Never before have I been able to define so clearly what kind of relationship I want – and how I differentiate between a relationship and a “serious” relationship. Probably worth saying up front: the latter I only want with the right guy.
I had this brainwave because I wasn’t getting it with my ex-boyfriend Tony, and I recognized there was a next level I was ready to move to, and he wasn’t.
I still remember Shenanigan’s definition of serious which was “go to art galleries together”. What a dope. My definition is a little different.
Let’s say you are dating someone, and you spend regular time together each week or every other week, depending on your child care arrangement. You may go out for dinners, see movies, spend the night with each other and go for breakfast the next morning. You may have already had the “let’s only have sex with each other” conversation. Perhaps you’ve gone away for a night or two together.
Is that a serious relationship? Some may say yes.
My friend Katharine is in an amazing relationship right now. They’ve done all those things. She is happy; she’s never before had something like this. I’m thrilled that she’s experiencing something so lovely.
But there is a lot more to a relationship – which for me is the real measure of how serious it is. Katharine is in the midst of figuring this out with her boyfriend.
Perhaps it’s the nature of dating post-divorce, and with children. Of meeting people online instead of just realizing you totally dig that guy you’ve been hanging out with as friends for months.
Eventually, you will probably come up against some decisions that decide if you are serious.
Have you introduced them to your friends yet? Brought them as a “plus-one” to a party? Or a cousins wedding (yeah, this is a real life one for me. My plus-one is my seven year-old). Gone out for a double date for dinner?
You can have a relationship where your friends know about the person you are dating. But have they actually met them yet? Have you declared – here is someone I want you to know and I hope you like?
This is a whole different level of intimacy.
The same goes for your parents and your family. Have you brought them to Shabbat dinner? Or Thanksgiving? Or to your Father’s 70th birthday party?
This is putting yourself out there in a different way. To make that decision implies you are pretty sure they will be around for the next event. Doesn’t it?
Then there are the children.
I recall Andrew telling me he wouldn’t even consider introducing anyone to his son until he had been dating them for six months. At the time I thought it was a bit extreme, but now I understand. I wish I hadn’t told Liam about Tony, and wish they hadn’t met. Because although there were just a couple of times, Liam still asked his Dad if I was going to marry Tony.
And to be perfectly honest, I feel like a bit of a relationship failure when compared to Will and his almost-two year relationship with Colleen.
Depending on the age of your kids, perhaps they know of your partner before you meet them. You may have told them you are dating someone. But meeting them, and doing things together, is a whole other level (or should be).
These are the big differentiators for me, but there are a couple of others, including:
Hanging out when you are sick.
At the beginning of a relationships, perhaps even far into it, the mere thought of being sick probably has you cancelling a date. Perhaps if it’s just a cold, you will still see them. But generally, you probably want to still only be seen at your best. (I, on the other hand, have seen dudes with pneumonia. Dumb.)
One of the things that happened the last weekend I was with Tony was that he was sick, and wanted to be alone. It got me thinking if it was me in bed with a migraine, I would want him near me. I’d want to know he was downstairs hanging out and could get me a tea when I needed. Or come upstairs to cuddle. Bottom line is, I wanted him around because he was comforting to me, and was willing to let him see me when I look and feel like crap.
Together and not conversing / always doing something.
There is a point I reach where I just want to have someone in my space, even if I have work to do. I want to be able to wander by and give you a kiss on the top of the head. Perhaps it’s a result of only having every other week, realistically, to have extended dates. I don’t want something like a little bit of work I have to do on a Friday afternoon to prevent me from being able to see someone sooner.
It’s also a sign of my comfort level with someone when I no longer feel I have to be constantly entertaining. They know where the glasses are in my kitchen and can get their own ice.
As I write this, on a plane to visit my friend Hy, listening to a playlist on my iPad called “relationships & melancholy” (I make them based on mood, go figure), I realize I would very much like to have those little intimacies with someone. They are the things I’ve always missed about being married. The comfort of having someone there when you are sick, or tired, or grumpy.
I miss that.
And don’t get me wrong, I do NOT wish I was still married to Will.
I also want to have time to myself, even in a serious relationship. I wanted it in my marriage as well.
No matter what, I also want to always have nights out with my friends that don’t involve my partner. I want to be alone to eat a large bowl of stove-top-made-popcorn with a ton of butter, watch TV, and do my family genealogy.
At least now, I have a better sense of my stages of a relationship, the progression from dating to relationship to serious relationship, and some choices to make along the way.
I wanted more than I got with Tony. Now I have even less than that. It makes me sad some days, but I am ever the optimist. I watched “Cinderella” on the plane and while I don’t believe in fairytales, my heart just might.
(Oh, and somewhere along the way, I missed that I’d by-passed 500 posts!)