boy and girl date, girl is too scared to clarify the nature of relationship, girl goes insane (see Gone Girl for further details). Grey-lationships, as I’ve coined them, can carry on for weeks, months or years, with sufferers meandering through love limbo, trying to play it cool but forever wondering “So, what are we?” Somewhere between a flirtationship, a fling and a relationship is a grey-lationship. It’s always one of two things, a transitory state or a holding pattern. Sometimes you have to ask yourself, “what am I holding out for? And how long am I going to be kept hanging?” Here are a few common questions that plague punters, rest assured you’re not alone.
How do we respond to the public?
“Hey guys, this is my…. *awkward pause* ah–ffffriend (?!)” Then you endure curious looks from everyone there as they wonder how many of your ah-friends you are currently sleeping with. Noticing that friend was not a very suitable description you improve an already uncomfortable situation by clarifying exactly how many dates you’ve been on (six, if you include today) so that people don’t think you’re easy or desperate. Mmm, well, that was awkward for everyone involved! Now you smile meekly at each other and wonder with fierce curiosity what the other person is thinking as your date is continuously mistaken for your boyfriend. You both nod politely and cringe internally, ignoring the elephant in the room.
What are the boundaries?
So let’s say a grey-lationship has been in full fling for a month or two. It’s hard to decide at what point you get to institute reasonable accountability. You’ve been trying to act like a cool girl, not reacting when he bails on plans and/or feigning amusement when you see a Snapchat of him licking whipped cream off a stripper; you wonder where to draw the line. Like de facto status is to marriage, it seems plausible that after a certain time you should be entitled to half their stuff and to tell them they are being an inconsiderate a-hole. I would say berating them on a late reply after three dates is a bit premature but disrespectful behaviour from a regular beau needs to be addressed, either directly or indirectly. Guerrilla Snapchat tactics are not advisable, as posting revenge videos of hot boys in your story is unlikely to help him realise the error of his ways.
In a grey-lationship, you walk a fine line between girlfriend and fling. Can I date other people? Is kissing someone else cheating? Is he seeing other girls?! Who are they?! Tell me, I know you know. Not setting boundaries leaves you in love limbo. If you take yourself off the market you might miss an opportunity but if you get caught out dating when he thought you were exclusive you might stuff up what could have been a great thing. You didn’t know if he was dating other people and whether you should be too, all because you guys never had the talk. As always with grey-lationships, you should proceed with caution. It’s good to have a few cards up your sleeve but don’t risk an ace for a number card.
Where do you stand?
If you don’t know where you stand, it’s pretty likely you’re not in control of the situation. When a relationship goes on for a long time in a thus-far undefined state it’s usually because one person, quite clearly, has the reins. Whether we like to admit it, we are either the one leading or the one following. If we are both on the same page, then the necessary conversations tend to happen quite naturally because you both have something to gain. When there’s inequality in an arrangement, our motivation to get clarification is low. Why don’t we ask the question we’re dying to know the answer to? Because we’re not ready to hear that the answer is no, or that the timing is wrong; that he’s not over his ex; or that dreaded “you’re so amazing but…” Any of these textbook platitudes can confirm your worst fear: he’s just not that into you. Instead, you ignore the obvious signs and cling to tiny actions or phrases that undeniably confirm he’s in love with you. Taking two days to reply, well, he’s just busy of course, but two emojis in that long awaited text message proves undeniable infatuation. 😉 ❤
Where is this going?
Start by asking yourself whether it’s realistically going anywhere – and if not, then why not? If you’re having fun with your hot neighbour boy but stalling every time he hints at meeting your friends and there’s no way in heck you want to meet his parents, are you leading him on? We all feel hard done by by fuckboys, but there are plenty of fuckgirls out there messing with innocent guys’ emotions because they want a Saturday night booty call (“come save me, I’m drunk”) or a Sunday snuggle (“bring me Chinese”). Does this sound like you?
Casual flings are only casual if there’s a consensus, and frankly it’s just mean to let someone think you really like them just because you like some of the benefits of their company. Yes, it’s nice to have someone pick you up from airport, but if they don’t mean more to you than an Uber driver then you really shouldn’t ask. Similarly, if your prospective bae lets you bake him brownies and iron his shirts but has neglected to invite you to his last three group dinners or family events then you better stop for a reality check on you way to the 24hour K-Mart where you were headed at 10:30pm because he forgot to pack work socks.
When do I give up?
“I’m going to talk to him,” and other famous last words escape your lips, just before you lose your nerve completely and the light drains from your eyes. All anger is replaced with fear and you start to bargain: “it’s fine, we basically are together anyway, right? Yeah, he buys me lunch, we’re having a physical relationship, I’ve met a few of his friends – we’re together. It’s the same thing, it just doesn’t have a label.” Yeah, well, that’s a nice thought but how can you know you’re the only one if you’ve never asked? How can you be sure he won’t cut off his own arm and run for the hills once he realises he’s cornered in enemy territory? If you’re having to justify and defend his half-hearted actions to your friends it might be time to call it a day. Being busy is just not a justifiable excuse anymore, we are all living below the time-poverty line.
Figuring out if your situation is a natural transitory state or a hostage situation of the heart is the turning point of most grey-lationships. Love is a gamble, its part strategy and part luck. You gotta, know when to walk away and when to run. No one wants to be the first to give the game away but showing some of your cards is the only way to work out whether to hold or fold. Enjoy the grey while you can but if you want to walk away a winner end you’ll have to take a risk or cut your losses. Happy gambling.