Defining dating’s gray area

Contact Katy Coduto at [email protected]  

Katy Coduto

It’s the middle of February, which means if you’re in a relationship, you’re caught in the thrall of Valentine’s Day; if you’re single, you’re probably just annoyed by it. No one casually enjoys watching his or her friends in relationships celebrating the greeting-card-manufactured day (even if you’re happy for them), and too few of us revel in our singleness for there to be a singles’ revolution. So you’re left with two groups with polarizing feelings about Feb. 14, and that’s that.

Kind of. There’s another group that might be celebrating Valentine’s Day, maybe, and it’s the group of twenty-somethings who consider themselves to be “talking” to someone. They’re the “couples” who text each other all of the time, who bother each other on Twitter (much to your amusement), who hang out pretty regularly — but refuse to put an official title on whatever their relationship is or isn’t.

And I’m all about that. I totally understand not wanting to have a serious relationship right now, especially as you near the end of your college career. It makes sense that two people might be nervous about getting committed and then getting separated by job offers and other life occurrences. I’m all about keeping your relationship open — as long as you’re both on the same page about it.

Too many couples (or semi-couples, or talking-friends, or whatever, because titles aren’t a thing to them) aren’t on the same page, and it’s because they can’t have an honest discussion about the fact that they exist in a gray area of dating. It happens because our generation is the first to build relationships through technology; we text each other not just to make plans, but to have full-fledged, sometimes heartfelt, conversations. We use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to communicate our feelings about other people; we aren’t afraid to display our feelings for entire friendship circles to see.

But technology also makes it easy for us to do this with three and four and five people at a time. It erodes a sense of commitment to one person, as you don’t have to make time for just him or her in a face-to-face setting. And the thing is, this really can be okay. You can have a relationship in a gray area, but you have to be open about it with each other. It’s concerning to me how many of my friends and acquaintances start relationships with people without knowing what both of them want out of it. It’s even scarier when you talk to the couple and they have completely different visions for where they want the relationship to be.

How many times have you talked to a girl who was smitten with a guy, only to find out he was mildly invested in three girls at the same time? Or vice versa – because the playing field is equal in the gray area. If you’re going to even attempt to be something with someone (avoiding labels, of course), you at least owe them the explanation that you know you aren’t committed to just him or her. This can work, as there are plenty of people who engage in open relationships and find great happiness in them. But nothing should erase the value of honesty, especially when you’re starting to mess with other people’s feelings. Even if it’s that guy you met on Tinder just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Contact Katy Coduto at [email protected]