Until You’ve Talked About It, He’s Not Your Boyfriend Even If You’re Together 24/7

I’ve made the mistake before of assuming thinking a guy was my boyfriend before having “The Talk.” We spent a lot of time together so I just thought we were in a real relationship. I was really hurt when I found out he didn’t see us as a couple despite all of the time we spent together. Here’s why defining the relationship is absolutely key.

Quality of time spent together is a better predictor than quantity. Just because you Netflix and chill three nights a week doesn’t make him your boyfriend. If you’re not going out to public places or spending time with your respective friends together, how is what you’re doing actually a relationship? Consider the quality of your time together and then consider whether it’s relationship-worthy.

It will always be casual until you verbally agree it’s more than that. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. I think that a  relationship is casual until you communicate that it isn’t. Even if he’s your date for a wedding. Even if he takes you to Patient First because you burned your finger cooking. Even if he picks you up McDonald’s and brings it over when you’re PMSing. All of this is evidence that you’re on your way to being official, but it’s not official until you articulate that status and label your relationship with words.

Labels establish expectationsI’m a big believer in labels. Conventions, expectations, and standards accompany labels. They dictate how two people in a committed relationship are supposed to act. They hold people accountable for their actions. Obviously, everyone deserves basic decency and respect from another person, whether they’re your committed significant other or just a hookup. However, it’s hard to hold someone accountable for taking unboyfriendlike actions if he doesn’t even know he’s your boyfriend because you didn’t lay the ground rules.

Most guys are noncommital because they can be. Maybe this is controversial to say, but most guys that I’ve known wait until the last possible minute to define a relationship. It’s not that you won’t meet the occasional dude who wants to be your boyfriend after two dates, but in my experience, commitment is scary for a lot of dudes because I think society puts a ton of pressure on men to settle down. They’d rather reap the benefits of a situationship full of companionship with a woman while still avoiding the seriousness of a relationship and everything it implies. It’s messed up for sure, but it’s the way it is.

Everyone’s idea of what constitutes a relationship is different. You might infer from your frequent sleepovers that he’s your boyfriend because of his behavior. Don’t fall for it—he could be doing the same thing with another girl. Or, you might find that his definition of a relationship doesn’t exactly jive with your own. Talking to him about whether he considers your fling a relationship is important and will help you decide whether you’re both on the same page.

Blurred lines may lead to hurt feelings. It’s really really easy to jump to conclusions and assume that you’re in a full-blown relationship with a guy when you hang out with him all the time. The thing is, sometimes our minds play tricks on us and we see things that really aren’t there because we really want them to be there. Save yourself the heartache and just ask!

Awkward moments are bound to arise. The longer you hang onto assumptions, the more likely you’re going to accidentally call him your boyfriend in front of him to a friend or something. On the one hand, he might not care and it’s business as usual; on the other hand, he might care and think that you’re taking things way too fast. It could throw off your chemistry and make you both feel like you’re on totally different levels.

If you can’t approach him about your relationship status, you have bigger issues. One of the reasons I didn’t approach the guy I was dating about our status and label was because I didn’t want to admit that I wanted more out of our relationship. Looking back, I wasn’t confident that he was looking to be my boyfriend despite the fact that it was all I wanted at the time. So I clung to the little piece of him I did have and failed to define our relationship. Don’t repeat my history! If you’re afraid to talk to him, evaluate why that might be.

It’s in your best interest too. So many women stop dating other guys when they start spending a ton of time with one in particular because they think that time spent = relationship. That’s just not the case. You’re allowed to use this time as a grace period too, you know—it’s not all about reeling him in. Until you say the words, you’re not his girlfriend. In fact, technically speaking, you’re still single.

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