My definition of a serious relationship

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!)

22 thoughts on “My definition of a serious relationship

    • I definitely think there *should* be that emotional intimacy first – and perhaps that’s why the couple of men I’ve met who want to jump to some of those “serious” things before we get the emotional intimacy are a big red flag for me. The Giant was the most notable example.

  1. I saw cinderella too, and I adopted the motto: have courage and be kind. Today I had a thought. Humans have been on the moon. How freakish is that?! If that is possible, then falling in love again isn’t the most outlandish thing in the world πŸ˜‰ there is hope of fairy tales. I wouldn’t want to live a life without them.

  2. This was one of your best, most heartfelt, insightful posts ever, Ann. And that’s saying something.

    By the way, how did things go with Hy?
    Dying to know…

  3. This post is brilliant!
    You know, I relate with most of it. The only thing I don’t relate with is when you say that you miss being married because there was someone there when you were sick. See, I didn’t even have *that*. My ex would never care for me, it was always a matter of: come one, get up and do it for yourself, you’re not as sick as you make t out to be! Even after surgery, delivery, you name it, he always made light of any plight I might have had.
    Right, moving along. I just told a friend yesterday that I didn’t want a serious relationship yet, I’m not ready to introduce anyone to my kids or family. That’s exactly it.
    But I wouldn’t mind him seeing me when I’m sick. I don’t feel the need to be seen only when I’m perfect. Because I’m never perfect. Or always, depending how you decide to look at it πŸ˜‰
    (Ok, yes, there are things about myself I’m not proud of, but hey!)
    I don’t want my kids to meet anyone who isn’t going to be there for the long haul. They need more stability than that in what is a very hectic life for them at the moment!
    I’m not even at the level of “we go to restaurants or the movies” or such things you mention. We have a few things lined up that we want to do together, but we’ll have to wait a few more weeks at least, and I don’t know exactly when we will find the time to do these together.
    I was never lucky enough to wake up next to him. Or get away. One day maybe πŸ™‚
    Right now, he’s not ready to commit to much more than just being with me regularly and communicating, supporting me. And I’m not ready for much more either, so it’s Ok. I’m not saying I wouldn’t mind him sleeping here, or that I wouldn’t mind going away for a couple of days with him. But I’m not ready to push for more at the risk of losing what I have. I am fine with letting this move at its own pace πŸ™‚
    Oh, one last thing… We haven’t had the exclusivity conversation… and I don’t think we’ll ever have it! But that works for us right now, and I don’t think it would need to change any time soon. πŸ™‚

    • Sounds like your relationship is in a very different place – which is fine, if it’s what you want. I know for me I wasn’t really able to define “serious” and it was important to me to be able to distinguish things.

      Tony and I had more – and I realized I wanted even more…or at least what the next “stage” would be of our relationship, should we have wanted to go there.

  4. One of my favorites as well Ann! I relate completely. It’s the daily support and intimacy that I miss so much too. That and a “its all going to be ok, you can do this, I got your back” hug.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly with you on this. Especially the part about having someone around when you are sick. When I was married, I just wanted to be left alone. Let me hibernate until I recover. Now I realize that was due to self-preservation. My Ex once brought 4 family friends home for a post-game dinner. I didn’t go to the game due to a migraine. He arrived and told me since I had a nap, I could trot to the store to get everyone dinner. Idiot that I was, I did so. They all arrived, I looked like death. When one mom realized how sick I was, she sent me back to bed. My Ex blamed me for ruining the party. Asshole.

    Fast forward to now. The Hunter fetches me some water, a cool cloth for my head, darkens the room and takes care of me. He has shown me what I had been missing. Your list is excellent and I know that you will find that guy. Keep looking!

  6. I think, if you are ever truly interested in attracting the right kind of man, you stop and collate your online dating profile from this post. Because what you’ve described is what a real relationship is all about. And by putting it out there, I truly wonder how men will receive it. The ones seeking FWB’s will bolt looking for easy sex. But the men looking for a true, heartfelt connection may just take that leap and see if you guys hit it off or not. Obviously, to make a deep intimate relationship work you need chemistry as well as the true desire for this in anyone’s life. It’s my wish that you find this—with the right man ☺️

    • Thank you so very much.

      I’m not sure I would use this for my dating profile, for the sole reason that while I want this, I only want it with certain people. It’s not at all costs, and I recognize it’s possible it may never happen – at least not anytime soon.

      I’m very clear on my profile I’m not looking for hookups or FWBs. I say I want a relationship, so those guys tend to stay away already.

      But I will definitely take a look at my profile and see if there’s anything I should glean from this.

What do you think?