Gone are the days of “going steady” with the person you like. Welcome to 2010, the age of ambiguity in both relationships and non-relationships! When I talk to friends and peers, I find that many of us can’t seem to agree on what defines a relationship, or how to know for certain that you’re in one.
The debate on this subject reminds me of a discussion we had in my communication research methods class. Our professor explained that before you could really begin any experiment, you had to define your variables into tangible terms so that people knew exactly what you were referring to. When we used “relationship satisfaction” as an example of something that each of us might perceive differently, I realized that relationships themselves could be a tricky subject to deal with when studying our particular age group. After all, before you start your research, you must know what you’re trying to measure, and so it is important to define those variables in as concrete a fashion as possible (and using a dictionary, of course, only leads to more ambiguity in your topic).
The difficulty is that many of us seem to have varying opinions on what qualifies as a relationship, as well as how to define some of the terminology that has to do with relationships. For example, does “dating” imply that two people are together, or that they quite literally have been going on dates? Do relationships form because one person says “Will you be my ___?” or do they just happen gradually, without so much as a word? The first image that comes to mind is from the film Donnie Darko, a scene in which, after Donnie has walked the new girl Gretchen home, he asks, “Do you wanna go with me?” and she replies, “Go where?”
Our generation seems to have forgotten what it means to go on dates and meet new people in that sense, rather than hook up with someone at a party and then decide whether or not to text them the next day. (Even the term hook up has different connotations for different people.) Those who choose to keep “talking” to the person (which, again, has different meanings) may differ in when they decide to call these exchanges a “relationship.”
Obviously there are couples who agree that they are in a relationship, so there has to be a definition out there somewhere. But then there are these one-sided flings in which one person thinks that their tryst means a lot more than the other one does. People disagree on their relationship statuses all the time, and many don’t even know where they stand with their potential significant others. While communication is obviously key, it’s kind of sad that in this day and age, so many people are sexually intimate without even knowing much about how their partners feel about them.
Having said all this, are labels even important? Social media certainly enforces that notion — we list ourselves as “Single” or “In a Relationship” but there are so many undefined statuses that will never fit into Facebook’s little box. Even “It’s Complicated” extends out to “____ is in a relationship and it’s complicated,” on one’s News Feed, but what if the major complication is that the two do not consider themselves to be fully in a relationship? Also, those who are not exclusive with their partners are not likely to list themselves as being in an open relationship, since generally one of those two people does want something more serious out of it.
So, my lovely readers, you tell me. Does our society place too much emphasis on finding a label for your relationship status, or not enough? — Tweet this!